OAKLAND, Calif. — Relatives of the man suspected of fatally shooting three Oakland police officers said Sunday the 26-year-old parolee was frustrated about not finding work and feared returning to jail.
The suspect Lovelle Mixon was slain in a gunfight with police during which two officers were killed Saturday, authorities said. Another officer was fatally shot earlier in the day and a fourth gravely wounded after the two of them pulled Mixon over for a routine traffic stop, police said.
Mixon's family gathered Sunday at his grandmother's East Oakland home, where he had stayed on and off since being released from a nine-month sentence for a parole violation, family members said.
He had previously served six years in state prison for assault with a firearm during an armed robbery in San Francisco, the family said. While he was in Corcoran state prison, he married his childhood girlfriend, they said.
Mixon's uncle, 38-year-old Curtis Mixon of Fremont, said his nephew had become depressed because he could not find work as a convicted felon. His nephew expected authorities to issue an arrest warrant for missing parole meetings, even though the he felt he was not to blame, he said.
"I think his frustration was building up, but he was trying to better himself," Curtis Mixon said.
Mixon was wanted on a no-bail warrant for violating his parole when Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Officer John Hege, 41, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland just after 1 p.m., police said.
The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely wounding Hege, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said.
Police initially issued a statement Sunday saying Hege had died but later backtracked, saying the officer had been declared brain dead but remained on life support while a decision was made about donating his organs.
Reached by telephone, Dr. John S. Hege said his son was attached to a ventilator and "looks fine" except for a black eye behind which the bullet was lodged.
"He does not have vital brain function to sustain life and will not regain that," Hege said, adding that the family would soon make a decision about continuing life support.
After shooting Hege and Dunakin, the gunman fled on foot, police said, leading to an intense manhunt.
Two hours later, officers found the gunman inside a nearby apartment building. When a SWAT team entered, the gunman opened fire, police said. Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35 were killed and a third officer was grazed by a bullet, police said.
Officers returned fire, killing Mixon, police said.
Mixon's sister, Reynete Mixon, 16, said she was sleeping when police kicked in the door and threw flash grenades, one of which struck her and caused minor burns on her leg. She said she did not know her brother was in the apartment when she fled as shots rang out.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags at the state capitol flown at half-staff Sunday. Schwarzenegger returned from Washington, D.C., to meet briefly with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and members of the police department Sunday afternoon.
Schwarzenegger's office released a statement late Sunday night saying that both Dunakin, who lived in Tracy, and Romans, who lived in Danville, left behind a wife and three children.
Police said never in the department's history had so many officers been killed in the line of duty in a single day.
Relatives and co-workers of the four officers requested privacy as they absorbed the enormity of the deaths. Oakland had never lost even two officers on the same day.
Yet some details about their lives and motivations for joining law enforcement emerged Sunday.
Friends who knew Sakai from his days at the University of California, Berkeley and his continued involvement in his college fraternity said he was married to a campus police officer and was a father. He and his family lived in Castro Valley.
Oren Levy, a fraternity brother of Sakai, said his friend grew up in Big Bear and was an accomplished mountain biker and outdoorsman who majored in forestry and graduated in 1995.
As an undergraduate at Berkeley, Sakai worked for the campus police department as a student volunteer. After graduation, Sakai spent a year in Japan teaching English.
"His honor was extremely important to him. Whenever there was a situation where someone could take the path that was less honorable, he always advocated doing the right thing," Levy said. "Being a police officer was really perfect for him."
Hege's father said his son, who lived in Concord, loved being a policeman. He worked well with people and was an Eagle Scout. He played high school football and wrestled. He umpired and coached even as a youth, and joined the Oakland Police Department reserves.
After graduating from St. Mary's College in Moraga, he taught high school physical education for a few years in nearby Hayward before joining the police department a decade ago.
He recently became a motorcycle traffic patrol officer, Hege said, adding, "He liked excitement."
As for the slain shooting suspect, Hege said, "The man was evidently terribly desperate. It is a sad story."
LaTasha Mixon, 28, of Sacramento said Sunday her cousin was "not a monster."
She said her family's prayers were with the slain officers' relatives.
"We're devastated. Everybody took a major loss. We're crushed," she said.