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Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.

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Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.

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Oakland SWAT Ambush: After-Action Report

The department's response to a desperate parolee was ineffective at best.

January 07, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

One of many questions that SWAT operators have been asking about this incident is: Why were two sergeants killed on the same entry team? The report gives insight into why this happened. Sakai and Roman were thrown together on the ad hoc team, which according to the report had never trained together as a team.

Nevertheless by order of Lt. #3 and an assistant chief, identified by local media as David Kozicki, the ad hoc team made entry into the ground floor apartment at 3:02 p.m. What followed was a fierce close-quarter battle.

One SWAT sergeant was mortally wounded as the team entered the apartment. Another sergeant, the first man through the door, was hit in the shoulder. In the middle of the battle Mixon's sister ran out of the back of the apartment toward the officers. The officers "alerted on her," but they did not open fire. She passed through the room without injury, and the report praises them for their fire discipline.

One of the team members spotted Lovelle Mixon behind a bedroom door. He opened fire and Mixon retreated into the bedroom and closed the door. The first officer in the bedroom door was the sergeant with the shoulder wound. He tripped in the dim light and fell in front of Mixon who was now in the bedroom closet. The wounded sergeant saw Mixon holding an assault rifle and opened fire. Other officers also opened fire and Mixon was killed.

The report is extremely critical of the command decisions that sent this ad hoc entry team into the apartment. It cites the following issues:

  • The location was not formally scouted and the residents of the apartment building were not evacuated. Also, commanders did not make an inquiry about previous incidents at the address.
  • There was no compelling reason to make a dynamic entry. Mixon was not an active shooter and he was not threatening hostages.
  • The reports says that dynamic entry was the only option seriously considered. It argues that the commanders should have used negotiators, chemical agents, or dogs to flush Mixon.
  • No effort was made to learn the floorplan of the apartment prior to the entry, and the briefing given to the ad hoc team was inadequate.
  • Emergency medical personnel were not on hand during the entry.

The report also criticizes the ad hoc entry team for not retreating from the apartment once an officer was hit. "Serious deficiencies in tactics and safety procedures were noted as soon as the ad hoc entry team crossed the apartment's threshold and encountered unexpected high-powered assault rifle fire. The entry team was completely unprepared for this level of resistance and should have withdrawn to safety where careful assessment could be made regarding the new high-risk resistance presented and unanticipated developments," the report says.

Local media has reported that at least two officers, Lt. Mufarrah and Capt. Orozco, have been demoted two ranks for their performance during the incident. Assistant Chief David Kozicki, who was also slammed by the board of inquiry, retired last month.

Oakland attorney Michael Rains, who represents Mufarrah and Orozco, says the officers will contest their demotions. Rains told TV station KTVU that the department "does not need to discipline these very fine people who stepped into a terrible situation and had to make split-second decisions and did so with the information that was available."

Rains has a point. The board of inquiry that created the report met three days in person and several times in teleconferences. Its members then had ample time to come to their conclusions. In contrast, the commanders on the scene were caught up in the moment.

Unfortunately for the command staff of the Oakland PD that argument only goes so far. The report's conclusions are stark and scathing. They paint a portrait of a department in disarray as it reacted to the murder of two of its officers. The chaos, indecision, and bad decisions that followed clearly placed sergeants Romans and Sakai in harm's way.

But it's important to remember that bad decisions and mistakes did not kill Dunakin, Hege, Romans, and Sakai. Lovelle Mixon did.

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