A reputed gang member charged with killing a Whittier police officer and wounding the officer’s partner after gunning down his own cousin in February pleaded not guilty Monday during an arraignment hearing in Norwalk.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, appeared in court in connection with the Feb. 20 killings of Officer Keith Boyer, 53, and his own cousin, 47-year-old Roy Torres, in East Los Angeles earlier the same day.
Mejia is charged with two counts of murder, which include the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties, murder for the purpose of avoiding arrest and multiple murders.
After entering his pleas, Mejia was ordered to return to court May 30 for a preliminary hearing meant to enable a judge to decide whether there’s enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Mejia, who is also charged with one count each of attempted murder of a peace officer, carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon with two prior convictions — second-degree robbery in 2010 and grand theft auto in 2014.
The charges include allegations that Mejia personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and that he committed the crimes “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang.”
Boyer — the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty in about 37 years — was fatally shot when he responded shortly after 8 a.m. Feb. 20 to a report of a traffic collision near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street in which Mejia had allegedly been involved.
Mejia allegedly pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and fired at Boyer as well as Officer Patrick Hazell, who was shot in the abdomen but survived. Mejia was shot in the back during the shootout.
About 5:30 that morning, Mejia allegedly gunned down his cousin and took the victim’s car, which he crashed into two other vehicles in Whittier.
Thousands of law enforcement officers, friends and family members attended Boyer’s funeral on March 3. He was remembered as a dedicated public servant who had been with the police department for 27 years, a talented drummer, loving friend and even a “goofy” father of three adult children. Whittier police Chief Jeff Piper broke down in tears as he concluded his remarks at Boyer’s funeral at Calvary Chapel Downey.
“Keith’s memory will live forever in the halls of our department and in the minds of everyone who knew him, for you see Keith was a hero, and they say heroes never die, they live forever,” the police chief said.
Mejia had recently been released from jail. Piper and Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell have both suggested that Mejia was back on the streets due to recent voter-approved propositions that reduce criminal penalties and allow for early release of inmates. Los Angeles County began investigating parole and probation records for Mejia after his arrest in February.
–City News Service
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