A Whittier police officer wounded in a shootout that killed a 27-year department veteran was recovering at home Wednesday, while the reputed gang member who allegedly shot them was in custody at a hospital and expected to survive.
Officer Keith Wayne Boyer, a 53-year-old grandfather and school resource officer, was killed in the shootout about 8 a.m. Monday and Officer Patrick Hazell, a three-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department, was shot in the abdomen, according to Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Lt. John Corina.
The 26-year-old suspect, Michael Christopher Mejia, was shot in the back and is in a hospital intensive care unit with non-life-threatening injuries, the lieutenant told City News Service.
Boyer and Hazell were fired upon while responding to a traffic crash near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street.
Boyer is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty in 37 years.
A memorial of flowers and balloons continued to grow outside the Whittier Police Department as community members and other law enforcement agencies continue to pay tribute to the slain officer.
Corina said witnesses identified the shooter as possibly the gunman involved in a murder earlier Monday involving a stolen car that the gunman ultimately crashed in Whittier. That homicide and car theft occurred about 5:30 a.m. Monday at a home in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in the East Los Angeles/City Terrace area, according to Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The victim in that shooting was identified as 49-year-old Roy Torres, who was reported to be a cousin of the gunman.
The Whittier shootout began shortly after the suspect rear-ended some motorists near Colima and Mar Vista, disabling the vehicle he was driving, authorities said. He then asked people in the car he struck to help him move the disabled vehicle, according to Corina.
Officers arriving at the scene were told by motorists that the suspect was around the corner with the disabled car, Corina said.
When officers approached the suspect, he was sitting in the car. As they asked him to get out and prepared to pat him down for weapons, he pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and began firing at the officers, at least one of whom returned fire, wounding the suspect, Corina said.
The suspect was a Los Angeles resident released from jail about two weeks earlier, Corina said. The suspect’s gun was recovered at the scene.
“Here you have a case where two officers walk up on a vehicle where they believe someone needs medical assistance and they end up in a gun battle fighting for their lives,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell told reporters.
Boyer was a divorced father of grown children, a drummer who played in bands at nonprofit events and a “personal friend of mine for 25 years,” Whittier police Chief Jeff Piper said, adding he had occasionally played guitar with Boyer in that band.
“He was the best of the best,” Piper said. “He was humble, smiling, positive. He was a great guy and recently talked to me about retiring.”
Mejia has a lengthy rap sheet including convictions for robbery and auto theft, according to court records.
After serving several years at Pelican Bay State Prison, he was released on April 19, 2016, but has been arrested several times since. Mejia’s most recent arrest was Feb. 2 and he was sentenced to 10 days in jail. He was released Feb. 11.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called for a full investigation into Mejia’s criminal history and parole and probation record. In response to Boyer’s killing, McDonnell and Piper criticized recent legislation such as Prop 47 that reduced some offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, and AB 109, which diverted some offenders to county jails instead of state prison, saying the moves have led to dangerous people being quickly put back on the streets.
State officials noted that Mejia served all of the prison time to which he was sentenced, and he was not released early under any legislation. Following his release, however, he was placed under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation Department instead of state parole officials, under the terms of AB 109.
Funeral services for Boyer are expected early next week at Rose Hills Memorial Park at 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.
PROCESSION FOR FALLEN OFFICER:
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