Law enforcement agencies throughout the region united Friday in expressing sorrow over the slaying of a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy who was shot dead by a convicted felon during a traffic stop.
Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, was killed shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday in the 3900 block of Golden West Avenue, near Rathke Drive, less than a block from Rustic Lane Elementary School, which was not in session. The suspect died two hours later in a freeway gunfight with deputies.
“My heart goes out to the family, friends, and colleagues of Deputy Isaiah Cordero,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “Deputy Cordero will forever be remembered for his extraordinary service protecting the people of California. I extend my sincere condolences to Deputy Cordero’s loved ones and the Riverside community.”
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying, “Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Deputy Cordero and our partners at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.”
The Los Angeles Police Department also saluted “our brothers and sisters at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department” amid their suffering, and the Riverside Police Department praised Cordero as “a hero … killed in the line of duty.”
“We stand beside our brothers and sisters from the sheriff’s department as they mourn their tragic loss. May you rest in peace, good sir.”
The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, which represents the nearly 4,000 line deputies countywide, remembered Cordero as “a ray of sunshine … a person who was dedicated to protecting others.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff Friday in the slain deputy’s honor.
On Thursday, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said that the eight-year law enforcement veteran “embodied our motto, `Service Above Self.”’
“All of our deputies considered him to be a little brother,” Bianco said during a news briefing outside sheriff’s headquarters in downtown Riverside.
Bianco said that Cordero, a motorcycle patrolman, stopped 44-year-old William Shea McKay of San Bernardino, a three-strike felon, for reasons still under investigation but possibly related to irregularities with the black pickup he was driving.
“As (Cordero) approached the vehicle, the suspect produced a (handgun) and shot the deputy,” the sheriff told reporters. “A community member witnessed it and called 911. Residents tried to help the deputy until paramedics arrived.”
Bianco said that the gunshot wound killed the deputy on the spot, though he was taken to Riverside Community Hospital in the hope that he could be saved.
According to the sheriff, because of the witness, responding deputies were able to quickly broadcast a region-wide alert, providing key details regarding the vehicle and driver.
“Law enforcement agencies in San Bernardino and Riverside counties began a massive manhunt,” he said. “We were looking for that vehicle and located it very quickly. The suspect was located in San Bernardino, and there was a pursuit, which came back into Riverside County.”
He said that during the multi-agency chase, a spike strip was deployed on the Pomona (60) Freeway at Valley Way, and McKay ran over it, blowing out the pickup’s two rear tires. However, the vehicle remained drivable, and the felon continued on, ultimately turning south on Interstate 15 in Eastvale, with a phalanx of law enforcement officers on his tail.
The chase came to an end on southbound I-15 at Fourth Street in Norco.
“The vehicle became disabled, and he had an accident,” Bianco said. “The suspect started shooting at deputies, which prompted them to shoot back.”
McKay was fatally wounded during the exchange, Bianco said. The deputies weren’t injured. They’ve been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
According to the sheriff, McKay’s criminal history included convictions for kidnapping, assault on a California Highway Patrol canine and armed robbery.
“This tragedy should have been (prevented) by the criminal justice system,” Bianco said. “This suspect was on his third strike in 2021. But instead of receiving a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, a judge lowered his bail. He failed to appear for sentencing … and the same judge released him again. We would not be here today if this judge had done her job.”
San Bernardino County Superior Court documents show that the judge was Cara D. Hutson, out of the Rancho Cucamonga branch. She was re-elected to the bench in June and has been a judicial officer since 2007.
“(McKay) should have been immediately sentenced. The judge allowed him out, and here we are today,” Bianco said.
Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Corona, vowed to pursue changes to state laws that may have indirectly led to Cordero’s loss.
“What makes this line of duty death beyond tragic is that it was completely avoidable,” Essayli said. “The perpetrator was on his third felony strike … but a San Bernardino County judge had the discretion to give this career criminal a reduced bail and released him on our streets.”
The fallen deputy is survived by his parents, Gilbert and Rebecca Cordero, and stepbrother, whose name was not released. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Southbound I-15 was completely shut down at Sixth Street in Norco, where motorists were detoured, while the scene where McKay was killed was processed. A miles-long traffic jam ensued, stretching all the way back into San Bernardino. The closure was not lifted until late Thursday night.
Cordero’s remains were borne from the hospital south to the coroner’s bureau in Perris for an official cause of death ruling. The transfer was solemnized by an extensive procession of law enforcement, including sheriff’s deputies, CHP officers, police from the Riverside, Menifee, and Corona departments, as well as personnel from agencies outside Riverside County.
County fire engines and trucks parked on overpasses, and crews saluted as the hearse carrying the fallen deputy headed south along Interstate 215. The procession coursed along the freeway and surface streets for an hour as part of the tribute.
The Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation has started a “Help A Hero” page, on which people can make donations to the Cordero family. Donations can be made at helpahero.com/campaign/deputy-isaiah-cordero. As of Friday afternoon, it had raised $5,145 toward a goal of $100,000.