Report slams Oakland Police actions that led to death of four officers

Chaos, poor communication and the lack of command contributed to the killing of four Oakland police officers by Oakland resident Lovelle Mixon, according to a report released Wednesday.

The independent report describes the March 21, 2009 shooting of four police officers and the subsequent search the suspect as “an ineffective and poorly managed operation.”

Only the Executive Summary and a Summary of the Board of Inquiry’s findings were released from the reportedly 50 plus page document. Officers were not identified by name, at the request of OPD.

The report details the disorganization, the lack of a command post and no clear authority as well as the lack of an overall plan to manage the 115 police officers who responded following the death of two motorcycle cops. The report states that the two officers failed to follow proper protocol when they approached Mixon's vehicle after a traffic stop. This issue should be addressed by training, the report said.

The report cites the lack of centralized information as a contributor to the lack of communication and confusion.

Following an “uncoordinated” search, the report called the decision to enter into an the apartment where two additional officers were killed, along with 26-year old Oakland resident Lovelle Mixona, as “problematic from its inception.” It states that the “self-assigned” leader Lieutenant Chris Mufarreh, as identified by the Oakland Tribune, failed to gather “routine intelligence” of the apartment, and inappropriately ordered an “ad hoc Entry Team” comprised of SWAT Team members to enter the apartment.

Deputy Chief David Koziki, who retired last year, and Capt. Rick Orozco were also blamed for approving the “flawed plan,” according to the report.

The report continues noting that even after approval of the plan, the “limited and rushed briefing” with the ad hoc Entry Team – in which all members were not present– neglected many issues such as searching protocols, exit strategy nor was a team leader assigned.

The Board of Inquiry was also troubled by “contradictory statements” by staff regarding the whereabouts of Mixon.

After Kozicki assembled command staff to ask if a search warrant would be required for forced entry into the apartment, they responded that the entry “constituted a fresh pursuit,” which eliminates the need for a warrant. Despite a witness and a confidential information placing the suspect in the apartment – with a female – staff stated there was a “low probability” that Mixon was there.

“If staff truly believed there was little probability of the suspects’ presence, there could be no fresh pursuit exemption from the warrant requirement,” the report stated.

Nearly two hours after the initial stop, officers forced open the door. Sgt. Patrick Gonzalez – the officer who shot Gary King, Jr. twice in the back in 2007 –entered the apartment first, followed by Sgt. Romans. Upon entry, Romans was mortally wounded Gonzalez was also shot and wounded in the shoulder. The team had yet to fire a shot, according to the report.

The initial shots from Mixon came from direction of the bathroom, according to the report. Adding to the chaos, Mixon was not alone in the apartment, nor was the three-story building building evacuated.

“Unexpectedly, a female started screaming and emerged from the bathroom,” said the report, “and past the oncoming Entry Team.” The report recognizes the “outstanding discipline in fire control” by the officers for not shooting her.

The report fails to mention the stun grenades, or “flash bangs” thrown at from the living room into the bathroom that brought Mixon’s 16-year old sister screaming, running from the apartment. Mixon then retreated to a rear bedroom, according to the report.

Sgt. Romans was evacuated while Gonzalez, though wounded continued into the bathroom, towards Mixon who had retreated to the rear bedroom.

Officer John Hege was shot upon entry into the bedroom. Gonzalez then entered the room, but tripped and landed in front of Mixon, who was holding a “assault rifle with a large capacity magazine and a bayonet fixed on the end of the barrel.” Gonzalez, another OPD officer along with a County Deputy all fired on Mixon until he was “no longer a threat,” the report said, calling the incident the “greatest tragedy in OPD history.”

Of the findings, there are 37 recommendations ranging from the training for vehicle approaches, acknowledging community members who rendered aid to the fatally wounded officers to the

The report was authored by, James K. Stewart, a senior fellow with the CAN, Institute for Public Research. It was ordered by Acting Chief of Police Chief Howard Jordan to “understand how this happened and what can be done to prevent a future occurrence.” The Board of Inquiry was comprised of senior leaders of law enforcement agencies. The BoI met for 3 days of hearings in the fall, in addition to reviewing documents, tapes, interviews and other OPD investigative reports, according to the report.

Oakland police brass held a Wednesday evening press conference to discuss the findings in the report.

“The investigation was thorough and complete, indicating training and command deficiencies” Police spokesperson Jeff Thomason said in a media advisory sent less than a few hours before the press conference.

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