One California Highway Patrol officer was killed and two others were wounded in a gunfight that erupted on a Southern California freeway in Riverside Monday evening. The suspect was also killed in the exchange, authorities said.
"It was a long and horrific gun battle," Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz told reporters at a news conference held Monday evening.
It all began around 5:30 p.m. Monday evening after a highway patrol officer pulled over the suspect who was driving a white GMC pickup truck on the 215 Freeway. The officer, identified as Andre Moye, called for a tow truck, intending to impound the suspect's vehicle. That's when the suspect went to his pickup truck, pulled out a rifle and began firing at the officer multiple times. The officer was injured in the initial exchange, but managed to call for help. Moments later, two other officers arrived and "immediately were engaged with gunfire by this suspect," authorities said. The two officers were wounded even as they fired back at the suspect.
The officer who pulled over the vehicle was taken by air ambulance to a local hospital, but he died from his injuries, Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Scott Parker said. He was identified by the department as Andre Moye by California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley.
"I am devastated by the tragedy that unfolded earlier in Riverside," he said in a tweet. "Tonight, I mourn the loss of one of our own, CHP Officer Andre Moye, who was killed during a shootout following a traffic stop. Prayers go out to all, including the responding officers injured in the shooting."
One of the wounded officers suffered major injuries and remained in critical condition Monday night. The second officer suffered minor injuries, Parker said.
In total, seven officers fired their weapons during the incident, authorities said. Two other bystanders suffered superficial injuries and are expected to be OK. One woman driving home with her two twin 6-year-olds told the L.A. Times a bullet went through her windshield, but fortunately, no one in that vehicle was harmed.
Video footage of the incident showed the alleged gunman holding an assault-style rifle near the white pickup truck.
Warning: Video contains language
The suspect was identified as Aaron Luther by his father, Dennis Luther. According to a brief interview with NBC News, Luther said his son had appeared to be depressed after dealing with knee pain and problems in his marriage.
“I think he just, whatever else was going on with his domestic situations and his pain, I think he just thought he didn't have much to live for, and I think this might have been suicide by the police,” Luther told KTLA5 from his home. “It's just unfortunate that he happened to hurt anybody but himself.”
“We're grieving for the police just as much as we're grieving for our son," said Luther. “We stand behind law enforcement. I can't imagine a world without police. It would be a really dog-eat-dog situation. In fact, I said a prayer for the policeman before I did for my son.”
Luther said his son's wife was also nearly struck during the gun battle. Aaron had called his wife when he was pulled over to have her pick him up and the gunfight broke out just as she arrived on scene.
Aaron's father also confirmed to the news station that Aaron was a convicted felon and had no idea what his son was doing with a weapon like the one he used in the gunfight. Authorities confirmed on Tuesday Aaron Luther served time in state prison in 1994 for attempted second-degree murder, with an enhancement for use of a firearm, one count of first-degree burglary and three counts of second-degree burglary.