Whittier Police Officers Keith Boyer and Pat Hazell responded to a citizen’s call for help Monday morning.
It was an injury auto accident – the kind of call officers respond to every day.
Tragically, the call led the officers to an encounter with a violent criminal who opened fire on the officers, killing Boyer, a 27-year veteran of the department, and injuring Hazell.
According to investigators, the suspect, who was shot and injured during the encounter, had just committed a murder. The car he was driving was reportedly stolen.
The facts aren’t completely known at this point. What we do know is the suspect had reportedly been released from state prison within the last two weeks, police said.
Officer Boyer made the ultimate sacrifice, standing his ground against evil that most people will never encounter or for that matter even know exists.
Officer Hazell is expected to recover from his injuries. As a young officer in the early stages of his career this encounter will be a life-changing experience.
What seemed to be hundreds of police officers from throughout the region responded to the UCI Medical Center to escort Officer Boyer’s casket to the Orange County Coroner’s office.
It was the first of many processions that will take place to honor him.
At a press conference, Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper wouldn’t even mention the suspect’s name.
Officer Boyer was not just an employee, he said, he was a friend.
He made an impassioned plea to the public.
“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.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell echoed Chief Piper’s statement.
“There is a move across the nation to reduce incarceration. That’s shown itself in AB 109, realignment, Prop 47 and Prop 57…We need to take a step back and be able to say we’re all believers in rehabilitation and reintegrating people back into society…there are people back on the streets that aren’t ready to be back out there.”
When asked about the impact to the department, Chief Piper broke down. With tears in his eyes, he said, “All of us have been grieving since 10 o’clock this morning. I didn’t think I had any tears left.”
He hesitated, then added, “We’re going to get through it. This makes us stronger.”
“What everyone needs to know is what these officers are dealing with on a daily basis. You have no idea how it’s changed in the last four years.”
It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by most every California police officer and police executive I’ve encountered.
Officer Boyer will be honored in next few weeks in a ceremonial tradition that goes back as far as the history of policing in America.
Over the next few weeks our hearts will grieve for the Whittier Police Department, the family of Officer Boyer and his partner Officer Hazell.
As is often said, “Rest in Peace officers, your partners will take it from here.”
Joe is a retired Anaheim PD captain. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.