RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A Riverside County sheriff's deputy was shot and killed by a convicted criminal with an extensive record while trying to make a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley on Thursday, officials said.
The suspect in the shooting was also dead, after a pursuit through Riverside County ended with gunshots on the 15 Freeway.
The Riverside County sheriff described the suspect as having multiple criminal arrests and convictions dating back more than 20 years, including one last year which should have landed him in prison for decades, but he was out on bail while awaiting sentencing.
The slain deputy has been identified as Isaiah Cordero, 32, who had been with the department since 2014 but only completed his motorcycle enforcement training a few months ago.
"He was a jokester around the station," Sheriff Chad Bianco said. "And all of our deputies considered him their little brother."
The Riverside Sheriff's Association released a statement that read in part:
"We are devastated by the grief of losing Deputy Isaiah Cordero, a deputy who was a ray of sunshine in the Riverside Sheriff's Department, a person who was dedicated to protecting others. Once again, we face a tragic reminder of the selflessness and unwavering courage required of peace officers and their families."
"Deputy Cordero put on his uniform daily to make a difference in his community and keep families safe. Deputy Cordero's death leaves a tremendous hole in the hearts of so many people who had the chance to know him personally. Today, Deputy Cordero made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty - a debt that can never be repaid. We must honor his memory and life of public service through our words and actions. Our heart goes out to his family, friends, and fellow deputies through this difficult time."
After the shooting in the Rubidoux section of Jurupa Valley, the deputy was transported to Riverside Community Hospital, a spokesperson for the Riverside Fire Department said.
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles, many of them motorcycles, gathered outside the hospital to escort the slain deputy's body in a procession to the coroner's office in Perris.
Authorities were able to identify a suspect and pursued the individual in a pickup truck over several freeways in Riverside County. Video showed dozens of law enforcement vehicles following the pickup close behind as the truck fled at speeds around 45-50 mph.
The suspect fled over the 60 and 15 freeways and the chase came to an end near Norco under the 5th Street overpass on the southbound 15 Freeway.
Witnesses say at one point they saw the suspect apparently waving a gun at other vehicles during the chase.
At the end, the truck was on the shoulder of the freeway, pinned on the embankment by a law enforcement bearcat. The suspect was apparently killed after at least two shots were fired through the front windshield of the pickup truck.
The Sheriff's Department said the tires on the suspect's vehicle were disabled with a "tire deflation device." The suspect began shooting at deputies, prompting them to return fire.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said the incident unfolded around 2 p.m. when Deputy Cordero - who had only completed motorcycle training in September - attempted to pull over a suspect on a traffic violation in Rubidoux on the 3900 block of Goldenwest Avenue.
As Cordero approached the vehicle, the suspect immediately opened fire, hitting the deputy, and fled, Bianco said.
A witness in the area called 911 and tried to assist the wounded deputy until help arrived. Although he was rushed to a nearby trauma center, it was clear the wounds were fatal and he was soon pronounced dead, Bianco said.
Cordero had joined the department in 2014, initially working as a correctional deputy. He began his basic academy training in early 2018 and was promoted to sworn deputy. He completed motor school in September of this year and was assigned to motor enforcement duty, which was his goal from the day he was hired, Bianco said.
The suspect was identified as William Shae McKay, 44, whose last known address was in San Bernardino County.
Bianco described McKay as having an extensive criminal history dating back more than 20 years, including kidnapping, robbery, multiple assaults with a deadly weapon and involvement in one incident that resulted in the stabbing of a CHP K-9.
"This terrible tragedy should've been prevented by the legal system," Bianco said.
For his latest offense, in 2021, Bianco said McKay should've been locked up for more than 25 years. Instead, he said, the judge lowered his bail, allowing him to be out on the street. He was arrested again for failing to appear at his sentencing.
He declined to identify the judge, but said: "We would not be here today if the judge had done her job."
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office said it prosecuted McKay last year, obtaining a third strike conviction on a case in November 2021.
The DA's office requested no bail but it was reduced by the judge to $500,000 while McKay was awaiting sentencing. He posted bail in March 2022 and then in July was granted another continuance on sentencing.
He failed to appear at his sentencing in October 2022 and a bench warrant was issued.
The DA's office wrote in part:
"Our Office upheld our oath of pursuing justice by prosecuting convicted felon McKay in November of 2021, however a failure in the process to separate McKay from society and hold him accountable for his crimes has resulted in the tragic loss of a law enforcement deputy. Our prayers are with Riverside County Sheriff's Department and particularly the family and loved ones of Deputy Isaiah Cordero, who paid the ultimate sacrifice ensuring the safety of his community."