Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper has blamed Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial early prison release program for the murder of one of his officers on Monday.
Officer Keith Boyer, 53, was shot dead when he and his partner, Patrick Hazell, responded to a traffic accident in a tony suburb of Los Angeles known as Whittier’s Friendly Hills on Monday morning.
“We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” Piper said. “This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.”
The Orange County Register reports that the suspect, known gang member Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles — who had been serving time for grand theft auto—was released early from Pelican Bay State Prison in April 2016.
Mejia is believed to have murdered his 46-year-old cousin, Ray Torres, in his East Los Angeles apartment, just before stealing his car and fleeing the scene at a high rate of speed, resulting in the traffic accident, where he opened fire on the responding officers.
ABC 7 Los Angeles’ Carlos Grande reports that Mejia’s previous offenses include: “…Robbery, vandalism, grand theft auto, resisting arrest and attempted robbery.”
Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, AB109 was touted as a solution to the state’s prison overcrowding, which the state was mandated to address by a Supreme Court decision.
Rather than transfer prisoners to other states or allow private prison contractors to keep dangerous offenders behind bars, AB109 reclassified dozens of serious — and, in some cases, violent — criminal offenses as “non, non, non”—“non-violent”, “non-serious” and “non-sexual” offenses. That enabled the transfer of tens of thousands of criminals from state prison to county custody.
This prison reform plan, known as “realignment,” was met with considerable resistance by law enforcement officials across the state who worried that overcrowded county jails would be forced to dump dangerous criminals back on the streets.
That appears, in this case, to be exactly what happened.
Officer Boyer, a 28-year veteran of the Whittier Police force, leaves behind two adult sons and a daughter. Hundreds of local citizens and fellow police officers from all over Southern California lined the streets paying tribute to the slain officer as his body was transported to Rose Hills Cemetery. His funeral is expected to take place next week.
The Whittier Police Department has not lost an officer since the 1970s.
Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.