An investigation was continuing Tuesday into what police called a “long and horrific gun battle” in south Riverside that left a California Highway Patrol officer dead, two others wounded and the suspect mortally wounded.
The shooting occurred about 5:35 p.m. Monday in the area of Box Springs Boulevard and Eastridge Avenue, just west of Interstate 215.
Officer Andre Moye, 34, had pulled over a GMC pickup truck for an unknown violation and was preparing to have the truck towed when the suspect pulled a weapon from the vehicle and opened fire on the officer, according to CHP Assistant Chief Scott Parker.
Moye was able to make a distress call while under fire, and at least three other CHP officers responded to the scene, as well as Riverside Police Department officers and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies.
The first CHP officers to arrive engaged in a gun battle with the suspect — identified by family members as 49-year-old Aaron Luther of Beaumont.
Luther was fatally shot during the exchange of gunfire. The two CHP officers involved in the gunfight were injured — one critically, the other superficially, Parker said.
Two bystanders also suffered superficial injuries, Parker said.
“It was a long and horrific gun battle,” Diaz said.
The suspect’s weapon, described as a rifle, was recovered at the scene, Riverside Police Department Chief Sergio Diaz said at a Monday night news conference.
Riverside police are leading a multiple-agency investigation involving the CHP and the sheriff’s department.
“We don’t know where the suspect was going, where he was headed to, what his affiliations are,” Diaz said. “We don’t know his motive for this crime and we won’t speculate on that.”
Moye was flown by a Riverside police helicopter crew to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. One of his fellow officers was driven to the hospital in a police vehicle, the other was taken by ambulance, authorities said.
“It is with profound sadness that I regretfully offer our condolences to the family of California Highway Patrol Officer Andre Moye and to the California law enforcement community,” Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez said.
“Officer Moye died in the line of duty. He was fulfilling the mission of the CHP, which is to provide the highest level of safety, service and security. We may never know how many people are safe today because of Officer Moye’s service and that of the other injured officers.”
Video from outside the hospital showed officers standing watch and a line of motorcycles outside the emergency room, as well as a hearse that arrived just after 10 p.m. Moye’s body was placed in the hearse about 10:45 p.m. and the procession to the Riverside County coroner’s office in Perris began just after 11 p.m.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement, saying he and his wife “extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and fellow officers grieving the tragic loss of Officer Moye, who will be remembered for his commitment to serving the Riverside County community and the people of California.”
In response to the shooting, the CHP canceled the agency’s 90th anniversary ceremony, which was scheduled for Wednesday in Sacramento. A bell toll tribute is planned instead, according to the agency.
Moye was assigned to the Riverside CHP office after graduating from the CHP Academy in March 2017. He is survived by his wife, father, mother, stepfather, brothers and sisters.
The names of the hospitalized officers were not released by authorities.
The suspect’s father, Dennis Luther, told reporters his son served 10 years in prison for attempted murder, but he was released more than a decade ago.
Dennis Luther said, however, that his son was recently suffering from depression, saying he was having marital troubles and was unable to work because of pain in his knees. He suggested his son may have been trying to commit suicide by attacking the officer.
“I think he just, whatever else was going on with his domestic situations and his pain, I think he just thought he didn’t have much to live for and I think this might have been suicide by the police,” Dennis Luther told KTLA5. “It’s just unfortunate that he happened to hurt anybody but himself.”
He told reporters he does not know why his son had a gun in his possession.
The father said he was grieving for the police officer “just as much as we’re grieving for our son.”
“In fact, I said a prayer for the policeman before I did for my son,” he said.
Citing law enforcement sources, the Los Angeles Times reported that Aaron Luther was a member of the Vagos motorcycle gang and had a lengthy criminal record dating to the 1990s.
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