(FinalCall.com) – The recent shooting deaths of four Oakland Police Department officers and the young man who engaged in a two-part gun battle with them has ignited tensions and again illuminated the historical divide between the Black community and law enforcement.
Reports about why 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon shot two police officers during a traffic stop and two SWAT officers inside his sister’s home shortly thereafter, paint a night and day picture of Mr. Mixon, the police, and events leading up to the tragedy.
According to the police, Mr. Mixon was a parolee, who spent much of his young life in prison for drug use, theft and other various crimes, who frequently missed required meetings and other conditions of his parole.
But family members described him as a beloved son who–despite having some troubles in the past–was trying to get his life together, except he just kept hitting brick walls. He was growing increasingly depressed because his numerous job searches kept turning up empty, and even though he spent hours, days and weeks trying to meet with his parole officer, he was kept waiting, they said.
“He would sit here sometimes two weeks, but he couldn’t get any assistance or a job. On Monday night he would be back here waiting for his parole officer who never showed up. Someone would drive him down there and he would wait sometimes two hours. This kid was trying and I even interceded and talked to the parole officer about having Lovelle wait for him. We’ve been going through this since November 1st (when he was released),” said Mary Mixon, his grandmother.
Finally, after believing he had no other options, Lovelle just gave up, his father John Anthony Mixon told The Final Call. “My son came to see me and also called me and let me know he wanted to go back to jail because he knew if he went back to jail he could get another parole officer, because they wouldn’t let him change. People know the only way you can get another (parole officer) is to go back to jail,” Anthony Mixon said.
He charged, “I believe this parole officer is the one who jumpstarted everything … I don’t know why he did my baby like that. The last time was the last straw for my son. He felt that when they caught him, he’d go back inside and be able to get another parole officer, but when they caught up to him, it wasn’t a good time for neither party, the police nor him.”
Brian Clay,deputy regional administrator with Oakland’s Division of Adult Parole Region II, denied charges agents were to blame. “We referred him to a lot of training, orientation, employment places and he was referred to different locations. He met with his agents regularly and tested regularly … We don’t understand what they mean there was no contact. …When we put the warrant out for him is when he failed to contact the parole division and that’s when the warrant goes out for your arrest,” he said. Mr. Clay explained that switching agents is based on caseload balance, rather than conflicts of interest.
Sentiments about the shooting vary in Oakland and throughout the U.S. Some people have said that although they are not happy that the officers were killed, the shooting represents karma–or a payback–for the shooting death of Oscar Grant III, the 22-year-old Black father who was killed by a BART police officer on New Year’s Day, and all of the unjustified police shootings of Black and Latino men and women that have ended in suspensions with pay and police acquittals.
Others have outright said there was no love lost over the deaths, and they view Lovelle Mixon as a hero, who “went out like a boss” against police oppression and harassment.
The incident has left scholars, clergy, activists and residents concerned for the youth and the entire community of Oakland. Many wonder what effect these shootings will have on the relationships between Black communities and police departments across America.
“We are looking at a community that for hundreds of years has been subjected to vicious abuse by law enforcement. Communities have cried for justice and our cries have literally reached deaf ears. Our grievances have gone un-redressed for hundreds of years, resulting in responses that sometimes appeared imbalanced, but injustice produces imbalance and the only way to solve this issue is by those having authority using their authority with justice,” said Student Minister Keith Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque 26B in Oakland.
According to Dr. Harry Edwards, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley and a consultant to the San Francisco 49ers, the issue is not about Lovelle Mixon or this particular incident, but about long-standing problems, conflicts and contradictions with authority.
“To project Mr. Mixon as a hero as opposed to what he was, which was a desperate, probably confused, utterly alienated, angry and armed ex-offender and parolee, is a very serious mistake. Anyone who sees Mr. Mixon as anything other than yet another young Black man in serious need of help and aid and support is making a very terrible mistake,” Dr. Edwards said.
He believes that Oakland could become the case in point representing America’s urban centers because of its demographics, economics, and politics. It has a 50 percent high school drop out rate among Black men; dating back to 2000, Black men were 95 percent of both victims and perpetrators in more than 100 homicides by gun violence; and its political structure has been strapped for resources for decades, he said.
“So at the end of the day it’s almost the perfect storm of under-education or non education, economic depravation, social, cultural transformation owing to the influx of this tremendous population. So much of the culture has come to reflect prison culture, and then this tremendous population of ex-offenders. People feel cornered, dispossessed, deprived and desperate, so you get these kinds of things in Oakland … we are literally sitting on a powder keg in places like Oakland,” Dr. Edwards told The Final Call.
On March 31, the family and friends of Lovelle Mixon held his memorial and funeral services, while on March 27, a memorial service was held for the officers, who were shot on March 21: Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
On March 25, a diverse group of citizens, community activists and organizations marched, rallied and held a prayer vigil for Lovelle Mixon. The march was organized by the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, which drew some criticism for the demonstration.
“The march in itself is a symbol to organize people and let people know that there’s another side of the coin. There’s a voice out here … Reality is that we are a colonial people who are oppressed and we want economic development and social justice,” said march organizer Bakari Olatunji in a videotaped interview posted to the organization’s website.
The incident occurred the same day that former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle’s (who shot Mr. Grant) pre-trial hearing was set to begin. It has been postponed to May 18 due to the shootings.