It was Sgt. Ervin Romans' dream to join the Oakland Police Department, and his was a face everyone knew from his training of new recruits on firearms and the use of pepper spray.
"He knew everyone, and everybody knew who he was because he teaches in the academy "... ," said police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason. "He was a great teacher. He did a great job."
A decorated former Marine drill sergeant, Romans joined the department in 1996.
"His dream was to work for the Oakland Police Department," said Brad Lawrence, 42, Romans' former Hayward roommate, who now lives in Georgia. "I think he graduated No. 1 in his class from the academy."
In 1999, Romans received the department's highest honor, the Medal of Valor for helping save residents in a West Oakland fire.
He was promoted to sergeant in 2005 and worked narcotics cases and on the crime-reduction team, which has worked to combat street-level narcotics problems and associated violence. He also was a firing range master sergeant.
"That was right up his alley," Lawrence said. "So when he joined SWAT, it was like you couldn't ask for a better, more tactically sound guy to work it."
Mike Nichelini, now a motorcycle officer for the Vallejo Police Department, was Romans' partner for several years.
"He had an exterior of being all business," Nichelini said. "He loved being on the SWAT team, and he taught everyone (weapons) tactics. He was the most tactically sound guy I've every worked with."
Romans was one of the SWAT team members who on Saturday stormed the apartment where parolee Lovelle Mixon was hiding in a closet. Romans was shot inside the apartment and died later that day.
Romans, 43, loved to spend time with his family and friends and enjoyed hunting, fishing and keeping fit.
"I just remember in the academy, he was the guy we all looked up to," Nichelini said. "When we went on runs, he kept us all going, even when we wanted to say, 'This is enough for us.'""
Romans was a native of Michigan.
"Kind of a country boy at heart "... ," Lawrence said. "Just all-around good guy and an excellent cop."
Romans lived in Danville with his wife, Laura, whom he recently married, and had three children — Kristina, Justin, and Kayla.
He prided himself on being an excellent cook, Lawrence said.
"We lived together as bachelors and did the typical takeout thing, but once a month or so he'd put together the best lasagna you ever tasted," Lawrence said. "I don't know where it came from, a Marine from Michigan making this food, but the man could really put together a mean lasagna."
Donald Stansloski, an uncle from Ohio, said his nephew was a "good guy who tried to do the right thing."
Nichelini said that although the two didn't hang out much because they were both busy, Romans was always easy to reconnect with.
"You could just pick up the phone and pick up where you left off," he said. "I miss him a ton."