East Bay News

SWAT team wins big months after tragedy

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Oakland Police Department's SWAT team has won a prestigious competition, seven months after two team members, as well as two other officers, were shot and killed in confrontation with a wanted parolee.

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"We're very happy after what we all went through earlier this year," Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said Tuesday, referring to the March 21 incident in which the four officers were killed.

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern announced Monday night that the Oakland Police Department is the 2009 winner of the Urban Shield SWAT competition, which was held over the weekend and drew 27 tactical teams from all over the world, including Boston and France.

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said the announcement was met with a standing ovation by more than 1,500 people who attended the awards ceremony at the U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda.

He said the crowd chanted "OPD" as a show of support for the Oakland Police Department.

Nelson said the tactical teams were judged on 25 tactical situations at locations throughout the Bay Area over the course of 48 hours in what many consider to be the toughest tactical training exercise in the country.

In a statement, Ahern, whose department hosted the competition and also competed in it, said of the Oakland police tactical team, "It was obvious by the way they competed they were on a mission to win this for their fallen brothers. Everyone in the crowd was very proud and emotional at their well-deserved victory."

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said he's "very proud" of the tactical team and "this is truly a great accomplishment despite facing much adversity this year."

The members of Oakland's winning team are Sgts. Pat Gonzales and Roland Holmgren and Officers Frank Uu, Chris Saunders, Casey Johnson, Anwawn Jones, Shane Tarum and Marty Ziebarth.

According to Oakland police, in the March 21 incident parolee Lovelle Mixon shot and killed Sgt. Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege when they made a traffic stop on him at 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.

Police said Mixon then fled to his sister's apartment about a block away at 2755 74th Ave. and killed Sgts. Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai when they and other members of the SWAT team entered the apartment.

One bullet grazed Gonzales's protective helmet and a second bullet entered and exited his shoulder. He was treated and released after the incident.

Mixon was eventually shot and killed by other officers.

Oakland's SWAT team was temporarily removed from action after the incident because Romans and Sakai were unit leaders and new leaders had to be trained.

The Alameda County Sheriff's detail handled Oakland's SWAT calls for more than two months, but Oakland's SWAT team went back into operation in late May.

Thomason said Sakai's widow, Jennifer Sakai, and Gonzales accepted the award on behalf of Oakland's SWAT team.

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