News & Politics

Known Gangbanger Kills CA Police Officer, Wounds Another

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper, center right, along with an honor guard wheel the gurney with a fallen officer's body at UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. A California police officer was killed and another wounded in a shooting Monday while they were trying to help a man who had been in a traffic accident in Whittier, officials said. (Sam Gangwer/The Orange County Register via AP)

There is outrage in California after a police officer in Whittier was shot dead and another officer wounded by a known gang member who was recently granted early release from Los Angeles County jail.

The gang member, whose name has not yet been released, ambushed and killed 53-year-old Officer Keith Lane Boyer and wounded his partner Officer Patrick Hazel, who is in stable condition. The suspect was also wounded in the shootout but is expected to live. Boyer, a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department, was wearing a bullet-proof vest, but it wasn’t enough to save him.

Investigators believe the 26-year-old gang member also killed another man earlier Monday in East Los Angeles and stole his car.

Via CBS Los Angeles: 

Shortly after 8 a.m., the officers responded to a report by a motorist who said his car was rear-ended by another vehicle at Colima Road and Mar Vista.

“When they get him out of the car, they go to pat him down for weapons, they can see he’s got tattoos all over his face and all over his neck,” said Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The suspect had rear-ended at least two cars, disabling the vehicle he was driving. He then asked people in the car he struck to help him move the disabled vehicle, according to Corina.

The man then pulled a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and opened fire at the officers, who were wearing bulletproof vests and shot back, Corina said.

“They walked up on the vehicle believing the motorist was in need of medical help and then they ended up in a gunfight for their lives,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said.

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper wept as he described Boyer as a friend of more than 25 years. “All of us have been grieving. I didn’t think I had any tears left,” he said.

Boyer was a divorced father and played the drums. He was “the best of the best” and recently talked about retiring, the chief added.

The suspect, who has a history of serious crimes, is suspected of killing his cousin, Roy Torres, 47, in East Los Angeles earlier that morning.

Torres’ aunt and goddaughter told CBS News that the suspect killed Torres in his garage at about 5:30 a.m., and then stole his silver Dodge Stratus, which he then crashed into two cars in Whittier.

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper said that Officer Boyer’s murder is a good example of why early release is dangerous to the community and to law enforcement.

“We need to pull our head out of the sand and realize what we’re doing to our communities and our officers who give their lives like Officer Boyer did today,” he said.

Piper spoke out Monday night against new laws in California that were meant to reduce incarcerations, but have instead made the streets less safe.

“We need to wake up. Enough is enough! You’re passing these propositions, you’re creating these laws that is raising crime,” he said.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons were so overcrowded it amounted to “cruel and unusual” punishment. In response, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, which moved certain felony offenders from state prisons to county jails.

Then California voters passed propositions 47 and 57. Prop 47 stopped some non-violent criminals from going into the prison system, while Prop 57 accelerates their departure from the system.

Brown advocated for Prop 57 in a radio ad campaign, where he said it allows inmates to earn credits through education and good behavior to “turn their lives around.”

Don Knabe, a former Los Angeles County supervisor, said California needs a new plan.

“Everybody wanted to be a good friend, but now we’re paying the price,” he said. “People are slipping through the cracks. It’s not five out of seven, or five out of 10 – it’s one out of 25, it’s one out of 50, it’s one out of 100. But what happens? You have another murder today.”

L.A. County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen was shot and killed by a twice-convicted felon out on parole in October 2016.