A California lawmaker was fatally shot during a traffic stop by a man who officials said should be incarcerated under the state’s “three-strike” penal code, but was released on bail instead.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, died Thursday afternoon when the driver opened fire after pulling over in the Jurupa Valley, officials said.
Authorities said the suspect fled the scene and then a manhunt began. During a chase on several highways in the area, the driver crashed into Interstate 15 in Norco. Authorities said the suspect was cornered by a BearCat vehicle and fired several shots at lawmakers before being killed by guns that lawmakers responded.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said at a news conference Thursday night that the suspect was identified as William Shea McKay, a convicted criminal with an “extensive history of violence”, citing multiple assaults with deadly weapons and the stabbing of a California Highway Patrol dog.
According to Bianco, McKay was convicted of multiple felony offenses as his “third strike” in November 2021. The sheriff said that under the state’s criminal code for repeated felony convictions, the suspect should automatically be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. However, his bail was reduced to the $500,000 he paid in March, and he was released while his sentence continues, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case.
McKay was granted a further postponement of his sentence in July and ultimately did not appear for his sentence in October, at which point an arrest warrant was issued, prosecutors said.
Bianco blamed the actions of the court for Cordero’s death.
“This terrible tragedy should have been prevented by the legal system,” said Bianco. “If the judge had done his job, we wouldn’t be here today.”
ABC News reached out to the San Bernardino Supreme Court, which decided the case for comment.
Court records show that on November 8, 2021, McKay was found guilty of wrongfully incarcerated, fleeing a peacekeeper, criminal threats that could result in death or grievous bodily injury, and receiving stolen property. He was also found to be a criminal with previous serious convictions.
McKay was found not guilty of kidnapping and kidnapping for theft or rape in this case.
Following the rulings, his bail was reduced from $950,000 to $500,000. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said it requested that he be set on bail at the time.
“Our office affirmed our oath to bring justice by prosecuting convicted criminal McKay in November 2021, but failure in the process to isolate McKay from the community and hold him accountable for his crimes resulted in the tragic loss of a law enforcement aide.” San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement.
Bianco said it was unclear what Cordero and McKay were doing before they were shot, adding that investigators plan to examine the body-worn footage.
Authorities said Cordero was transferred to Riverside Community Hospital after being shot, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Cordero of Rancho Cucamonga joined the sheriff’s department in 2014. She was described as a “sunbeam” by the Riverside Sheriff’s Association, which represents law enforcement in the county.
“The Deputy Cordero wore his uniform every day to make a difference in his community and keep families safe,” the association said in a statement. “The death of Assistant Cordero leaves a tremendous void in the hearts of many people who have had the chance to know him personally.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered the flags on the state Capitol to be lowered at half-mast in his honor.
“He has served his community selflessly, with dedication and courage,” Newsom said in a statement. We owe him respect, gratitude and will remember his sacrifice.”