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Thousands expected to attend memorial service for Keith Boyer, slain Whittier police officer

Slain officer Keith Boyer is remembered during a vigil at the Whittier police station on Feb. 20. (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

Thousands of law enforcement officers, public officials and members of the public are expected to attend memorial services Friday for slain Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer, who authorities say was gunned down last week by a reputed gang member who had earlier killed his cousin.

Boyer, a 27-year-veteran of the department, will be remembered during a 10 a.m. service at Calvary Chapel Downey. After the service, a law enforcement procession will accompany Boyer’s body to Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier for burial.

The 53-year-father of two grown sons was the first Whittier officer in 37 years to be killed in the line of duty.

Since the Feb. 20 killing, his large photo has stood next to a memorial for other fallen officers outside Whittier police headquarters. On Thursday evening, an honor guard stood at attention as a hearse carrying Boyer’s body passed the department on the way to a public viewing at the Whittier Area Community Church.

After Friday’s service, the procession is is expected to begin around noon, traveling east on Imperial Highway to the northbound 605 Freeway, exiting at Pioneer Boulevard and proceeding north to Workman Mill Road before reaching the gates of Rose Hills.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper tearfully paid tribute to Boyer, a close friend who was nearing retirement.

“He was the best of the best,” Piper said.

Boyer joined the department in 1989 as a jailer and dispatcher before being sworn as an officer in 1990. One of his pastimes was drumming for Mrs. Jones’ Revenge, a classic-rock tribute band in Temecula that played at wineries and weddings.

Boyer was the third Whittier police officer slain in the line of duty in the department’s 100-year history. The Whittier department includes about 128 sworn officers who patrol the cities of Whittier and Santa Fe Springs in southeastern Los Angeles County.

More than 1,000 residents attended a vigil for Boyer at police headquarters the day he was killed.

“This is a very sad day for our officers, the families involved, the Whittier Police Department and our community,” Mayor Joe Vinatieri told the gathering. “But we’re pulling together. And we’re going to take care of these families, and we’re going to take care of this police department.”

On Wednesday, a Michael C. Mejia was charged with capital murder in the deaths of his cousin, Roy Torres, and Boyer.

Mejia, 26, a felon with a history of drugs and violent criminal activity, is accused of killing Torres early Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles before fleeing with his cousin’s car and crashing into two other vehicles at a Whittier intersection.

When Boyer and fellow Whittier Officer Patrick Hazell came to the scene of the accident, they ordered Mejia out of his car. Prosecutors say he opened fire as they approached him.

Boyer was killed and Hazell was wounded. Mejia was also wounded during the gun battle.

If convicted of the charges, Mejia faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said a decision on whether to seek capital punishment would be made later.

At the time of the killings, Mejia was under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Mejia had been jailed and released for violating probation five times since last summer.