Firefighters Serve Comfort Food, Kind Words to Grief-Stricken Oakland Police

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Meredith May
Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle

When awful, unexplainable things happen, sometimes the best thing is a warm meal served by a friend who has been there before.

That's why Oakland firefighters loaded up on hamburger and tri-tip steak and took over the kitchen at the Oakland Police Officers Association, to serve comfort food to a force reeling from the slaying of four of its officers last weekend.

Firefighters lit the grill and worked the room, offering round-the-clock meals and conversation since Monday morning.

"We are there to talk to the guys," said Lt. Chuck Garcia, president of the Oakland branch of the International Association of Firefighters. "This is a big, crazy city. We have to be there for each other."

Two professional counselors and a medical doctor also are offering their services.

Grief is rippling from department headquarters on Seventh Street throughout the city after the shooting deaths Saturday of Sgts. Mark Dunakin, 40, of Tracy, Ervin Romans, 43, of Danville, and Daniel Sakai, 35, of Castro Valley, by Lovelle Mixon, a 26-year-old parolee whom police had pulled over in a routine traffic stop. Mixon was killed in a shootout with SWAT officers.

Removed from ventilator

Motorcycle Officer John Hege, 41, of Concord was removed from a ventilator Monday night at Highland Hospital in Oakland after donating organs.

"Everyone is trying to understand what the hell just happened here," said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association.

The outpouring of support from the firefighters - and from elected officials such as city Councilman Larry Reid and state Attorney General Jerry Brown, who have been coming to the association offices every day since the killings - has been an enormous help to officers who want to talk, he said.

Many officers also have opened their homes for grief gatherings, Arotzarena said.

Libraries are collecting cards, condolence books are coming from City Hall, Whole Foods sent more food, and flowers are taking up half the police station foyer.

Jeff Thomason, spokesman for the Oakland police, said he is getting several hundred e-mails a day from well-wishers.

"It's overwhelming," he said. "Police agencies from all over the country are coming to the funeral. Boston is sending 50, I've heard from New York, Baltimore, and all the California agencies are coming."

$40,000 donation

Although Arotzarena had not yet tallied the donations, the largest one so far came Tuesday from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Palm Springs. The tribe sent $40,000, to be divided equally among the four officers' families, along with a personal letter from tribal Chairman Robert Martin.

Dennis Miller, a member of the tribal council, said the tribe was touched by similar violence in the late 1990s, when two sheriff's deputies were murdered during a domestic violence call in Riverside County.

"There are ... orphans now," said Miller, referring to the children of the slain Oakland police officers. "Our donation is a way to send a signal that we're not going to tolerate this kind of violence anymore."

Funeral for the officers: The public memorial for Oakland's four fallen police officers will be 11 a.m. Friday at Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way.-- The services will be led by the Rev. Jayson Landeza, chaplain of the Oakland Police Department. Organizers are expecting more than 12,000, including uniformed officers from police agencies around the country.-- Overflow crowds will be invited to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where a big screen will broadcast the service.-- Parking lots open at 7:30 a.m., and the arena will open by 9 a.m.-- Drivers should use the 66th Avenue exit off Interstate 880. Guests are encouraged to take public transportation to the arena, accessible by the Coliseum BART Station and AC Transit.-- Find more information and directions at Deputy Sheriffs' Association of Alameda County has established a memorial fund. Mail contributions to San Francisco Police Credit Union, attn.: OPD Memorial Fund, 6689 Owens Drive, Suite 125, Pleasanton, CA 94588. Make checks payable to OPD Memorial Fund.
Rudy Wilson of Oakland put his sentiments on a sign at Tuesday evening's vigil on MacArthur Boulevard for the slain officers. Brant Ward / The Chronicle
March 26, 2009

Copyright 2009 San Francisco Chronicle
All Rights Reserved

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Brothers, The response to this tragedy says tons about who we are. The heart sees so much the eys can not. Teams of certified members can serve a valid function but the simple acts of assistance and the depth of comforting offered by those how simply give it spontaniously is imeasuable. By the way, whether by intent or not, those who give that way and sometimes put themselves in harms way for others are truly following Christs own example. Keep The Faith
Kudo's to Oakland firefighters!
Wow what a story my prayers go out to all the families
This is truely heartwarming to see the services support each other in this way. It is good to know, in an hour of need that they are there for each other - Not just with food and donations, but by lending an ear for those left behind. Somethings can never be made sense of. . .thank goodness we have each other to lean on.

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