Crime & Justice

Suspect who shot, killed Whittier police officer identified

People gather in Whittier for a vigil for police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed Monday morning after he and another officer tried to pat down a motorist involved in a traffic accident. The man was driving a stolen car officials say was connected to a murder hours earlier.
People gather in Whittier for a vigil for police officer Keith Boyer, who was shot and killed Monday morning after he and another officer tried to pat down a motorist involved in a traffic accident. The man was driving a stolen car officials say was connected to a murder hours earlier.
Kyle Stokes

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The man who allegedly murdered a Whittier police officer Monday morning has been identified as Michael Mejia, a 26-year-old gang member who has previous convictions for violent crimes, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Commander Rod Kusch said.

Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, is accused of killing a 27-year-veteran of the Whittier Police Department and wounding his partner after a traffic accident on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, is accused of killing a 27-year-veteran of the Whittier Police Department and wounding his partner after a traffic accident on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.
Courtesy of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Sheriff's detectives accuse Mejia of killing Officer Keith Boyer, a 27-year-veteran of the Whittier Police Department, and wounding his partner, Patrick Hazellas, around 8 a.m., as the two were investigating a traffic accident at the corner of Colima Road and Mar Vista Street.

Mejia had rear-ended another car and was seated in his own vehicle when he opened fire on the officers, according to investigators. 

About two and a half hours earlier, Mejia is believed to have murdered Roy Torres, 46, in East Los Angeles, according to Kusch. Investigators believe Torres was Mejia's cousin. They have not given a possible motive for the killing.

"We believe there is sufficient evidence to link him to the other murder," said Kusch.

Mejia was released from prison and put on probation under Assembly Bill 109, according to a statement from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. That law transferred certain felons and parolees from the state to county supervision.

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is calling for an investigation into Mejia's involvement with the state parole system and county probation, according to a statement from Barger's office. She's putting forth a motion co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn.

"Along with numerous elected officials and public safety leaders across the state, I am very concerned about the safety of our law enforcement community in light of legislative and voter-approved changes to our criminal justice system,” Barger said in a statement.

Barger also said that Antelope Valley Sgt. Steven Owen was killed by someone with a lengthy criminal history. Along with AB 109, Barger's statement also noted Proposition 47 reducing some drug and property crimes to misdemeanors and Proposition 57 granting early release to some prisoners with "serious and violent criminal backgrounds," saying that these laws put police and deputies under additional threat.

Boyer was the third Whittier police officer killed in the line of duty, according to the department. Two others were killed in 1977 and 1979. The department has about 125 officers.

According to court records, Mejia was sentenced in 2010 to four years in state prison on a robbery conviction. Then in July of 2014, he was convicted of Grand Theft Auto and attempting to steal another car. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and was released in April 2016.

Since then, Mejia was jailed five times in L.A. county, said Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida. Jail records show Mejia served 10 days each time.

Nichida said four of those cases were for drug violations. Jail records show one of those violations was classified as a felony.

Mejia's fifth violation came on Feb. 2 for refusing to be searched by law enforcement officers. He was released on Feb. 11.

This story has been updated.