RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A man whose pickup truck was being impounded grabbed a rifle and opened fire, killing a California Highway Patrol officer and wounding two others Monday before he was shot to death in a hail of gunfire, authorities said.
“We don’t know his motive for this crime,” Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said Monday night.
The shooter opened fire shortly after 5:30 p.m. after a CHP officer pulled over a white GMC pickup truck and decided to impound it.
“He called for a tow truck and was filling out the necessary paperwork” when the driver pulled a rifle from the truck and opened fire, said Scott Parker, assistant chief at the CHP’s Inland Division.
The officer called for help and three other CHP officers arrived, who immediately faced gunfire and two were hit, Parker said.
A Riverside police officer and three Riverside County sheriff’s deputies also arrived and traded shots with the man before killing him at the scene, Diaz said.
“It was a long and horrific gun battle,” the chief said.
Video showed the gunman, apparently clad in black and wielding a military assault-style rifle, trading fire with officers and then retreating to crouch behind the front of his truck for cover, still trading shots.
Video after the shooting showed bullet holes in the front windows of two patrol cars and large holes blown in their back windows.
Parker said the first CHP officer who was wounded was taken by helicopter to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Another officer was hospitalized in critical condition but the third had only minor injuries.
Authorities didn’t immediately release the names of the slain CHP officer or the gunman.
However, family members identified the officer as 33-year-old Andre Moye, Jr., who was married and had been with the CHP about four years, KABC-TV reported.
Late Monday night, KABC-TV reported that his father had identified the gunman as Aaron Luther, 49, of neighboring Beaumont.
Dennis Luther of Riverside said he watched the shootout on television.
“It’s hard. I love him. And I’m sorry for the policeman,” he told the station. “I’m devastated. I just can’t believe it.”
Luther said his son served prison time for attempted murder but was released more than a decade ago.
Luther said his son called his wife to pick him up after his truck was impounded.
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 of his son’s wife.
The father 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.”
Police earlier had said at least one civilian had been slightly injured by flying glass during the attack.
Parker said two civilians received superficial injuries and “they’re going to be OK.” Parker said.
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.
Authorities did not immediately say what prompted the officer to stop and impound the truck. Investigators didn’t immediately know where the gunman came from or where he was headed, Diaz said.
After the shooting, dozens of law enforcement officers gathered outside of the hospital in nearby Moreno Valley. Snipers were posted on the roof as a precaution.
Dozens lined up and saluted as the officer’s flag-draped body was removed from the hospital and placed in a hearse. Motorcycle officers then led a procession as the hearse was driven to the county coroner’s office.
This story has been corrected to quote Diaz as saying authorities do not know the motive.