A veteran police officer was shot and killed Monday and another officer was wounded by a suspected gang member recently released from prison, authorities said.
Paramedics dispatched at 8:17 a.m. to Colima Road and Mar Vista took the two wounded officers to UCI Medical Center, according to a county fire department dispatcher.
The officer killed was Keith Wayne Boyer, who joined the force in 1989 and became a full-time police officer in 1990, Whittier police Chief Jeff Piper told reporters Monday at a news conference outside the city’s police station.
The wounded officer was identified as Patrick Hazel, a three-year department veteran, Piper said.
He was reported in stable condition.
Boyer was a divorced father of grown children, a drummer who played in bands for non-profit events and a “personal friend of mine for 25 years,” 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.”
The impact of this shooting will “last for years. But we’re gonna get through it. This makes us stronger. And everyone needs to know what these officers face on a daily basis,” Piper said as he broke down in tears.
“We have been grieving since 10 a.m. this morning,” Piper said. “I didn’t think I had any more tears left to cry but obviously I do.”
Gathering himself, Piper took aim at laws which have allowed early release of convicted criminals on parole.
“Enough is enough,” Piper said. “We keep passing laws that keep raising crime. We have to think about what we are doing to our communities and officers by putting these kinds of people back on the street.
You have no idea how things have changed in the last four years,” Piper continued. “People don’t want to follow rules, don’t care about people.”
Piper’s concerns were echoed by Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell who spoke about the passage of new laws that put convicted criminals like Monday’s shooter out on the street with an early parole.
“AB 109 provides for some early releases. Prop 47 stops people from entering the system and Prop 51 accelerates their release,” McDonnell said.
“County jail has become a default state prison,” McDonnell said. “But people need to be rehabilitated before they get released on to the streets. There also needs to be drug treatment and treatment for mental illness first. Right now, we are putting people on the streets who are not ready to be on the streets.”
Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina, who is heading up the investigation in the deadly shootout, declined to release the name of the 26-year-old gunman who remains hospitalized in an intensive care unit.
“It looks like he’s gonna live,” Corina told the assembled reporters.
Corina also said that witnesses have identified the shooter as the possible gunman involved in a murder early Monday morning involving the stolen car the gunman was driving through Whittier before he crashed the car.
Corina did not provide any details on the homicide and car theft he said occurred in East Los Angeles early Monday morning.
That homicide and car theft took place about 5:30 a.m. at a home in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in City Terrace, according Deputy Kimberly Alexander.
CBS2/KCAL9 reported the victim was Roy Torres, a distant cousin of the gunman who shot the two officers.
Perla Borja, a cousin of Torres told ABC7 News, “He was a loving cousin. I know he loved his mother and father.”
The shootout began shortly after the unnamed suspect had rear-ended some motorists, 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.
Police were called to the location at 8:04 a.m., in the area of Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, according to a Whittier PD watch commander.
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 his car. As they asked him out of the car 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 sheriff’s lieutenant said the suspect was Hispanic, a resident of Los Angeles, had been out of prison on parole for about two weeks and was driving a vehicle stolen in East Los Angeles.
The suspect’s gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.
“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 gunbattle fighting for their lives,” McDonnell told reporters.
A Whittier police SUV was observed at the scene with a shattered driver’s side window.
Boyer’s body was taken from UCI Medical Center to the Orange County Coroner’s Office Monday afternoon in a 10-minute motorcade surrounded by police cars and other public safety officers showing their respect.
Traffic was held back while the motorcade passed through Orange County streets.
Starting at 6 p.m., a candlelight vigil began outside the Whittier police station, which drew many dozens of mourners to honor the memory of Boyer.
“I didn’t know the slain officer, but I come from a family of sheriffs and LAPD,” mourner Cynthia Estrada told CBS2 News. “It’s definitely sad. Something we don’t expect to happen in our neighborhood. I’m sure the family is devastated. I can’t imagine what his family members are going through.”
Denise Martinez told the station, “I just want to say to the officers, ‘Be safe. Be really safe out there.’ We lost a good man today.”
–City News Service
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