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A makeshift memorial displays photos of the four Oakland Police officers who fell in the line of duty last Saturday at 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, March 24, 2009. From left is Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Erv Romans and Dan Sakai. (Ray Chavez/Staff)
OAKLAND -- A blistering report released Wednesday by the Police Department describes in critical detail what it called an "ineffective and poorly managed" manhunt March 21 for a wanted parolee who ultimately killed four police officers.

The report, the result of an outside investigation, documents instances of poor communication, bad planning, failure to meet department policy and disregard for standard safety measures on the day widely described as the darkest in department history.

It describes a chaotic scene, with no command post or clear lines of authority, as 115 police units gathered in East Oakland after two motorcycle officers were fatally shot by 26-year-old parolee Lovelle Mixon.

The report concluded that the decision to send SWAT officers into the apartment where Mixon hid was "problematic from its inception" and suggests that police Lt. Chris Mufarreh, who had assumed control of the situation, did not gather "routine intelligence" before officers entered the apartment at 2755 74th Ave. It also faults Capt. Rick Orozco and Deputy Chief David Kozicki for giving the OK to send in SWAT officers.

"Every alternative to dynamic entry was disregarded," the report said, adding, "The alternatives were dismissed with little or no discussion among the team members and command personnel."

Mufarreh and Orozco were informed Wednesday of the department's intentions to demote each of them two ranks, Bay Area News Group learned. Kozicki retired last month, citing the March 21 fallout as one reason.

"I think any discipline of these guys is outrageous," said Michael Rains, attorney for Mufarreh and Orozco. "I don't quarrel with the department's desire to do a thorough and complete investigation, but rather than say we need to learn from what happened, they are saying we need to discipline."

Fatally shot March 21 were motorcycle Officer John Hege, 41, of Concord; Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, of Tracy; and SWAT Sgts. Erv Romans, 43, of Danville; and Daniel Sakai, 35, of Castro Valley. Mixon was killed by police after they raided the apartment.

"We will build on what we did well and correct those areas we were flawed in," police Chief Anthony Batts said. "We will grow as a department from this."

The report was commissioned last spring by then acting Chief Howard Jordan. A board that conducted the investigation was made up of five outside law-enforcement experts, and the report was authored by James K. "Chips" Stewart, a police consultant and former Oakland police captain.

The report offers nearly 40 recommendations, from providing training on how to set up a proper command post to re-evaluating how SWAT team leaders and tactical commanders are chosen.

It does not list officers' names, but their identities can be learned based on their ranks and their actions March 21.

The report highlights some of what went right that day, including Lt. Drennon Lindsey and Lt. Ersie Joyner III's work to identify information about where Mixon was located. Sgt. Pat Gonzales also was highlighted for continuing his pursuit of Mixon even after he had been shot in the shoulder.

Officers in the apartment showed restraint, the report said, when they held fire when Mixon's sister unexpectedly started screaming and burst out of an apartment bathroom.

Among the report's findings on what went wrong:

  • Hege and Dunakin failed to meet police training procedures by approaching Mixon together after learning there was a problem with the license Mixon had provided.

  • Supervisors failed to set up a central command post.

  • Tips on where Mixon was were not received by or were disregarded by commanders with decision-making power.

  • Options other than storming the apartment by an "ad hoc" entry team were disregarded. Those options included trying to contact Mixon by telephone or over a public address system, or sending in police dogs first -- something Sakai recommended.

  • Officers did not withdraw to reorganize once Romans and Gonzales were hit with fire upon entering the apartment.

    "The (board) recognizes the stresses officers are under when being attacked and shot at," the report said. "However, bravery and courage under fire cannot ever be an acceptable substitute for sound procedures and officer safety."

    The report's release, intentionally delayed until after the holidays, brought back the nightmarish day for the department and for the families of the fallen officers, who were briefed on the report before it was released publicly.

    John S. Hege, Officer Hege's father, said he felt the report treated his son fairly and added that he was impressed by its thoroughness and the fact that it was done outside the Police Department.

    "I don't feel like there's anything more that I personally need to do," Hege said. "I'm sure the Police Department will respond to the report in a way that will improve the department."

    Staff writers Sean Maher and Kristin Bender contributed to this story.

    March 21 timeline
  • 1:08-1:15 p.m. -- Lovelle Mixon pulled over in traffic stop, fatally shoots motorcycle Officer John Hege, Sgt. Mark Dunakin.
  • 1:25 -- Eyewitness reports seeing Mixon enter East Oakland apartment complex.
  • 1:31 -- Lt. Chris Mufarreh arrives on scene of search for Mixon, assumes command. About 90 minutes later, first captains and a deputy chief arrive.
  • 3:02 -- SWAT team moves to enter apartment.
  • 3:04-3:10 -- SWAT Sgts. Erv Romans and Daniel Sakai killed.
  • 3:12 -- Mixon killed in shootout.
  • 3:15 -- Deputy Chief David Kozicki takes charge.
    Source: Independent Board of Inquiry, Tribune reporting

    Online
    Read the complete report on the investigation of the March 21 fatal shootings of four Oakland police officers and listen to dispatch and police radio transmissions from that day.