An Oakland police officer was fatally shot while responding to a burglary in progress at a cannabis dispensary early Friday, and authorities are searching for suspects while the law enforcement community mourns the loss of one of its own.

“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 in the 400 block of Embarcadero,” police officials posted on social media.

The officer, identified as Tuan Le, 36, was a four-year veteran working undercover and driving an unmarked van when he was shot by a person who fired several rounds into his vehicle, Interim Police Chief Darren Allison said.

Le was surrounded by his wife, mother and his fellow Oakland police officers at a hospital when he died at 8:44 a.m., police said.

“I want to begin by saying that the dangers and demands of this profession are real and come with significant sacrifice,” Allison said at a news conference at OPD headquarters Friday afternoon. “Sadly, today, one of our officers paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

A deadly timeline

The sequence of events that led to the officer’s killing started at about 1 a.m., when someone called police to report a burglary at the dispensary.

Officers responded to the area, conducted a preliminary investigation, cleared the scene and left, Allison said.

At about 4:30 a.m., another call came in reporting a second burglary at the same location.

“On arrival, officers observed multiple individuals leaving the scene of the burglary,” Allison said. “During the response, at least one individual discharged their firearm multiple times, striking a plainclothes officer who was driving an unmarked van.”

Other officers at the scene quickly drove the critically injured officer to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:44 a.m.

While no arrests have been made, Allison said investigators are following up on “a lot of actionable evidence.”

“I do want to express my gratitude for the women and men of the Oakland Police Department who responded to the scene and continue to work towards locating and apprehending those involved,” he said.

“This loss cuts deep,” Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said during Friday’s news conference. She called the killing a “senseless murder” and said the city will work tirelessly to identify and apprehend those responsible.

“I am truly devastated by this news and I know that all of Oakland feels the impact of this loss,” Thao said. “I’m asking Oaklanders to stand with the OPD family and the family of our fallen officer.”

“We understand this is a difficult time for everyone and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the officers, friends, family and loved ones,” Thao said. “Our prayers of support are with them as they navigate through this challenging period.”

Oakland City Administrator Jestin Johnson said the entire city and all its employees are mourning the officer’s death.

“All 5,000 of us stand with his family, his loved ones and the Oakland Police Department and the officers and employees who share in their dedication,” Johnson said. “We are devastated. We are angry. We are united in mourning this senseless murder.”

Condolences for ‘a true hero’

Le, who joined the Oakland police force in 2020 after graduating from its academy, was born in Vietnam before moving to Oakland and being naturalized as a U.S. citizen on Sept. 11, 2001.

Le “will be remembered for his kindness, his smile, and the positive change he brought to the lives of those around him,” the police department said in a statement. “He is a true hero who dedicated his life to making our community safer.”

After the news of the officer’s death became public, organizations and officials from around the Bay Area expressed similar sentiments of mourning and support.

“The deadly violence that we have experienced in Oakland in recent years has no place in Alameda County. The murder of this young officer is inexcusable.”

Pamela Price, Alameda County District Attorney

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price said her office is prepared to prosecute whoever is responsible and “to assist in anyway we can and to support the Town in this critical time.”

“The deadly violence that we have experienced in Oakland in recent years has no place in Alameda County,” Price said in a news release. “The murder of this young officer is inexcusable.”

The names of fallen Oakland Police Department officers appear on a memorial at OPD headquarters on Friday. Officer Tuan Le, who was fatally shot on Dec. 29, 2023, while responding to a burglary at a cannabis business, is the 54th Oakland officer to die in the line of duty. (Kiley Russell/Pagransen)

Oakland Police Officers’ Association president Barry Donelan issued a statement saying that officers throughout the department are devastated by news of their colleague’s death.

“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,” Donelan said. “As we mourn, rest assured that we are also determined to bring this cop killer to justice.”

The flag at Oakland City Hall was lowered to half-staff Friday in memory of the officer. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags at the State Capitol flown at half-staff in honor of “a courageous public servant.”

In a statement, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan called the slaying “another example of senseless violence propelled by the excessive availability of firearms in our city and country.”

“We must continue the work to stop the flow of illegal guns and the violence they enable into our city,” she said.

Anyone with video evidence or other information is asked to call the OPD homicide unit at 510-238-3821.

Pagransen editors Dan McMenamin and Pete Young contributed to this story.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Pagransen on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.