A Riverside County sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley Thursday afternoon, sparking a high-speed chase across multiple highways in which officers killed the shooter in a shootout.
Sheriff Chad Bianco said at a news conference Thursday night that the shooter was a violent felon who, following his recent conviction, should have been killed under California’s “three strikes” law. Jailed but released on bail while his case is pending.
Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, was conducting a traffic stop near the 3900 block of Golden West Avenue when the suspect drew a gun and opened fire on him, Bianco said.
Witnesses called 911 and the gunman drove away, kicking off a wide-ranging manhunt that spanned two counties.
The gunman fled back to Jurupa Valley after being spotted in San Bernardino County, where his truck ran over a spike on Highway 60 but kept going. As many as 30 police vehicles followed the gunman’s truck south on Interstate 15 into Norco.
When the gunman arrived at the 6th Street exit of Highway 15 in Norco, the vehicle was smoking, had its tires ripped off and an axle came off, rendering the vehicle immobile.
The stage was set for the final confrontation, which ended in a hail of bullets.
Bianco said the gunman opened fire on deputies pursuing him, prompting them to return fire and kill him. According to sources familiar with the investigation, more than 10 police officers opened fire in the shootout.
The pickup truck driven by the gunman was knocked down on the 15th side by a SWAT armored vehicle. Television reports showed multiple gun holes in the windshield.
Bianco identified the shooter as William Shea McKay, 44, who recently lived in San Bernardino County.
The sheriff said it was unclear why Cordero pulled McKay over. Investigators will review footage from the deputy’s body camera.
Southbound 15 was closed due to a large number of police cars on the highway where the pursuit ended.
The deputy was pronounced dead after being taken from the scene of the shooting to Riverside Community Hospital, a law enforcement source told The Times.
Bianco blamed Cordero’s death on a failure of the criminal justice system.
For the record:
December 10:53 February 29, 2022A previous version of this story said McKay stabbed the California Highway Patrol dog. He was arrested in the attack on the dog, but it was a passenger in his car who stabbed the animal.
McKay’s criminal history dates back to the 1990s and includes kidnapping, robbery and multiple assaults with a deadly weapon, Bianco said.
“The legal system should have avoided this horrific tragedy,” Bianco said. “McKay has an extensive and violent past and was convicted for a third strike in November 2021.”
That case involved kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, the sheriff said.
“The judge didn’t sentence him to 25 years to life, which should have happened, but the judge lowered his bond and allowed him to be released,” Bianco said.
The sheriff declined to name the judge.
McKay was arrested again for failing to show up for sentencing “and other criminal charges,” but he was released by the same judge, Bianco said.
McKay was convicted in November, according to a Times review of San Bernardino County court records. August 2021, False Incarceration, Evasion of a Sheriff, Threat of a Crime That Could Lead to Death or Serious Injury, and Receipt of Stolen Property. Evidence included cable ties, duct tape, an ax and gang paraphernalia, according to court documents.
In that case, McKay was found not guilty of kidnapping and kidnapping robbery or rape. He was also found to be a felon with a serious past.
Following his conviction, McKay’s attorneys attempted to strike down one of his previous strikes, records show.
Judge Cara D. Hutson delayed sentencing at least twice after she filed motions for a new trial. Another judge held a custody status hearing in October. 22 McKay was absent.
McKay’s original bond was set at $950,000 in June 2021, court records show. Following the verdict, which included an acquittal on the kidnapping charge, Hutson had his bond reduced to $500,000.
The union representing representatives from the department said in a statement Thursday night that Cordero was “a ray of sunshine” committed to protecting others.
“Deputy Cordero’s death has left a huge hole in the hearts of many who had the opportunity to know him,” the Riverside Sheriff’s Association said. Say. “Nowadays, [he] The ultimate sacrifice was made in the discharge of his duty – a debt that could never be repaid. …Our hearts go out to his family, friends and other representatives during this difficult time. “
Deputies pushed his coffin past a line of saluting law enforcement officers and onto a hearse outside the hospital. A sheriff’s patrol escorted Cordero’s body to the county coroner’s office, passing under a giant American flag hoisted from a fire department ladder truck.
Riverside County representatives carry a message through their ranks. A copy obtained by The Times read: “Our fallen hero had just graduated from motoring school a few months ago. He was shot dead at a traffic stop. … [The suspect] He fled but was spotted by an off-duty officer who gave his location. A manhunt ensued” and the suspect was shot dead. The message ended with “Rest in Peace Deputy.”
Cordero was hired by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 2014 to work at the county jail.
Before entering the Sheriff’s Academy in 2018, Bianco said he was assigned to the Robert Pressley Detention Center, the Smith Correctional Institution and the Indio Prison.
At the time of his death, Cordero was assigned to Jurupa Valley Station as Deputy Motorcycle, a coveted position in the department.
Applicants must demonstrate a “strong desire to ride a motorcycle,” Bianco said. “We’re not just putting them out there. There’s a list of representatives waiting.”
At the station, Cordero was known as “the joker,” and “all our representatives saw him as a younger brother,” Bianco said.
He was the first Riverside County councilman to die in the line of duty in more than 10 years, according to the sheriff.
Deputies cordoned off a stretch of Kingsey Avenue on Thursday night as investigators visited the scene near Rustic Lane Elementary School, whose entrance was also taped off with police tape. A votive candle flickers at the bottom of the school’s marquee.
Nancy Padilla, who lives across the street from the school, told The Times she heard sirens shortly after 2 p.m. She said the noise is not unusual for the community where she has lived for 10 years.
But as the uproar grew, Padilla grew concerned.
“I told my daughter, ‘This doesn’t sound normal. It’s been going on for 10 minutes,'” she says.
Padilla, who had been listening to music and heard no gunshots, looked out to see dozens of police cars and motorcycles filling the parking lot of the Golden West and school. Two helicopters whizzed overhead.
She said a neighbor told her the gunman fled in a truck covered in tarps.
“I know we don’t live in the best neighborhoods,” Padilla said, “but nothing like this has ever happened.”
Times staff writer Summer Lin contributed to this report.