U.S.|California Shootout Kills Highway Patrol Officer
A California Highway Patrol officer was killed and two others injured in a shootout on Monday evening in Riverside, Calif., that also left a suspect dead and commuters scrambling for safety during the evening rush, the authorities said.
One officer was in critical condition at a hospital late Monday night and another received minor injuries, according to Scott Parker, assistant chief of the Highway Patrol’s inland division. Two civilians were also wounded, he said at a news conference.
The confrontation began when a driver was pulled over for a traffic stop at about 5:30 p.m. near Interstate 215 in Riverside, about 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It was not clear why he was stopped.
A Highway Patrol officer was planning to impound the man’s white pickup truck and called for a tow truck, Chief Parker said at the news conference. But as the officer was filling out paperwork, the man pulled out a rifle and shot the officer.
He called for backup, and several other police officers arrived at the scene. The gunman shot two more Highway Patrol officers, Chief Parker said, and a fourth Highway Patrol officer who arrived at the scene fatally shot the gunman.
“It was a long and horrific gun battle,” Chief Sergio G. Diaz of the Riverside Police Department said at the news conference.
The first Highway Patrol officer who was shot was flown to a nearby hospital and died, Chief Parker said. Gov. Gavin Newsom identified the officer as Andre Moye, 34. On Tuesday, the coroner’s office in Riverside County identified the gunman as Aaron Luther, 49, of Beaumont, Calif., and The Associated Press reported he had an extensive criminal record that included a conviction for attempted murder in the 1990s.
Chief Diaz said the authorities did not believe there were additional suspects, adding that investigators would try over the next few days to piece together what the gunman’s motive might have been.
“We don’t know where the suspect was coming from, where he was headed to, what his affiliations are,” Chief Diaz said. “We don’t know his motive for this crime.”
Aerial news footage showed that Highway Patrol cars pulled up behind a white vehicle near the 215 Freeway overpass, as traffic flowed nearby. The footage also showed a number of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks at the scene.
Local television news reports showed traffic along the road blocked off as helicopters buzzed overhead, and a local rail system was shut down in the area.
Gabriela Mendoza, 21, was driving to her class at a nearby college and had just exited the freeway when she looked out her passenger side window and saw a man with a rifle standing near the overpass. For several minutes, he fired continuously at police officers and other drivers, she said in an interview late Monday night.
Then 15 to 20 other officers showed up and yelled at people to get out of their cars and run, she said.
“I was freaking out,” Ms. Mendoza said. “Everyone was running. All the people left their cars and were running toward me; it sounded like he was shooting everywhere. I’ve never been in a situation like that.”
For 15 minutes, Ms. Mendoza watched the scene from behind a large truck. She said the gunman was shot by the police, but she wasn’t sure if he was dead or alive.
Sabrina Cervantes, a California state assemblywoman, wrote on Twitter that she was “heartbroken” over the death of the officer.
“My heart goes out to the family of the @CHPRiverside Officer who tragically lost their life in the line of duty today in Riverside,” she wrote. “My family & I are also praying for a speedy recovery for the other officers injured.”
Mihir Zaveri covers breaking news from New York. Before joining The Times in 2018 he was a reporter for The Houston Chronicle.