The officer killed in a shootout Monday in Whittier has been identified as Officer Keith Boyer, a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department.
Boyer was hired by the department in 1989 and spent time as a dispatcher, jailer and reserve before becoming a police officer in 1990. He leaves behind grown children, played the drums in a band and had recently been talking about retirement, Whittier police Chief Jeff Piper said at an emotional news conference Monday afternoon.
"He was the best of the best. He was a personal friend of mine for over 25 years," Piper said. "He was respected for his many years of experience and younger officers looked to him for advice and guidance, so did his sergeants."
Boyer is the department's first death since the late 1970s. He was fatally wounded around 8:30 a.m. in the area of Colima Road and Mar Vista Street while responding to a traffic accident, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Officer Patrick Hazell, who was hired three years ago by Whittier police, was also injured in the shooting and is expected to survive, sheriff's Lt. John Corina said.
“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.”
Corina said the suspect, who is only being identified as a 26-year-old man, was driving a stolen car when he opened fire on the Whittier officers and may have been involved in another deadly shooting that happened hours earlier Monday in East L.A.
The suspect was also wounded in the shooting and is expected to survive. He is believed to have been released on parole within the past two weeks, though authorities did not know why he had been serving time.
Piper, who became very emotional during the news conference, had a strong message for the community.
"It's really hard for me to hold back my tears because all of us have been grieving since 10 this morning and I didn't think I had any tears left" Piper said as he broke down in tears. "But everyone needs to know what these officers are dealing with on a daily basis, you have no idea how it has changed in the last four years. This is a senseless tragedy that did not need to be."
Piper said statistics for resisting arrests have been at an all-time high, something he said he has not seen in 25 years.
"We need to wake up. Enough is enough. You're passing these propositions, you're creating these laws that are raising crimes. It's not good for our communities and it's not good for our officers," Piper said. "What you have today is an example of that. We need to pull our head out of the sand and realize what we are doing to our community and to our officers who give their life like Officer Boyer did today."
The shooting remains under investigation, and anyone with information 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 http://lacrimestoppers.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect spelling for Patrick Hazell's last name. The post has been updated.