LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles County prosecutors determined that reasonable force was used during an officer-involved shooting last year that wounded an admitted gang member charged with killing his cousin in East Los Angeles and then opening fire on two other Whittier police officers, killing one and injuring the other.
In a four-page memorandum released today, prosecutors found that Whittier police Officers Thomas Osendorf and Patrick Hazell “used lawful force to take an armed and dangerous felon into custody” on Feb. 20, 2017.
Ex-con Michael Christopher Mejia allegedly opened fire on Hazell, who was struck in the abdomen, and Officer Keith Boyer, who was the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty in 37 years.
Boyer and Hazell approached a Dodge Stratus that had been carjacked and subsequently involved in a collision with a vehicle stopped at a red light at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, and Mejia was ordered to get out of the car, according to the memorandum.
“Without warning or provocation, Mejia pulled a Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun from his waistband and shot Hazell several times, hitting him in the abdomen and striking his holstered firearm. Mejia then spun and shot Boyer multiple times before Boyer could draw his firearm. Boyer suffered three gunshot wounds to the chest, fell to the ground, and died almost immediately,” according to the document.
Hazell was able to fire one round from his service weapon, which was severely damaged, and Osendorf — who was nearby investigating the collision — ran toward the scene and fired 14 rounds at Mejia as he tried to get into Boyer’s patrol vehicle, according to prosecutors.
One of the shots fired by Osendorf struck Mejia in the left side, and the suspect yelled “You got me!” and threw his handgun onto the street before being taken into custody, according to the memorandum.
“In this case, Osendorf and Hazell confronted an armed man who had, just moments before, killed one police officer and wounded a second. Under those circumstances, they were justified in using deadly force to take Mejia into custody and acted reasonably in shooting Mejia in that effort,” according to the memorandum.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Mejia, now 27, who is charged with two counts of murder in the killings of Boyer, along with his own cousin, 47-year-old Ray Torres, the same day.
The murder charges include the 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.
Mejia is also charged with one count each of attempted murder of a peace officer, carjacking and possession of a firearm by a felon with two prior convictions: second-degree robbery in 2010 and grand theft auto in 2014. The charges also include allegations that Mejia personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and that he committed the crimes “for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang.”
Mejia is being held without bail and is due back in a Norwalk courtroom June 15 for a pretrial hearing.
During a preliminary hearing last June, an audiotaped interview with Mejia was played in court, in which he is heard telling detectives that he “smoked” the officer and his cousin and “shot another cop.”
“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,” Mejia is heard saying during the 48-minute interview in a hospital jail ward eight days after the killings.
During the early part of the taped questioning by sheriff’s Detectives Dean Camarillo and Omar Miranda about the killings, Mejia initially said, “I don’t honestly remember doing none of that … I was high on drugs …”
But he later told the detectives, “I did it, I mean, I did it … both of ’em, all three of them had it coming,” adding that the “officer got too aggressive with me.”
He told detectives in the Feb. 28 taped interview that he was trying to flee after the crash, but “the cops came right behind me, within two minutes.” He said the arriving officers did not have their guns drawn when they approached.
“I delayed it. I should have smoked ’em quicker,” he is heard saying on the tape, telling the detectives later that “they didn’t come out with both guns pointed ’cause if they would have come out with both guns pointed, then it would have been a whole different ball game.”
Asked by detectives if he had anything to say to the Whittier Police Department, Mejia said, “I mean, train your guys better. Train your guys better. They just got a taste of an L.A. gang member, real L.A. gang member. You know what I mean? And, nope, I don’t feel sorry. Because I know they would’ve dropped me, they wouldn’t feel sorry for my family.”
When asked by homicide investigators about what happened with Torres, the defendant says on the tape that his cousin should have “kept his nose clean” and that he had “warned him.”