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Loss of officers and parolee sparks outpouring of mourning and emotion

Oakland Police Department

Over 20,000 people packed the Oracle Arena on Fri. Mar. 27 to pay their respects to four Oakland Police Department officers who were killed by a wanted parolee on March 21.

Police officers and private citizens came from all over the United States and Canada to attend the mass funeral for Oakland Police Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Officer John Hege, Sgt. Ervin Romans and Sgt. Daniel Sakai.

By 10:30 a.m., just 30 minutes before the funeral began, police and politicians filled a majority of the 19,200 seats in the Oracle Arena. This included the entire 815-person Oakland police force.

The turnout at the funeral was so massive that additional officers and civilians had to move to the Coliseum and watched live footage of the funeral on its scoreboard.

OPD Capt. Edward Tracey, head of the motorcycle and tactical units, thanked all the officers who came to the funeral, saying that “a senseless act of violence against one of us is an act of violence against all of us.”

Niviece Robinson, Assistant Director of Campus Safety, was once a cadet for OPD for two and a half years.

She was saddened when she found out about the four officers.

“It really hurt my heart,” she said.

At 11 a.m., the pallbearers carried the slain policemen’s flag-covered coffins onto a stage as visiting officers came to attention and civilians stood in respect.

After the precession, guest speakers talked about the slain officers and the role police play in protecting Oakland. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Oakland mayor and Attorney General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were among those who spoke.

Brown praised the officers for giving up their lives to protect Oakland citizens.

“In a time of cynicism and opportunism,” he said, the officers’ sacrifice is a “tribute to what the human spirit can be.”

Photos of the policemen flashed on the scoreboards as the people who knew them spoke. Some pictures showed the officer on duty while others captured their personal lives – hugging family or spending time outdoors.

Dave Godinger, a Berkeley resident who attended the funeral, was impressed with how the eulogies captured each of the officers in a personal way.

He said that he originally attended the funeral out of sense of duty since he feels the police help keep civilization together. But he said he was not prepared for the feelings that overcame him.

“I was repressing tears all day,” he said.

Allene Warren, who volunteered for OPD for ten years, set up a table in front of the Coliseum. She and another volunteer handed out blue ribbons for people to wear in support of the fallen officers.

“This is a community effort, . and everyone has had really profound things to say and been very supportive,” said Warren, adding that the ribbons made these feelings tangible.

Christine Handt, a 28 year-old resident of Pittsburgh, CA, came to support the police she knew.

“I knew one of the officers and my ex-girlfriend is an officer, so I came out to support her and all the other officers,” she said.

After the funeral, Vice President of Operations Renee Jadushlever sent out a campus memo on Mar. 3. It said that the College contributed to Oakland Association of Police Officers to support the officers’ families.

It also said that the memorial service was a credit to the Oakland community.

“All of us who live and work in this community must… overcome the corrosive impact of violence and hatred and work for greater understanding through education and economic empowerment,” it said.

Contributed by Maya de Verteuil and Anna Belle Peterson