Friday, April 3, 2009
Not In Our Town
(Above: Local kids make their feelings known)
Everywhere I go, I keep hearing the same refrain: "This is the worst thing to happen to Oakland since the firestorm."
I'm talking about the murder of four police officers - Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai - who were gunned down by an ex-con named Lovelle Mixon after an apparently routine traffic stop turned into a deadly shootout.
Barbara Littleford lives not far from where the killings happened, and she was one of many people who felt they just had to do something - anything - to say, "Not in our town."
"My daughter and I were sitting and watching TV, and we were both in tears," she said. "I thought, 'Well, I don't have a lot of money, but I do know a lot of people.'"
She called her friend, Deanna Davis, who works with the Children's Quilt Project of the East Bay, and said, "I just want to take care of the children of the officers who were killed."
Davis replied, "I was Officer Hege's next door neighbor when I was 10."
The quilt project donated 10 quilts, one for each child. Kathleen Caldwell, owner of A Great Good Place For Books, donated $200 worth of children's books.
"I felt strongly about doing this," she said. "My grandpa, my uncle and my cousins were all cops. It could have been my family."
Laurel Bookstore contributed more books. The Toy House donated Beanie Babies. Massage therapist Hana Levin gave free massages to the families and co-workers of the slain officers. The manager of the Safeway on Redwood Road donated a large gift certificate. The local Long's Drugs contributed gift baskets and stuffed animals. And so on and so on.
But not everyone is cheering. Littleford is getting hate mail, too.
Reason: She's including Mixon's niece - who was severely traumatized when he barricaded himself in her bedroom and staged the final shootout right in front of her - in the list of recipients.
One guy told her she should "rot in hell," adding, "Perhaps next you'll be taking up a collection for Charlie Manson's 'family.'"
Well, I though I'd check this out with the Oakland Police Department's chaplain, Father Jayson Landeza, who has been working night and day to comfort the grieving families and fellow officers.
"There's not a person in the department who isn't furious at Mixon," he said. "But there isn't one officer who doesn't see her as a victim in all this. My God, what kind of image is that poor girl going to have to live with for the rest of her life?"
The slain officers left behind nine children - a 3-year-old girl, 4-year-old girl, 8-year-old boy, 10-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl, 15-year-old boy, 17-year-old boy, 20-year-old girl and a 23-year-old girl. Add Mixon's little niece, and you have 10 kids whose lives have been shattered.
If you'd like to be part of this effort, contact Littleford at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 510-273-9393.
"There's this big weight over Oakland, and has been for some time," said Luan Stauss, owner of Laurel Bookstore. "I can't lift it by myself, neither can Dellums, and neither can the police. We have to do it together."