Whittier police officer shot, killed during traffic crash investigation involving stolen car

Posted at 11:29 AM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 07:34:03-05

WHITTIER, Calif. - The Whittier Police Department is in mourning for a veteran police officer allegedly killed by a suspected gang member who was recently released from prison and who was linked to a homicide earlier in the day.

The officer killed Monday was 53-year-old Keith Wayne Boyer, who joined the force in 1989 and became a full-time police officer in 1990, Whittier police Chief Jeff Piper told reporters Monday at a news conference outside the city's police station.

An officer identified as three-year department veteran Patrick Hazel was also wounded in the incident, Piper said. He reportedly was hospitalized with stable vital signs.

The 26-year-old alleged gunman was wounded in the shootout and was last reported hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

"It looks like he's gonna live," sheriff's homicide Lt. John Corina told reporters.

Corina said witnesses identified the shooter as possibly the gunman involved in a murder earlier Monday involving a stolen car the gunman crashed in Whittier. The alleged gunman was linked to a homicide and car theft at about 5:30 a.m. Monday at a home in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in City Terrace, added Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Sheriff's Information Bureau.

The victim was identified as Roy Torres, 49, according to coroner's Lt. Larry Dietz. Torres was a distant cousin of the alleged gunman, according to CBS2/KCAL9.

"There appears to be a link," added Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Sheriff's Information Bureau. Investigators were working to substantiate it, she said.

The Whittier shootout began shortly after the unnamed suspect rear-ended some motorists, 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.

Police were called to the location at 8:04 a.m., in the area of Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, according to a Whittier PD watch commander.

Officers arriving at the scene 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 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 sheriff's lieutenant said the suspect was a resident of Los Angeles, who had been out of prison on parole for about two weeks and was driving a vehicle stolen in East Los Angeles. His name has not been released. The suspect's gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.

"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 for nonprofit events and a "personal friend of mine for 25 years," 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."

The impact of this shooting will "last for years. But we're gonna get through it. This makes us stronger. And everyone needs to know what these officers face on a daily basis," Piper said as he broke down in tears.

"We have been grieving since 10 a.m. this morning," Piper said Monday. "I didn't think I had any more tears left to cry but obviously I do."