Originally Published: March 24, 2009 11:41 p.m.
Members of Orme School, a private boarding and day school about an hour northeast of Prescott, are mourning the death of Oakland police officer and former Orme student John Hege.
Hege graduated from the school in 1986 and maintained close personal and financial ties to the school, including students and former students from across the country.
"He always had a smile for everyone, always had words of encouragement," said Hege's former classmate, 41-year-old Diane Travis of Prescott. "I don't think there was anyone he didn't like."
Word of Hege's death spread throughout the Orme community earlier this week as people began to make the connection between the police shootout Sunday in Oakland, Calif., and the fact that Hege was a police officer in the Bay Area.
Hege, a 10-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, was an honors student at the Orme School. He attended the school during his junior and senior years and participated in numerous activities, including lettering in football and wrestling.
After graduating from college, Hege was a high school physical education teacher before entering the police force.
Known as a good neighbor, Hege lived with his dog and worked as a high school baseball umpire in his off-duty hours.
Alyce Brownridge, Orme's head of school, said Hege's death would have a profound effect on the school and Hege's classmates.
"Orme is a tight-knit, supportive community, and we are all very saddened by this senseless tragedy," Brownridge said. "The Orme community will miss John terribly."
Hege's parents, John and Tamra Hege, and his sisters live in northern California, said J. Stuart Rosebrook, advancement, communications and alumni consultant for the Orme School.
John most recently returned to the school in 2006 for his 20th class reunion, Rosebrook said.
That was the last time Travis saw him.
"He was right there, at 2 a.m. with the rest of us, hanging out on the lawn, reminiscing," she recalled, fighting back tears.
She said being a police officer "absolutely" fit with Hege's character of kindness, honesty and community involvement.
"He would do anything for anyone," she said. "He was always willing to help."
According to Oakland police, Hege and Sgt. Mark Dunakin were shot and killed during a traffic stop in which the driver opened fire. Witnesses called 911 and began CPR on both officers.
Police eventually cornered the suspect, who had fled on foot, in an apartment building where he opened fire on SWAT officers as they approached.
During that shootout, Sgt. Ervin Romans and Sgt. Daniel Sakai died and a third officer was wounded.
The 26-year-old suspect died as officers fired on him. Police later learned he had an extensive violent criminal history and was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon.
At the time of the incident, authorities had issued a no-bail parole violation warrant for his arrest.