Family, friends and law enforcement colleagues gathered Friday morning to mourn a Southern California police officer shot and killed while he was investigating a minor car crash, allegedly by a recently released gang member.
Patrol cars, fire department trucks and law enforcement vehicles were lined up in rows outside Calvary Chapel in Downey, site of funeral services for 53-year-old Whittier Officer Keith Boyer. The memorial was followed by a graveside service at Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary in Whittier, where Boyer's body was transported in a procession that was viewed by members of the community who lined city streets to bid farewell.
Boyer joined the force as a dispatcher in 1989 and became a full-time officer in 1990. The father of three children, who spoke at Friday's memorial, also was a talented musician who played drums in an off-duty classic rock tribute band.
He had recently discussed plans for retirement, according to Whittier Chief Jeff Piper, who was among the first to speak at Friday's emotional memorial. He talked about Boyer's commitment to the community, his musical talent and influence on other officers.
"To his co-workers, Keith was a mentor, an officer all employees respected," Piper said. "To the community, he was a professional, honest and ethical officer."
Officer Mike Carson played in a band with Boyer.
"There wasn't a mean bone in his body," Carson said Friday.
Boyer, who also served as a school resource officer, also was a humble and caring person. About two years ago, while investigating a case involving a young girl and her family, Boyer discovered she had a talent for writing and encouraged her to enter a contest at school. Hesitant at first because she would have to read what she wrote, the girl eventually agreed after Boyer promised he would join her at the reading, Piper said.
The girl won the contest.
"He promised he would show up and he did," said Piper. "This is who Keith was, day in and day out.
"No matter what he did, Keith was a consummate professional. Keith was Mr. Positive."
Boyer's children described their father as a man who never showed fear, but who also had a "goofy" side. He loved magic tricks and "bad dad jokes."
"It's hard to put into a few sentences all that I have to say about my father," said son Joseph Boyer. "He was so kind to everyone he met. My father was courageous, not only in his final moments, but always.
"My dad was goofy -- I mean the definition of bad dad jokes. One of his favorites was, 'Are you a parking ticket, because you've got fine, fine, fine written all over you.'"
Members of a thankful community turned out along the procession route to the cemetery after the memorial service. Many waved U.S. flags and a banner that read "Whittier Strong" was unfurled over a wall.
On Feb. 20, Boyer became the first Whittier officer in nearly 40 years to die in the line of duty. He was described by his chief as the "best of the best."
Michael Mejia, 26, is charged with shooting Boyer and his own cousin. Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Son Joshua Boyer talked at the memorial service about his feelings regarding the man accused of killing his father.
"I could judge him and codemn him, and very few in this room would blame me," said Joshua Boyer. "But my father taught me to do what's right. We cannot come together in unity and love and make this world a better place if we hold on to rage and anger."
Prosecutors contend that Mejia killed Roy Torres, 47, in East Los Angeles hours earlier, then stole his car and crashed it into two other vehicles in neighboring Whittier.
When police arrived and ordered the driver out of the car, he allegedly pulled a handgun and shot Boyer, who died at a hospital. Another officer, Patrick Hazell, and Mejia were wounded during the shootout but were expected to survive.
Mejia remained hospitalized and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.
Mejia is a convicted robber and car thief who had been in and out of jail several times since his release from state prison in April. He had spent 10 days in jail for the latest infraction and was released on Feb. 11, about a week before the shooting.
The Whittier Police Department, which patrols the city and neighboring Santa Fe Springs, has had two other officers killed in the line of duty — a detective in 1979 and a corporal in 1977.