Brent J. Meyer
PORAC Vice President
A rush-hour traffic collision. An early morning bus accident. A motorcycle pursuit. Three everyday events in the life of a California peace officer. Three tasks we manage with absolute efficiency and professionalism countless times throughout our careers. But within 72 hours this past February, those three common and separate events began a horrifically fateful process that left three of our own dead in Whittier, Dublin and Sacramento.
May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day, a time for us to honor and remember colleagues who went to work, did their jobs and never came home to their families. Today, the deaths of Keith Boyer, Michael Foley and Lucas Chellew are tragically part of our reality, each distinctive but illustrative of the endless complexities and inherent dangers that define our profession.
For Officer Boyer, the call was a traffic collision near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street in Whittier. He and his partner arrived to find the driver in a vehicle that had been reported stolen. When they ordered the driver out, he came up shooting, firing a handgun at the officers. Both were hit. Officer Boyer, a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department, died about two hours later. His partner, Officer Patrick Hazell, who joined the Whittier agency three years ago, was hospitalized.
The suspect, who was wounded by the officers as they returned fire but was later taken into custody, is a career criminal and gang member with convictions for robbery and auto theft. He is suspected of having murdered his cousin hours before encountering Officers Boyer and Hazell. The Whittier officers didn’t know, nor could they have known, about the earlier homicide when they responded to the traffic collision.
The fact that Keith Boyer’s killer was at large and roaming unchecked through Whittier’s streets infuriated his Chief, Jeff Piper. Chief Piper blames, and rightly so, California’s ineffective sentencing reforms and flawed jail-reduction policies for increasing the risks to those of us who keep the streets safe. Two voter-approved initiatives, Propositions 47 and 57, along with their Governor-approved predecessor, Assembly Bill 109, were designed to make prisoners more comfortable by reducing prison populations. But all they’ve done is make our profession more dangerous.
“We need to wake up,” Chief Piper said. “Enough is enough. You’re passing these propositions, you’re creating these laws that are raising crime. It’s not good for our communities and it’s not good for our officers. What you have today is an example of that. We need to pull our head out of the sand and realize what we are doing to our community and to our officers who give their life, like Officer Boyer did today.”
Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Foley was walking through the parking lot at the Santa Rita jail just before sunrise when he was accidentally struck by a jail bus leaving to pick up bagged lunches for inmates. Deputy Foley died the next day.
“Our hearts are broken today,” the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post. Deputy Foley was a 29-year veteran of the Concord Police Department. After retiring in 2007, he was hired by Alameda County, where he was respected for his work ethic and known for his commitment to the job.
Sheriff Gregory Ahern said the poor lighting and slick pavement from recent rains contributed to the tragic accident. Deputy Foley was wearing dark clothing and wasn’t visible to the bus driver, a fellow sheriff’s deputy.
California Highway Patrol motor officer Lucas Chellew was pursuing a stolen motorcycle on Fruitridge Road near Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento when a citizen’s vehicle crossed into his path just as rush hour was wrapping up that early evening. Officer Chellew tried to avoid the car but could not, striking its passenger side. He was ejected from his motorcycle and suffered fatal injuries, despite valiant and heroic efforts by two of my Sacramento P.D. colleagues. The suspect, previously convicted of identity theft and wanted for outstanding warrants, was later taken into custody and charged in the case.
Officer Chellew was an eight-year veteran of the CHP. His father, Chuck, is a retired CHP captain. His sister, Hanna, still works for the Highway Patrol. “He had the best heart, but he didn’t want people to know. He would hide it behind a silly smirk,” Hanna said. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow added, “His service and sacrifice will forever be honored and never forgotten.”
The deaths of Officer Boyer, Deputy Foley, and Officer Chellew occurred within a span of just three days and in three different California communities. Though unrelated, they will be eternally linked. We will never forget them. Unfortunately, we have to say this too much, yet I don’t think that we remember it often enough.
Peace Officers Memorial Day is a reminder to all of us why what we do is important, and of the price that so many of our colleagues and their families have paid to keep all Californians safe. Especially this month, we ought not to forget this. Keep safe and be vigilant!