Striving to Paint a More Positive Picture of a Cop-Killer

Lovelle Mixon killed four Oakland police officers - but was he also a victim of the California penal system?

On Wednesday, the Times did its best to muddy the seemingly clear-cut case regarding the character of cop-killer Lovelle Mixon, who shot and killed two motorcycle officers at a routine traffic stop in Oakland, then shot and killed two SWAT sergeants while on the run, before being himself killed by police.

The text box painted a mixed picture of the murderer of four officers: "A man who obeyed some conditions of parole, but not others," while the text from reporters Solomon Moore and Jesse McKinley suggested the killer had been "failed by an overloaded and flawed California penal system." Another omission:Three of theslain officers were white (the other had a Japanese surname).But even though Mixon was black, don't expect the Times to raise any hate-crime possibilities in this case. In fact, the Times didn't even mention the officers' names.

When Lovelle Mixon walked out of a prison last fall in the remote town of Susanville, Calif., he knew exactly where he was headed: back to Oakland, back to his family and back to his life of dreams and zero prospects.

Less than five months later, Mr. Mixon's life would end in a violent confrontation with Oakland police officers that left five dead - Mr. Mixon and four officers - after he turned a routine traffic stop into a shootout. But between his release from prison and his death, Mr. Mixon, 26, had dropped innumerable hints that he had fallen from the straight and narrow path that his friends and family dearly wished for him and embarked on one that led to a nervous phone call from the side of the road.

"He was saying that they were talking on the radio, that they were probably calling for backup, you know how they do," the uncle, Curtis Mixon, said of the cellphone call, just before the shootout. "Then he said he had to go."

The politically correct Times strained mightily to present a balanced picture of Mixon. You see,he could have been a victim too - of the California penal system!Plus "there were signs Mr. Mixon was trying to behave."

The police and witnesses have painted a savage picture of Mr. Mixon as a man who stood over his victims, fatally shooting two officers on a street in midday before fleeing into an apartment building, where two SWAT team members died and another officer was injured. Others have portrayed him as a man failed by an overloaded and flawed California penal system where thousands of former inmates flout the parole law and thousands of others skate by in programs where each agent regularly handles dozens of parolees.

But in the months leading up to the shooting, Mr. Mixon seemed to mix the elements of both the striving and the sinister, struggling to find legitimate employment - he took a real estate class, for example, a nonstarter in a down economy - but also buying a gun.

"I told him, 'Man, you're in a no-win situation. You're a parolee. If they catch you, you're going back to prison,'" said his cousin Jermaine Mixon, who said Mr. Mixon had showed him a gun that he would eventually turn on police officers on Saturday. "Lovelle said he was going to put the gun away. But I guess he was carrying it with him."

Part of that "striving" was Mixon's "new profession": Pimping.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mixon had started to carry himself with an unexpected swagger, something his cousin said he might have owed to a new profession: pimping, an occupation that paid for the 1995 Buick Park Avenue he was driving when police pulled him over.

After observing Mixon's five years in state prison for assault with a deadly weapon, the reporters returned to their "mixed behavior" motif:

When he was released, Mr. Mixon established a pattern that would later play out to tragic ends: a couple of months of seemingly good behavior, followed by a descent into trouble. Even if the authorities did not know it, rules were being broken: One picture of his welcome-home party in October 2007 shows a bowl full of marijuana buds.

Still, there were signs Mr. Mixon was trying to behave. He got a job with a janitorial service and made his parole appointments. But in late January 2008, he came under suspicion of a homicide in Alameda County. While Mr. Mixon was never charged in that case, a search revealed a drug scale and stolen laptop computer in his possession. It was enough to send him back to prison for nine months, this time to Susanville, 200 miles from home.