On February 20, Officer Keith Boyer of the Whittier Police Department in Southern California was tragically shot and killed, allegedly by convicted felon Michael Mejia.
According to news reports, Mejia murdered his cousin and then stole the dead man’s car to flee the murder scene. This is the car Mejia was driving when he crashed; which lead to a response by Officer Boyer and his partner, Patrick Hazel.
The officers responded to the accident with the intent to help the drivers of a collision, not knowing that Mejia had killed someone else and stolen the car involved in the collision. When the officers arrived, Mejia suddenly pulled a gun from his waist band and began shooting at both officers. They returned fire but, tragically, Officer Boyer was fatally wounded.
This is another senseless act that should never have occurred.
Mejia had a long prison record. In 2010, Mejia was convicted of robbery and served four years in prison. After his release, Mejia was arrested again for stealing a car and served two additional years in prison for felony grand theft auto. Last year, after his release from prison, Mejia is reported to have violated the terms of his probation five times, including an arrest just three weeks before the murder of Officer Boyer.
Today, because of changes to California’s criminal justice system, more and more felons are being released from prison early, or serving their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons.
Here are some of the recent changes to our criminal justice system:
In 2011, Governor Brown signed AB109, a law that mandated a “re-alignment” of non-violent offenders from state prison to county jails, or placed these people under county probation supervision rather than state parole supervision.
In 2014, passage of California’s Proposition 47, misleadingly titled the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” decreased penalties for crimes like burglary, shoplifting, and possession of illegal drugs like meth and heroin, thereby encouraging criminals to repeat their behavior—or at the very least, no longer dissuading them from this behavior.
And most recently, this fall’s passage of Proposition 57 allows California inmates to earn additional credits for good behavior and educational or rehabilitative achievements. The measure is intended to reduce overall prison populations, but Proposition 57 also allows criminals convicted of crimes like rape, sex crimes or even gang-related gun crimes to be released early from prison.
I believe these changes to our justice system open the door to crimes like the one that led to Officer Boyer’s death. Instead of going back to jail after repeatedly violating his probation, Mejia was released back into the community, a community that now grieves the deaths of Mejia’s cousin and Officer Boyer. It is clear to me that Mejia was not being rehabilitated in jail and that the consequences of his crimes were not severe enough to persuade Mejia to stop committing them.
Sadly, here in Mendocino County we face similar circumstances. Last summer, our District Attorney’s Office examined some of the local impacts of AB109. Investigators found that 59 percent of the offenders whose crimes qualified for re-alignment under AB109 between 2013 and 2015 were likely to commit a new crime within three years; and these repeat crimes by offenders impact our community.
In March 2014, Oregon police arrested Ricardo Chaney after reportedly finding firearms and methamphetamines in his car. Although not related to AB109, Chaney was not charged in this crime and was released from custody. Chaney later went on a crime spree which ultimately lead to the tragic death of our own Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino.
Today, my thoughts and prayers are with Officer Boyer’s family, Deputy Del Fiorentino’s family, our officers and families who work so hard to protect us, and our community members.
These are terrible crimes, senseless acts that shouldn’t occur.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.