Barbara Boxer’s statement on slain Oakland Police

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has a home here in Oakland, today entered this statement into the Congressional Record:

“It is with deep sadness that I discuss one of the deadliest attacks against California law enforcement in my state’s history—an attack that took the lives of four Oakland, California police officers, and has left our community reeling from the shock of this terrible and senseless loss.

“Every day, our law enforcement officers selflessly and bravely put their lives on the line to protect our families and our communities. If anyone, anywhere, needed a reminder of that, this tragedy puts a spotlight on the risk our police officers face everyday.”

More after the jump…

“On Saturday, March 21st, what should have been a routine midday traffic stop for Oakland PD officers Mark Dunakin and John Hege quickly turned into a murder scene.

“After fatally wounding both officers, the suspect fled the scene, leading to a frantic manhunt that involved more than 200 officers from Oakland PD, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, BART Police and the California Highway Patrol. The suspect was quickly tracked down to an apartment. But when the SWAT team entered the apartment, he fired a series of shots from inside of a closet, fatally wounding officers Daniel Sakai and Ervin Romans, and injuring a third, before he was shot and killed.

“In the days and weeks ahead, we will have important debates about the problems with our justice system that allowed a violent offender to be on the streets in clear violation of his parole. And we will debate the issue of powerful weapons in the hands of dangerous criminals.

“As these debates move forward, I will work to give our law enforcement officers more support and more resources to adequately protect our communities and protect themselves.

“Now I want to pay tribute to these four fallen officers.

“Sgt. Mark Dunakin, age 40, was an 18-year veteran of Oakland PD. He was no stranger to violent crime, having worked homicide cases in the criminal investigation division. But he later transferred to the motorcycle traffic division where his days focused on patrolling our streets on his beloved Harley-Davidson, cracking down on drunk drivers and trying to always enforce our state’s seatbelt laws. Sgt. Dunakin is survived by his wife Angela Schwab and their three children.

“Officer John Hege, age 41, had been with the Oakland PD for 10 years and had only recently started his dream assignment of becoming part of the motorcycle traffic division. Respected by his colleagues and well-liked by his neighbors, Officer Hege was often known to lend a helping hand, and even found time to umpire high-school baseball in his free time. After being gunned down this weekend, Officer Hege was declared brain dead. And true to the heroism he exhibited in his life, his organs are being donated to help save other lives. Officer Hege is survived by his father and his beloved dog.

“Sgt. Ervin Romans, age 43, had been with the Oakland PD since 1996. As a member of the elite SWAT team, Romans was in charge of entering the most dangerous situations to confront and arrest barricaded suspects. Known as just ‘Erv’ to his friends and colleagues, he was among a group of officers awarded the department’s prestigious Medal of Valor in 1999 for helping to evacuate residents during a fire. His Captain, Ed Tracey said he ‘had an exterior image of being the tough, rugged guy, but everyone knows he has a soft heart.’ Sgt. Romans is survived by his three children.

“Sgt. Daniel Sakai, age 35, had recently been named a leader of the entry SWAT team, and was known to all as a rising star. Before joining the SWAT team, Sgt. Sakai worked in the K-9 division, responding to calls with his dog, Doc. He studied forestry at UC Berkeley, where he was a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. He also worked as a community service officer at Berkeley, escorting students around campus at night. He is survived by his wife Jennifer, a UC Berkeley police officer, and their daughter.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends, and colleagues of these fallen officers in this tragic time.

“We must come together to support those suffering, and in the coming days we must come together, firmly resolved to end the violence that has for too long eaten away at the fabric of our communities.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.