OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Oakland police on Sunday backed off an earlier statement that a fourth officer shot Saturday had died, saying the officer was pronounced brain dead but was still on life support.
Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason announced the death of 41-year-old Officer John Hege earlier Sunday but later said that he was still being kept alive while a final decision was made about donating his organs.
A 26-year-old parolee wanted on a parole violation opened fire on Hege and 40-year-old Sgt. Mark Dunakin after they pulled him over Saturday afternoon, killing Dunakin, police said.
Suspect Lovelle Mixon was slain later Saturday afternoon in a gunfight with police that left two more officers dead. Thomason identified those officers as 43-year-old Sgt. Ervin Romans and 35-year-old Sgt. Daniel Sakai.
Police said never in the department's history had so many officers been killed in the line of duty in a single day.
The violence began when Hege and Dunakin, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland just after 1 p.m., Thomason said. The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely
The gunman then fled on foot, police said, leading to an intense manhunt by dozens of Oakland police, California Highway Patrol officers and Alameda County sheriff deputies. Streets were roped off and an entire area of east Oakland closed to traffic.
Around 3:30 p.m. officers got an anonymous tip that the gunman was inside a nearby apartment building. A SWAT team entered an apartment to clear and search it when the gunman opened fire, police said. Romans and Sakai were killed and a third officer was grazed by a bullet, police said.
Officers returned fire, killing Mixon, Acting Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said.
"It's in these moments that words are extraordinarily inadequate," said Mayor Ron Dellums at a somber news conference announcing the slayings.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags at the state capitol flown at half-staff Sunday in honor of the slain officers. Schwarzenegger arrived in Oakland on Sunday afternoon to meet with Dellums and members of the police department.
"All four officers dedicated their lives to public safety and selflessly worked to protect the people of Oakland," he said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost, the Oakland Police Department and law enforcement officers throughout California during this difficult time."
Police said Mixon wielded two different weapons. One gun was used at the first scene and an assault rifle was used at the apartment building where he was hiding.
"(Mixon) was on parole and he had a warrant out for his arrest for violating that parole. And he was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon," said Oakland police Deputy Chief Jeffery Israel.
Police said they did not know why the officers initially stopped the suspect, but said it apparently was a routine traffic stop.
Thomason said Mixon had an "extensive criminal history" and was wanted on a no-bail warrant.
Reached by telephone late Saturday, Hege's father, Dr. John S. Hege said his son 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, Calif., 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, Dr. Hege said, adding, "He liked excitement."
As for the slain shooting suspect, the father 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.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)