WHITTIER, Calif. - The reputed gang member who allegedly shot and killed Whittier police Officer Keith Wayne Boyer is in custody at a hospital and expected to survive the wound he suffered in the shootout.
The 26-year-old suspect, identified by sheriff's officials as Michael Christopher Mejia, is accused of killing Boyer, a 53-year-old grandfather and school resource officer, and wounding another officer in the Monday morning shootout.
Boyer and three-year veteran Patrick Hazell were fired on while responding to a traffic crash near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street around 8 a.m. Hazell was injured but was displaying stable vital signs.
Boyer, a 27-year-veteran of the department, is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty in 37 years.
A memorial of flowers and balloons continued to grow outside the Whittier Police Department as community members and other law enforcement agencies continue to pay tribute to the slain officer.
Sheriff's homicide Lt. John Corina said witnesses identified the shooter as possibly the gunman involved in a murder earlier Monday involving a stolen car that the gunman ultimately crashed in Whittier. That homicide and car theft occurred about 5:30 a.m. Monday at a home in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in the East Los Angeles/City Terrace area, according to Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Sheriff's Information Bureau.
The victim in that shooting was identified as 49-year-old Roy Torres, who was reported to be a cousin of the gunman.
The Whittier shootout began shortly after the suspect rear-ended some motorists near Colima and Mar Vista, 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.
Officers arriving at the scene around 8 a.m. 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 to get 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 suspect was a Los Angeles resident released from custody about two weeks ago, Corina said. The suspect's gun was recovered at the scene.
"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 gun battle fighting for their lives," Sheriff Jim McDonnell told reporters.
Boyer was a divorced father of grown children, a drummer who played in bands at nonprofit events and a "personal friend of mine for 25 years," Whittier police Chief Jeff 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."
Mejia has a lengthy rap sheet including convictions for robbery and auto theft, according to records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
After serving several years at Pelican Bay State Prison, he was released on April 19, 2016, but has been arrested several times since, the Times reported. Mejia's most recent arrest was Feb. 2 and he was sentenced to 10 days in jail. He was released Feb. 11.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors called for a full investigation into Mejia's criminal history and parole and probation record.
Funeral services for Boyer are expected early next week at Rose Hills Memorial Park at 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.