LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – A convicted felon authorities believe killed a Whittier police officer Monday in a shootout “was not released from state prison early,” the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said Tuesday.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reports that Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, was involved in a gun battle with Whittier police officers who had answered a report of a traffic accident near Colina Road and Mar Vista Street on Monday morning. Officer Keith Wayne Boyer, 53, died in the gunfight. His partner, Patrick Hazel, was injured and remains hospitalized and is stable.
Following the shooting Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that the early-release laws voters recently passed may have impacted Mejia’s release from jail.
“AB 109 realignment, Prop 47 and Prop 57,” McDonnell said. “47 stops people going into the system, 57 accelerates their leave in the system and AB 109 basically changed where they do their time. So people who were previously in county jail are now out on the streets.”
However, in a news release Tuesday, the CDCR contradicted this, stating that “none of the state’s recent criminal justice reforms – including AB 109, Proposition 47 or Proposition 57 – impacted when this individual (Mejia) was released from state prison.”
According to CDCR, Mejia began serving a two-year state prison sentence on Dec. 15, 2010, for second-degree robbery. The judge also tacked on another two years for street gang sentencing enhancement, giving Mejia a total four-year sentence. At the time, the judge gave Mejia 302 days of pre-sentence credit for time served.
He was paroled on Jan. 26, 2014, the CDCR reports. However, while on parole, he was convicted of grand theft and vehicle theft and given a four-year sentence on July 30, 2014. That sentence was to run concurrently with his previous two-year robbery sentence from 2010. Mejia was discharged on April 19, 2016 into “post-release community supervision.” Since he was not paroled, Los Angeles County Probation was responsible for monitoring him following his release, CDCR contends.
“This individual served full state prison terms as defined by law,” the CDCR said.
According to Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina, from April 2016 to February of 2017, Mejia had five probation violations. He served what is known as flash incarcerations for those violations. In a flash incarceration, an offender serves a 10-day jail sentence in county jail for a violation instead of being sent back to state prison. Flash incarcerations were authorized under AB-109, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.
On Feb. 1, Mejia was arrested following a family disturbance and evading police, Corina said. He was sent to county jail for 10 days and released on Feb. 11.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a former Orange County assistant district attorney and reserve Los Angeles police officer, was a California Assemblyman prior to AB-109 became law in 2011.
“You will never get the attention of an individual who has spent time in the joint, OK, for years on end, you will never get their attention by putting them in a county jail for 10 days,” Spitzer told CBS2 Tuesday. “If they’re violating their parole, they should one place, back to prison.”
Retired Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge George Eskin, an AB-109 supporter, released a statement Tuesday which read, in part:
“The death of the Whittier police officer is a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided if the suspect had been unable to acquire a firearm.”
Boyer’s family provided CBS2 the following statement Tuesday. It read, in part.
“Keith Boyer’s family hopes Governor Brown addresses this tragedy. As Californians, we will not continue to accept his ineptness. The community of those who serve deserve better than to be under the veil of lawmaking that does not ensure their safety.”
LASD detectives are also investigating whether Mejia may have killed his cousin, Roy Torres, 47, in East Los Angeles early Monday morning. Authorities say Mejia stole Torres’ silver Dodge Stratus and crashed it into two other cars in Whittier, prompting the officer response and shootout that ensued.
Mejia was wounded in the shootout. As of Tuesday, he remains hospitalized in an intensive care unit.