March 28, 2009 in Nation/World

Service for four slain officers draws 20,000, quiets city

Juliana Barbassa And Terry Collins Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

An Oakland police honor guard stands his post next to the flag-draped caskets of four Oakland police officers in Oracle Arena on Friday in Oakland, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

OAKLAND, Calif. – The city virtually halted Friday for the funeral of four slain police officers, with a populace still in shock jamming a large sports arena, spilling into an overflow stadium and filling the streets to pay their last respects.

The funerals for Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai, who authorities say were gunned down March 21 by a parolee, shut down major freeways into and out of Oakland for much of the day as their long processions made their way to and from the Oracle Arena.

The shootings were the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001, and the deadliest in California in nearly four decades. A somber pageant of uniformed officers from law enforcement agencies across the country – police departments, sheriffs’ offices, highway patrols – overwhelmed the arena.

The entire 815-member Oakland Police Department, wearing dress white caps and gloves and black mourning bands on their badges, filled the front rows, saluting their fallen brethren as their flag-draped caskets were carried inside.

Loved ones, community members and dignitaries, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, state Attorney General Jerry Brown and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, made up the rest of the mourners in the arena, with a large overflow crowd filing into the adjacent Oakland Coliseum to watch the service on jumbo screens – more than 20,000 attendees in all.

“These four men were and are heroes, but they weren’t made of steel. They always knew the day may come,” Feinstein told the crowd. “When the time came to make the ultimate sacrifice, their final hour was one of their finest.”

Police say parolee Lovelle Mixon shot Sgt. Dunakin and Officer Hege at a routine traffic stop, then killed Sgts. Romans and Sakai in an apartment where Mixon also was killed.

One of the most affecting tributes came from Oakland police Capt. Edward Tracey, commander of the SWAT team that cornered Mixon.

“These were my men,” he said. “They died doing what they loved: riding in motorcycles, kicking in doors, serving in SWAT.”

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