RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A California Highway Patrol officer was killed and two officers others wounded during a “long and horrific gun battle” at a traffic stop on a freeway near Los Angeles, authorities said Tuesday. The driver of a pickup truck who reached into his vehicle for a rifle and opened fire also was killed as frightened motorists ran for cover.
Officer Andrew Moye, Jr., died in the gunfight as dozens of bullets flew Monday afternoon just off a freeway in Riverside, east of Los Angeles. Other drivers ran for cover and two people suffered minor injuries.
The two surviving officers are in critical and serious condition, respectively, Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback said Tuesday. He would not identify them but said they are expected to survive.
KABC-TV reported that a man identified the shooter as his son, Aaron Luther, 49, of neighboring Beaumont.
“We don’t know his motive for this crime,” Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said. Investigators were still gathering evidence, Tuesday morning.
A CHP officer was doing paperwork to impound the pickup truck when the man reached in, grabbed a rifle and fatally wounded the officer, authorities said. Railsback said he didn’t know what prompted CHP officers to initially stop the truck.
“I am devastated by the tragedy,” CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said in a tweet.
Relatives said Moye was 33 and had been with the CHP for about four years.
“He was so kind,” his stepmother, Debbie Howard, told KTVU-TV. “You’re not going to hear one bad word about him. He loved this job.”
Dennis Luther, the father of the suspected shooter, said he watched the events unfold on television. “It’s hard. I love him. And I’m sorry for the policeman,” he told KABC-TV. “I’m devastated. I just can’t believe it.”
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER:
Luther said his son served prison time for attempted murder but was released more than a decade ago. He says he doesn’t know what his son was doing with a gun as a felon, which is illegal.
Railsback said authorities have not yet determined how he had a rifle.
After his truck was impounded, Aaron Luther called his wife to pick him up, his father said.
When she arrived, the tow truck was there.
“She said she heard ‘pop, pop, pop’ … gunfire, and then a bullet went through the windshield of her car,” Luther said.
He said his son recently seemed depressed, was having knee pain and marital problems but was devoted to his two children and a stepchild.
“He lived for his kids. That’s what motivated him,” Luther said. “So I don’t know what overcame him. I mean, I wish I did know.”
Jennifer Moctezuma, 31, of Moreno Valley told the Los Angeles Times that she was driving home with her 6-year-old twins when a bullet flew through her front windshield.
Charles Childress, 56, a retired Marine from Moreno Valley, was in the car behind her.
He led the family as they crawled to the bottom of a bridge to hide and none were harmed, the Times reported.
“He’s my hero,” Moctezuma said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags at half-staff Tuesday in the state Capitol.
Dozens saluted as the officer’s flag-draped body was removed from a hospital and placed in a hearse. Motorcycle officers then led a procession as the hearse was driven to the county coroner’s office.