One Whittier police officer has died and another officer was wounded following a Monday morning shootout with a recently paroled "known gang member" who is suspected of the fatal shooting of another man hours earlier, authorities said.
The police shooting, which also left the suspect injured, occurred around 8:30 a.m. in the area of Colima Road and Mar Vista Street in Whittier, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a news release.
The officer killed was identified Monday afternoon as Keith Boyer, a veteran of the Whittier Police Department.
“He was the best of the best,” Whittier police Chief Jeff A. Piper said.
Piper teared up as he described Boyer, saying the two had played music together and had been friends for a quarter-century.
The other officer, who is expected to survive, is Officer Patrick Hazell, Piper said.
Boyer was killed when he and Hazell were responding to a traffic collision, sheriff's Lt. John Corina said.
The gunman had rear-ended a car and then got out of his vehicle and asked the occupants of a car he hit to help him push his vehicle out of the road and around the corner onto Mar Vista Street, a sheriff's news release stated.
When the officers got there, they first went to talk to the occupants of the vehicle that was rear-ended, who in turn pointed them to the suspect's vehicle. The officers then went around the corner to that car and made contact with the driver, asking him to get out of the car. They were going to pat him down to check for weapons when the gunfire began, Corina said.
"When they're doing that, that's when he pulls out a gun and he engages them in a gunfight. And that’s when both officers get shot, and the suspect gets shot," Corina said.
It was not known how many shots were fired during the close-range gun battle, which took place in what Corina described as a "nicer area" of Whittier.
Once other officers arrived on scene, the shooter was taken into custody. He was driving a stolen car and was a known gang member from Los Angeles with an extensive rap sheet, Corina said.
Authorities have identified the 26-year-old Hispanic suspect, but have not named him yet.
He was released from custody about a week before Monday's shooting and was on parole, Corina said, calling it an "early release." It's not yet known why he was released or what charge he had been serving time for.
The car had been stolen out of East Los Angeles, where the suspect may have been involved in another killing earlier Monday morning, Corina said.
"Unbeknownst to the Whittier police officers, when they went to pull the car over, they had a murder suspect ... in a stolen car," Corina said.
Witnesses have identified the suspect as being responsible for that other killing, which was also a shooting, Corina said. The lieutenant did not provide many details about the earlier killing, but said investigators had been told the victim was a male relative of the suspect.
The family of the victim said the suspect was the man's cousin.
The man's killing occurred about 5:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of Volney Drive, the Sheriff's Department said later Monday in a brief news release.
Shortly after the police shooting, aerial video from Sky5 showed a Whittier police SUV with shattered rear and passenger windows. A sedan directly in front of the SUV had front-end damage, and a firearm was visible on top of its trunk.
Corina said it appeared the suspect had been armed with a semi-automatic handgun.
“It’s extremely tragic," Corina said. "You’ve got a couple officers who just responded to a traffic accident, and they think they’re there to help out people involved in a traffic accident. Next thing they know, they got this guy shooting at them. He shoots both of them and kills one of them.”
After identifying Boyer as the victim, Piper said he'd seen an increase in violence against officers during arrests. He referred to ballot-box propositions that he said were increasing crime.
"Everybody needs to know what these officers are dealing with on a daily basis," Piper said. "You have no idea how it's changed in that last four years. ... People don't want to follow rules. People don't care about other people. ... This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be."
Sheriff Jim McDonnell spoke alongside Piper, also remarking on early release and rehabilitation programs.
"We're putting people back on the street that aren't ready to be back on the street," McDonnell said.
Speaking at a news conference shortly before 2 p.m., Corina told reporters the injured officer was in stable condition. The suspect, he added, was in the intensive care unit; video from the scene showed him conscious and handcuffed. while being placed into an ambulance.
In the afternoon, hundreds of law enforcement officers accompanied the Boyer's body in a procession from UC Irvine Medical Center to the Orange County coroner’s office. After a van holding the officer’s remains arrived at its destination, fellow officers lined up and saluted the flag-draped casket as it was wheeled inside.
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Those who would like provide a tip anonymously are asked to contact Crime Stoppers by dialing 800-222-8477, or by visiting the website lacrimestoppers.org.
KTLA's Jennifer Thang contributed to this story.
Correction: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect spelling for Patrick Hazell's last name. The post has been updated.