Oakland police officer killed while working undercover

An undercover Oakland police officer was shot and killed Friday morning while trying to stop a burglary at a cannabis business.

Acting Oakland Police Chief Darren Allison said at a press conference today that the shooting happened during an operation to suppress an overnight burglary. At 1 a.m., multiple officers responded to a reported burglary at a cannabis business on the 400 block of Embarcadero. The officers did not find any break-in and left after conducting a preliminary inspection.

“Several hours later, at approximately 4:33 a.m., officers received another report of a burglary at the same business,” Allison said.

Uniformed and undercover officers went to the scene and observed several people leaving the area of ​​the suspected break-in.

“During the response, at least one individual discharged a firearm multiple times, striking a plainclothes officer who was operating an unmarked vehicle,” Allison said.

Other details about the shooting were shared through OPD radio communications reviewed by The Oaklandside. Several sources familiar with the incident also shared information.

The undercover officer who was shot, identified by OPD as Tuan Le, crashed the vehicle he was driving. A second undercover officer, who was also in the vehicle, was injured during the collision. According to the police radio, the shots came from someone who was in or got into another car and fled on I-880.

Officer Le was unconscious when backup arrived. Patrol officers took Le to Highland Hospital, where he died.

In a social media post this afternoon, OPD said Le joined the department in 2020 after graduating from the 183 academy. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he moved to the United States and became a citizen in 2001. He previously worked as a community resource officer in West Oakland. “His tireless efforts to foster positive relationships have had a lasting impact,” OPD wrote.

Oakland Police Officer Tuan Le. credit: Courtesy of the Oakland Police Department.

The other undercover officer, who has not been identified, was treated by EMS for injuries related to the crash.

Immediately after the shooting, an officer at the crime scene radioed that he had found spent shell casings. Police shut down the Embarcadero for an investigation and there was a heavy police presence in the area for several hours. A number of staff were also at Highland Hospital this morning.

OPD has not made any arrests. Allison said OPD has “actual evidence” it will use to identify the suspects and that other state and federal law enforcement agencies are assisting.

Mayor Sheng Tao was visibly shaken at today’s press conference. “I am asking the people of Oakland to support the OPD family and the family of our fallen officer,” she said. “Many of our staff are injured right now and will need our support. Our community is in shock.”

Tao called the shooting a senseless murder and vowed that OPD would identify and arrest those responsible.

Burglaries and robberies of cannabis businesses have been a growing problem in Oakland for several years. Thieves often operate in teams, breaking into dispensaries and growing operations to take money and products. There have been shootouts between suspects and private security, and in 2020 an OPD officer shot and killed a man suspected of involvement in a cannabis burglary who fled in a car and hit an officer.

A memorial at the Oakland Police Department building honors officers killed in the line of duty. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

Friday’s shooting is the first on-duty death of an OPD officer since March 2009, when Lovell Mixon killed two officers and then killed two other officers during a SWAT team raid while the department was trying to arrest him .

Fifty-four Oakland police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1867.

There have been at least 125 murders in Oakland this year, including the police officer who was killed today. Thefts and robberies have also increased this year compared to the previous three years, according to the ODP data.

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