- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Family, friends and fellow law enforcement officers filled a Southern California church with laughter, tears and music Friday as they remembered a Whittier police officer who was gunned down by a driver after a car crash.

Keith Wayne Boyer was remembered as a dedicated officer, a kind man and a talented drummer who loved his job and his music.

His nearly 30 years of police work never hardened or jaded Boyer, one of his former partners said.

“He showed up at work with a smile on his face every day and left every day with a smile on his face,” Officer Mike Carson said. “I never heard him use profanity. I never heard him use a racial slur. He judged no one and friended everyone.”

Boyer, 53, was killed on Feb. 20. He was the first Whittier officer in nearly 40 years to die in the line of duty.

He and fellow Officer Patrick Hazell had gone to investigate a seemingly routine traffic accident. But when they asked the driver of one car - a man with gang tattoos on his face - to get out, authorities say the motorist pulled a gun.

Hazell and the suspect, Michael Mejia, 26, were wounded. Mejia remained hospitalized, and it wasn’t known if he has an attorney.

He has been charged with murder with special circumstances, but prosecutors haven’t said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors contend that Mejia, who had been released from jail about a week earlier, killed his 47-year-old cousin, Roy Torres, in East Los Angeles hours before the police confrontation, then stole his car and drove to nearby Whittier, where he crashed into two other cars.

Boyer and the other officers were unaware of the earlier killing or that the car was stolen, police have said.

Boyer, who grew up in Whittier, joined the small police force as a dispatcher in 1989, becoming a full-time officer the following year.

Over the years he worked as a SWAT officer, training officer, school resource officer, canine officer and patrol officer, taking nearly every assignment in the department, police Chief Jeff Piper said.

“He had a profound impact on hundreds of students and parents” when he was a school resource officer and took a personal interest in the students’ problems, Piper said. “He simply loved his job, he loved his co-workers and he loved his community.”

Boyer played drums with several first-rate rock bands, acquaintances said.

Keith also played several times with not-so-talented groups, particularly the one I played guitar in,” Piper added to laughter from the several thousand people who crowded Calvary Chapel’s sanctuary in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey.

The chief added in a tear-choked voice: “He’s playing drums with the most magnificent band imaginable. God speed, Keith, my brother in law enforcement and my friend.”

Boyer’s grown children, Joseph, Joshua and Ashley, performed the hymn “Amazing Grace” before each spoke movingly about their father.

“My father was courageous, not only in his final moments but always. He had no problem going on some random car chase or calling in some incident to the station when he was off duty,” Joseph said.

Joshua said his father was a prankster. After his death, the family called a locksmith to open his personal safe. Besides the important papers, there was a stash of magic tricks.

“I’m like, ‘Dad, this is what you kept in your safe? Magic tricks?’ ” his son said. “I half-expected to pull on a handkerchief and just keep pulling. But that was my dad.”

The nearly two-hour service concluded with bagpipers playing as Boyer’s flag-draped coffin was taken from the church for burial at a nearby cemetery.

Scores of officers, strips of black mourning tape across their badges, followed it out. Some wept and others embraced.

The Whittier Police Department, which patrols the city of about 85,000 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.

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