A tragic loss for the law enforcement community
An Oakland police officer was fatally shot on Friday morning while responding to a burglary in progress at a cannabis dispensary near Jack London Square. The officer, identified as Tuan Le, 36, was a four-year veteran of the department and was working undercover in plainclothes and driving an unmarked van. He was one of several officers who arrived at the scene and encountered individuals leaving the business. One of the suspects opened fire, hitting Le multiple times, according to interim Police Chief Darren Allison.
Le was rushed to a hospital by his fellow officers, where he succumbed to his injuries at 8:44 a.m. He was surrounded by his wife, mother, and colleagues. Le is the 54th Oakland officer to die in the line of duty and the first since 2013.
“It is with a heavy heart that we come together to share the devastating news of the passing of our colleague and friend, who was killed in the line of duty today,” Allison said at a news conference on Friday afternoon. “The dangers and demands of this profession are real, and come with significant sacrifice. Sadly, today, one of our officers paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
A brazen and violent crime spree
The shooting occurred at about 4:30 a.m., about three and a half hours after an earlier burglary was reported at the same cannabis business. Allison said that the department had received multiple reports of burglaries at cannabis dispensaries in the past few weeks and had assigned a plainclothes detail to address the issue. He said that the officers who responded to the second burglary saw several people leaving the dispensary and tried to stop them. That’s when one of the suspects opened fire, striking Le, who was in his vehicle.
No other officers returned fire, Allison said. He did not disclose how many suspects were involved or whether they were armed with handguns or rifles. He said that the investigation was ongoing and that the department was following up on a lot of “actionable” evidence. He did not provide any details on the evidence or the suspects’ identities or motives.
“We are working tirelessly to bring these individuals to justice,” Allison said. “We will not rest until we do so.”
A senseless act of violence and a call for justice
The killing of Le sparked outrage and grief among the law enforcement community and the public. Mayor Sheng Thao called the shooting a senseless act of violence and said she was devastated by Le’s death.
“I know the entire Oakland community feels the profound impact of this loss,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of the officers who responded this morning and carried their brother to the hospital on their shoulders. Their actions personified what it means to be an Oakland police officer.”
Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, said that Le was a dedicated and courageous officer who loved his job and his family.
“He was a great cop, a great husband, and a great father,” Donelan said. “He was taken from us by a cowardly act of violence. As we mourn, rest assured that we are also determined to bring this cop killer to justice.”
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley also expressed her condolences and pledged to prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.
“The deadly violence that we have experienced in Oakland in recent years has no place in Alameda County,” she said in a statement. “The murder of this young officer is inexcusable and we will seek justice for him and his family.”
A rise in robberies and violence in Oakland
The shooting of Le comes amid a surge in robberies and violent crime in Oakland. According to Police Department figures, robberies where a gun was used increased 37% in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Homicides also rose by 14%, reaching 127 by the end of the year. Allison said that the department was facing multiple challenges, including staffing shortages, budget cuts, and a lack of community trust.
“We are doing everything we can to address the crime problem in this city,” he said. “We need the support of the community, we need the support of our elected officials, we need the support of our partners in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We cannot do this alone.”
He also urged anyone with information about the shooting or the suspects to contact the department’s homicide unit at (510) 238-3821 or the tip line at (510) 238-7950.
“We are asking for the public’s help,” he said. “If you saw something, if you know something, please come forward and help us solve this case.”