WHITTIER (CBSLA.com) — A known gang member, who was recently paroled from prison, shot and killed one Whittier police officer and wounded another Monday, authorities said.
Officer Keith Lane Boyer, 53, was ambushed and killed, despite wearing a bullet-proof vest. His wounded partner is Officer Patrick Hazel, who remains in stable condition.
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, a 26-year-old gang member, had a history of serious crimes and had been granted early release from Los Angeles County jail about a week ago, Corina said.
Just two and a half hours before killing Boyer, the suspect killed his cousin, Roy Torres, 47, in East Los Angeles.
Torres’ aunt and goddaughter did not want to show their faces but told CBS’s Erica Mandy that Torres was killed in his garage about 5:30 a.m.
They said the gunman stole Torres’ silver Dodge Stratus, crashed it into two other cars in Whittier. When officers arrived, he shot them.
“We saw it on the news, and we knew that that car was our family member’s and that it was involved. So we told the police, and we linked it up ourselves that this was our murderer,” Torres’ goddaughter said.
“My heart goes out to those officers who got hurt. I know they were doing their job,” the aunt said.
Boyer joined the force as a dispatcher in 1989 and became a full-time officer in 1990.
The Whittier Police Department has about 125 sworn officers who patrol Whittier and Santa Fe Springs.
The department has had two other officers killed in the line of duty — a detective in 1979 and a corporal in 1977.