On the morning of February 20, Whittier police officers responded to a traffic accident on Mar Vista and Colima that resulted in one officer being fatally shot and another sustaining injuries. The gunman was also injured and was taken to the hospital in custody.
The shooter, identified as Michael Mejia, was driving a stolen car that belonged to his cousin. Mejia is suspected to have killed his cousin on Sunday, Feb. 19 in East Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Officers who responded to the call believed they were responding to a routine traffic accident and did not know the car Mejia was driving was stolen. According to Whittier police, the officers offered to help move the car the gunman had rear-ended off the road. Police went to search Mejia, at which point he opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.
Mejia is a known gang member, released from state prison in April of 2016 for grand theft auto and auto theft, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). L.A. County records show he has been arrested at least six times since then and was under the supervision of the L.A. County Probation Department. It was initially stated by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Lieutenant John Corina, who is investigating the shooting,that Mejia was released early. However, the CDCR has since come forward, clarifying that Mejia “served his full state prison terms as defined by law.”
The fallen officer was identified as Keith Boyer. Boyer was pronounced dead after he and fellow officer Patrick Hazel were transported to the UC Irvine Medical Center. His remains were transported to Rose Hills Memorial Park on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in a procession of approximately 20 patrol cars and police motorcycles from the Santa Ana police and California Highway Patrol. It ended at Rose Hills, where Boyer will be laid to rest in a service next week.
In addition to being on the force for 27 years, Boyer was an active member in the community. He was a school resource officer at La Serna High School, where he himself graduated in 1981. Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper said Boyer was a mentor within the police department and played in a band for charity. “He was the best of the best,” Piper said during a news conference on Monday. “This is an unbelievably senseless tragedy.”
The injured officer, Patrick Hazel, is in stable condition and is expected to survive. Hazel has served on the Whittier Police department for three years.
A vigil for Boyer was held by the Whittier Police Department at 6 p.m. Monday evening at City Hall, drawing many law enforcement members and civilians. The shooting has shocked the Whittier community; Mayor Joe Vinatieri said it has not seen a fatal officer shooting in 37 years.