On March 21, 2009, at approximately 5:40 a.m., an ex-felon, with a long criminal record, kidnapped two women in their 20s at gunpoint as they set up a food court in downtown Oakland. He then took them four blocks away and raped them.
At 1:08 p.m., the suspect was stopped by Oakland Police motorcycle officers, Sergeant Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard of East Oakland. Neither had any idea about the suspect’s crimes earlier in the day. The suspect provided Sergeant Dunakin with his driver’s license. As Dunakin examined it, something made him suspicious and he beckoned Officer Hege to join him. Seeing this, the suspect withdrew the same semi-automatic handgun he used earlier to kidnap and rape the women and shot each officer twice. As they lay on the ground, he exited his vehicle and shot each man again in the back before fleeing on foot.
Sergeant Dunakin, 40, an 18-year veteran of the Oakland PD, died moments after being shot. Officer Hege, 41, a 10-year Oakland PD veteran, died on March 24.
A manhunt involving almost 200 officers from the Oakland PD, the CHP, BART Police and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office immediately began a search for the suspect. As the investigation continued, a woman who recognized the car contacted officers and identified its owner and a nearby apartment where his sister lived. A second witness told them he saw the man enter that apartment.
At 2:38 p.m. the apartment building was surrounded and it was decided to make an entry through the one entrance to the building to ensure other residents of the three-story complex could be safely evacuated. This was a difficult decision made under duress. The suspect’s violent actions coupled with the configuration of the apartment complex led the tactical commander to conclude an entry was necessary even though only a partial SWAT team was on scene. To augment the team, the tactical commander reassigned SWAT team leader Sergeant Daniel Sakai as an entry team member.
At 3:02 p.m., the assembled team made entry into the apartment after deploying a volley of flashbangs and crashing through the door. Sergeants Pat Gonzales and Ervin Romans entered first. Unknown to the team, the suspect rearmed himself with an SKS carbine he had hidden in the apartment. The apartment was poorly illuminated hampering visibility. The suspect, hiding in a nearby bedroom, fired through the wall and door. Sergeant Gonzales took a round in the left shoulder. The bullet striking Sergeant Romans proved fatal.
Though wounded, Sergeant Gonzales advanced the remaining team members toward the bedroom. Adding to the fog of battle at that moment an unarmed woman emerged from the
bedroom screaming and ran toward the officers. As Sergeant Romans was extracted, the remaining team members advanced on the bedroom. One of the team saw the suspect and opened fire at him forcing him to retreat and close the door. The team partially forced the door open and the suspect again opened fire fatally wounding Sergeant Sakai. Sergeant Gonzales then stumbled into the room and a bullet deflected off his Kevlar helmet. He and Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Derrick Pope then returned fire at the suspect and killed him.
Sergeant Romans, 43, joined the Oakland PD in 1996 after leaving the Marine Corps as a decorated drill sergeant. In 1999, he received the Medal of Valor for his role in saving residents from a West Oakland fire. He was survived by his wife, Laura, who he only recently married, and three children: Kristina, Justin and Kayla. Oakland Captain Ed Tracey said of him, “Romans had an exterior image of being the tough, rugged guy, but everyone knows he had a soft heart… People called him the pirate, because he just had this deep voice and seemed kind of grumpy walking around. But he was just a very compassionate individual.”
Sources: Oakland Police Department, SFGate, UC Berkeley News, Oakland Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia