Law Enforcement Life in General

Critics Blame Sentencing Reform Laws After Well-Liked Whittier Police Officer is Tragically Gunned Down

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

A BELOVED WHITTIER POLICE OFFICER IS MURDERED DURING A ROUTINE AUTO ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

On Monday night, several hundred mourners gathered holding candles in front of the Whittier police station to express their grief about the death of 27-year veteran police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed in the course of responding to what he and two other officers believed was a routine traffic collision. The officers were in the process of patting down the driver of one car involved in the crash, when the driver pulled a semiautomatic gun out of his waistband and began firing at close range toward the officers, wounding Boyer fatally, and also hitting a second officer.

Officer Patrick Hazell, who has been with the Whittier PD for three years, was the other officer shot. On Monday evening, Hazell was listed in stable condition at the UCI Medical Center.

One of the officers managed to return fire and injure the suspect, a 26-year-old named Michael C. Mejia, who is also in stable condition.

Both officers were wearing protective vests.


Officer Keith Boyer

What Boyer and his two colleagues reportedly did not know when they rolled up on the collision near the corner of Colima Road and Mar Vista Street in the Friendly Hills area of Whittier, at around 8:30 a.m., is that the suspect who had hit two other cars at the intersection, was driving a stolen car.

Worse, Michael Mejia was believed to have stolen the car he was driving after he shot and killed another man named Roy Torres at around 5:30 a.m., that same morning in the 1400 Block of Volney Drive in East Los Angeles. Torres was Mejia’s cousin.

According to statements by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which had officers at both scenes, the 26-year-old Mejia is a “known gang member” who was released from jail in the last two weeks, and was on probation.

“It seems like a simple traffic accident and next thing they know they’re in a gunfight,” LASD Lieutenant John Corina told reporters. “You never know when you respond to a call, what you are going to run into.”


Officer Keith Boyer, from his Facebook page


GRIEF STRICKEN COLLEAGUES BLAME NEW LAWS FOR OFFICER’S DEATH

According to the LA Times, Whittier PD Chief Jeff Piper, who was close to Boyer, blames the killing on what he said was the early release of prisoners caused by a series of new laws designed to reduce incarceration in California, laws like AB 109, Prop. 47, and Prob 57. He did not specify how the laws would have affected the tragic killing of Officer Keith Boyer.

“We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” Piper told reporters on Monday at a press conference held a few hours after Boyer was gunned down.

We don’t as yet have many facts about the personal life of suspect Mejia. Records show that he had been cycling in and out of lock-ups for most of his adult life, beginning in 2010 when he was sentenced to four years in state prison for robbery. In 2014, he returned to prison with a two year sentence for grand theft auto. According to a statement Tuesday from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department, Mejia was released on April 20, 2016, from Pelican Bay State Prison, and the next day, April 21, he reported to his LA County probation officer.

Between late April 2016, and February 11, 2017, when he was last released from an LA County jail, Mejias did at least four short stints in county lock-up for violating the terms of his probation, according to the Richard Winton’s report in the LA Times.

Contrary to what others have stated, Mejia’s release from prison does not appear to have been early and would not have been affected at all by either Prop. 47 or Prop. 57.

The fact that he was supervised, post release, by LA County Probation, instead of state parole, is an artifact of AB109, otherwise known as realignment, which shifted post incarceration oversight away from the state and over to the county for certain felony offenders. But this did not result in a shortening of prison sentences, or “early release.”

We don’t yet know the exact nature of the Mejia’s probation violations.


“THE BEST OF THE BEST”

Whittier PD Chief Piper broke down in tears as he told reporters on Monday that Keith Boyer was “the best of the best.”

In addition to his 27 years on the force, we have learned that Boyer was a school resource officer at nearby La Serna High School, where he was very highly regarded by students. (Boyer himself graduated from the same high school.) Boyer, who is the father of grown children and also a grandfather, was praised as a mentor to other officers on the force, and was also an enthusiastic drummer for a cover band called Mrs. Jones’ Revenge.

He had reportedly been talking about retiring.

Chief Piper, who also played in the same band, talked with warmth and grief about his murdered colleague, whom he said he’d counted as a personal friend “for over 25 years.”

“He gave his heart and soul to these communities,” Piper said.

Boyer was the first Whittier Police officer killed in the line of duty since 1979, and the third officer killed in the department’s nearly 100-year history.

As to what turned suspect Mejia from someone who reportedly had committed property crimes to someone who allegedly committed two murders—one of them of a beloved police officer—in the course of a few hours….that is a question that very much needs answering.

But we would do well to seek those answers with a rigorous allegiance to facts.


Michael Mejia


EDITOR’S NOTE: Sections of this story were re-edited to make the language more accurate at 8:38 p.m. Tuesday.

15 Comments

  • Hey Gov. Brown, hope you had a good night sleep! That also goes to all you liberal idiots that were naive enough to vote for this tool and his lies about what prop 47 really was all about…In two days, you have caused two woman and a man to be killed; a two month old shot in the back. A police officer killed and one wounded! This is all a result of AB109 and Prop 47. Hope your proud of your liberal Ideology…

  • Celeste, in 2010 (according to your article), the POS was sent to prison for 4 years for ROBBERY. Then “cycled in and out” of jail for auto theft. Per your article he was in PELICAN BAY!!!

    Then you write,”As to what turned suspect Mejia from a relatively low-level offender to someone who allegedly committed two murders.” Are you kidding me?!?! Robbery, Car Theft and being sent to the HIGHEST SECURITY PRISON IN CALIFORNIA IS NOT CONSIDERED A LOW-LEVEL OFFENDER!!! Hard core assholes go to Pelican Bay.

    You and people like you are the problem with our society and why we have voters and legislators who enacted/voted for AB109, Prop 47 and Prop 57. It’s why possession of heroin is now a misdemeanor. It’s why we treat illegals better than our veterans. It’s why we have more compassion for our criminals than we do our victims.

  • Any comment celeste to ownership. There are a lot of angry people (critics) out there. Do a story about what they are angry about. Have you ever had any of your journalism buddies get murdered. Lets see if you can be humane and write a story about the good that is done by the hard working officers and deputies throughout our great nation. We surely don’t do our job for a pat on the back. How about you contact Governor brown and sheriff mcdonald to see what they think about recent events and where they stand now.

    • Prayers go out to Officer Boyer’s family. You unfairly point fingers at Sheriff McDonnell about certain props, while being mum about him attempting to provide transparency on 300 questionable deputies in Los Angeles Times article. Damned if he does or doesn’t say anything.

    • Condolences to to the Boyer family. @ Harold….Tis not the forum to trash “Fresh Eyes”. True house cleaning is within that hidden list. Many have rank. http://www.latimes.com/ local/california/la-me-sheriff-deputies-misconduct-list-20170219-story.html

  • EDITOR’S NOTE:

    To “Ownership” and “Harold,”

    Ownership, I just reread those sections you flagged, and I rewrote what I agree were some moments of clumsy and misleading phrasing. By the way, I too noticed that the guy was paroled from Pelican Bay, so wondered if he did something while he was locked up that got him sent up there. As you suggested, that isn’t the usual for someone just convicted of a property crime. Also, “low-level offender” or whatever it was I originally wrote, I agree wasn’t accurate. I intended to return to it and find something better, but never did. Now I have. So thank you for that.

    Harold, my original story was solely about the shooting and about Officer Boyer who was clearly a wonderful, courageous, very decent man and cop. Even the kids at La Serna high school, where he also worked, loved him. I understand that there was a huge turnout at the vigil. I know Whittier very well, and it seems the city is utterly undone, as it should be. This is a horrific tragedy.

    However, the story kept developing, and, as it did, the issue came up of Boyer’s murder being a possible awful side-effect of Prop. 47 or AB 109. I believe that’s an important issue, so I updated the story this morning to include that part of the story as well.

    We’re going to continue to follow the story to get a better idea of how and why it happened. Right now it feels like a terrible puzzle with crucial pieces missing. We all want to prevent other such tragedies from happening, but we can’t do that by shoving in the wrong, non-fitting puzzle pieces, so to speak.

    Harold, nearly all the officers and deputies I know deserve gratitude on a daily basis. We at WLA need to get better about finding ways to express that. And in answer to your question, although I’ve known of many journalists who have lost their lives in the course of the work they do, and I have various friends who have had close calls, myself included in my earlier reporting years, on several occasions, there is only one reporter whom I knew who was killed because of her work. She was not an American and she was shot outside her apartment building because of something she was about to publish. She was the bravest woman I’ve ever met. I also understand the unbearable pain of losing someone in law enforcement who died in the line of duty.

    In any case, I thank you both for your comments.

    C.

  • Celeste, something you certainly DO NOT lack is class.

    It’s obvious that people in my profession are as frustrated as we’ve ever been. At least in the 29 years I’ve been on. We feel your industry is responsible for a lot of what’s going on. I find myself being hypocritical with judging all of you while I despise being hated simply for wearing the uniform. Working on it…. LOL.

    I realize you want what’s best for the community, I just think we have opposite opinions on how to make things better. The beauty of democracy.

    Thanks for the reply, you were far more classy than I.

    Stay well

    • Ownership : You put yourself on radar as a clown (actually an Asshole) without etiquette. You have to learn the “Art of Presentation” even in the event of your “shit talking” disguised as anger. The embarrassing excuse you gave the editor at WLA is weak. Own your shit!

  • “Clumsy and misleading phrasing” face it Celeste, you’re pretty biased. Sometimes it comes across as naiveness other times it can be pretty pronounced. It’s ok we’re all biased , we just have to recognize it in order to grow.

  • WLA, I want to thank you for what you do. I have lived in the city of Whittier for 20 plus years. My kids go to LS high school, Officer Boyer will be heavily missed. I have been with LASD for 20 years. I am one of those who received a so called Brady Letter. Let me just say there is always two sides to every story, but in todays very political society we only hear one. I can say I find myself more often asking, is it worth not coming home safe to my family. While the great citizens of LA County are comfortably in their homes and safe. I like many others across the country sometimes find myself dancing with the devil (criminal), because thats what I promised to do keep you safe. My heart and thoughts go out to officers Boyer’s family,friends brothers and sisters at Whittier PD. Thank you Whittier PD for your sacrifices you and your love ones make for keeping us safe.

  • As someone who supported 109, 47 and 57, I would do it again. I’m sure MyGoodness and Ownership would like a proposition that would be preventive and would just throw anyone in jail that they, as experts, suspect of being criminals. Hell, even they are not criminals, some of these black and brown kids will grow up to be criminals, so might as well throw them in the mix now. We treat illegals better than veterans? Please. Criminals better than victims? Please. The fact those some are your colleagues are still working means that it does not apply to everyone that breaks the law. Thank you for opinion Mr. Trump.

    In fact, part of the reason we have 109, 47, and 57 is because we were going crazy with some of these sentences, that your unions supported. It did not help that the disparity between black offenders and white offenders was absurd. It also did not help that that just from death roll there have been over 150 exonerations, some of whom were sitting on death row because they were framed by your ilk.

    And, its amazing to me that every single officer that is killed is a hero, the greatest person ever. They only kill heroes. Had they killed Rafael Perez, David Mack or Kevin Gaines, or any of other almost 70 implicated in wrongdoing at Rampart one day before it all came down, they would have been mourned as heroes, beloved by the community. I’m sure we would hear about how they loved kids and puppies. Stop it, already. What happened to this officer is wrong, and the person that did it will, at best, die in prison. He will pay the price, but when your ilk does it… well, you’ll do it again because you get the benefit of the doubt. Own up to it that you and your ilk are part of the problem.

    And, leave Ms. Fremon alone. I believe its her site. Just like your job, if you do not like, leave it. Start your own blog. I believe http://www.angrycop.com is still available. If it is taken, just add a few K’s to the end, maybe three. Good luck on your blog.

  • My condolences to the Boyer family and gratitude to Officer Boyer for his service to our society and his community. Law enforcement officers are the first line operatives in our criminal justice system and put themselves in harms way so others can be safe in their life, liberty and property. Not all officers are good, just as not all doctors, lawyers or journalist are either. However, those who are so quick to criticize, second guess and minimize the importance of law enforcement officers should ask themselves these questions? Why don’t you do the job if you think you can do it better? Where would society be if just for one day, every law enforcement officer in the country decided not to do their job?

    Yes, the courts understand (or at least used to understand) police officers by the very nature of their needed to be given the benefit of the doubt due to the unpredictable, “rapidly evolving, tense and dynamic” situations they encounter. The oath all officers in the country take to defend the US Constitution as well as their respective jurisdictions laws and is not something most take lightly. In all societies, the enforcers of the law will only be as good as the system, legislature and people that support allow them to be.

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