A Whittier police officer thought he was responding to a mere three-vehicle traffic collision. Instead, he became the city’s first officer killed in the line of duty in 37 years.
Now, a gang member will spend the rest of his life in prison. Even though the cop killer will remain behind bars, prosecutors remain disappointed.
After four-and-a-half years and a seven-day trial, it took a jury less than two hours to find Michael Christopher Mejia, 30, guilty for the shooting deaths of Whittier police officer Keith Boyer, 53, and another man, Roy Torres, 47.
Mejia was convicted for two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of attempted murder, carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon. In addition, the jury found true special circumstance allegations of murder for the purpose of avoiding arrest and multiple murders, murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties and true gang and gun allegations.
Previously, the special circumstance found were a requirement for the death penalty in Los Angeles County. However, in February, the new Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, a proponent against the death penalty, announced no case would receive the death penalty. The move stemmed from his stance of the risk of executing innocent people and the high cost of upkeep of death row inmates.
“These are the exact types of cases why overwhelmingly every time it’s put on the ballot. The voters vote to keep the death penalty because of cases like this. It’s unfortunate our governor all the way to local politicians decided they want to ignore the will of the voters,” said Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron, according to Whittier Daily News.
In February 2017, Torres was shot at point-blank range in the head after a confrontation with Mejia at his converted garage home. Torres’ girlfriend told investigators she had arrived home to find Mejia counting to 10 to execute Torres, but shot him in the head at the eight counts instead. Then, the defendant asked her for the keys to the victim’s 2001 Dodge Stratus.
A couple of hours later, Mejia was involved in a three-car accident at the intersection of Mar Vista Street and Colina Road. Boyer and another officer, Patrick Hazell, responded to the scene of the accident and discovered the Dodge Stratus had been reported stolen. Soon, a shootout ensued.
Mejia shot both officers killing Boyer, and wounding Hazell in the abdomen. Another officer at the scene returned fire at the defendant, emptying all 14 bullets in his gun clip and wounding Mejia, who surrendered immediately.
At closing argument, Mejia’s defense lawyer told the jury to consider finding his client guilty with the lesser charge of second-degree murder. He argued his client was under the influence of drugs at the time of the shooting incident.
In a rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney Geoff Lewin argued there was no evidence of a drug-induced psychosis, which meant the defendant knew what he was doing. To corroborate his argument, he played the recording of Mejia boasting of the incident during interrogation with investigators.
"I did it, I mean, I did it... both of 'em, all three of them had it coming. The officer got too aggressive with me. I guess you guys have everything down — smoked my cousin, smoked the cop.... I mean, what else do you guys want? I shot another cop,” said Mejia according to NBC News.
According to his tattooed face and body, prosecutors claim Mejia is a member East Los Angeles Winter Gardens gang. He is expected to be sentenced on Dec. 1 to a mandatory life sentence without parole.