SANTA ANA, Calif. - The family of Officer Keith Boyer described him as a loving father and son, while colleagues of his at the Whittier Police Department have labeled the fallen officer as the "best of the best."
Boyer's death resonated with officers throughout the country, but for one officer in Orange County, his death hit a little deeper. Before joining the Santa Ana Police Department, Cpl. Sergio Gutierrez spent three years with the Whittier Police Department.
Boyer was Gutierrez's field training officer, showing him the ropes and how to serve his community proudly.
"He said, 'Keith is dead,' and I didn't say anything for a few seconds," Gutierrez said has he recalled hearing the news of Boyer's death. "I think a little piece of him lives on with me and everybody that he's worked with."
Boyer was on duty as he responded to a car crash on Colima Road in the Friendly Hills neighborhood of Whittier on Monday. Authorities said 26-year-old Michael Mejia murdered a relative earlier that morning in City Terrace and stole a car before crashing it into multiple vehicles.
Officer Patrick Hazel and Boyer were unaware of the prior events when they approached Mejia, a known gang member who had been released on parole just 10 days prior, according to officials.
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Mejia opened fire on Boyer and Hazel, authorities said, killing Boyer and wounding Hazel.
"There was anger, wished I was there, wish there was something I could do, just kind of felt helpless," Gutierrez said.
While anger and sadness were his first reaction, Gutierrez said he watched with pride as his current department paid its respects to Boyer as his body was moved from Orange to Santa Ana, and then from Santa Ana to Whittier.
Gutierrez visited the growing memorial for Boyer in Whittier to thank him for the permanent mark he left on his life.
"Bought a rose and put it on the memorial. And took a few minutes to remember my time with Keith," Gutierrez said. "I just want to say thank you, for all the years of service that he put in and all the people he touched in small ways and big ways."