Gang member sentenced to life in prison for shootings that left 2 dead, including Whittier officer

WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- A gang member who killed a man in East Los Angeles in 2017 and then opened fire on two Whittier police officers, killing one and wounding the other, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Michael Christopher Mejia, 30, was convicted three months ago of murder and other charges after a jury deliberated for less than two hours.

The verdict was read aloud in court Sept. 1, with jurors convicting Mejia of two counts of first-degree murder and single counts of attempted murder, carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Jurors also found true special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties, murder for the purpose of avoiding arrest and multiple murders. Jurors also found true gang and gun allegations.

Mejia was convicted for the Feb. 20, 2017, killings of Keith Boyer, a 53-year-old Whittier police officer who was the first officer in the city killed in the line of duty in 37 years, and 47-year-old Roy Torres.

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Judge Roger Ito imposed the sentence in Superior Court in Norwalk, saying of Mejia, "He executed Officer Boyer and attempted to execute officer Hazell.''

Whittier Police Chief Aviv Bar, in uniform at the courthouse for Wednesday's sentencing, said, "The savage execution of Officer Keith Boyer" and the attempted murder of Hazell "has changed our department forever.''

Bar also reiterated previous comments that he thought Mejia deserved the death penalty.

"He truly deserves the same sentence he inflicted on officer Keith Boyer,'' Bar said.

The attempted murder count involved Whittier police Officer Patrick Hazell, who was shot in the abdomen.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron urged jurors to "hold him accountable, hold him accountable for the ruthless, inhumane killer he is."

The prosecutor said the two police officers were responding to a three-vehicle traffic collision near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street in which Mejia had been involved, and that the two had no idea that those would be "the last moments" of Boyer's life.

Dameron called the evidence "so strong," telling jurors that there was "clear intent to kill the victims in this case" and an "abundance of evidence" that Mejia premeditated the shootings.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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