A convicted felon who fatally shot a California Highway Patrol officer during a traffic stop in Riverside this month fired at least 100 rounds during the lengthy gun battle before being shot by law enforcement, officials said this week.
New details about the Aug. 12 gun battle that killed CHP Officer Andre Moye came to light during a Riverside Community Police Review Commission meeting \. A Riverside police official told the commission — a nine-member civilian oversight panel for the police department — that the gunman, Aaron Luther, had high-capacity magazines for the rifle he used that could hold up to 120 round.
Moye had pulled over Luther at 4:54 p.m. near Box Springs Boulevard and Eastridge/Eucalyptus Avenue, west of the 215 Freeway, after spotting him driving alone in the carpool lane. Luther’s license was expired and his vehicle registration was out of date, so Moye decided to impound the vehicle and have it towed, said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department.
Moye stood on the driver’s side of Luther’s vehicle talking with the tow truck driver as Luther gathered his belongings. As Moye moved toward the passenger side of the vehicle, Luther grabbed a rifle from the truck and started shooting, Railsback said.
Law enforcement personnel from CHP, Riverside police and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department responded and engaged Luther in a lengthy gun battle, which killed Luther. Authorities have not released details about the shootout. It is not clear which department personnel fired the fatal round.
Railsback said when Riverside’s police helicopter landed at the scene, other officers put Moye aboard. The flight tactical officer performed CPR on the injured officer in the helicopter’s tiny backseat as they flew to the hospital, where Moye was later pronounced dead.
“Heroism is an understatement when it comes to all the actions the officers took and the shots they undertook themselves to get this shooting and this suspect to stop,” Railsback said.
Two other CHP officers were injured in the shooting, but are recovering, he said.
Luther’s wife told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that her husband called her shortly after he was pulled over, panicked about the possibility of going to prison.
“Maybe it was suicide by cop. He wasn’t out to kill cops,” McKenzie Luther told the newspaper, adding that she felt sorry for Moye’s family.
Luther had an extensive criminal record. Court records show he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and two counts of burglary in Los Angeles County in 1994. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and granted parole in 2004, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The Beaumont, Calif., resident had also been convicted in the past of disturbing the peace, vandalism, battery, stalking, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon and corporal injury of a spouse, officials said.
Law enforcement sources told The Times this month that the semiautomatic rifle Aaron Luther used in the shooting was a “ghost gun” that cannot be traced by authorities. Ghost guns are unserialized weapons manufactured from parts that can be ordered through the mail or are machined parts acquired from underground makers.
Luther would not have been allowed to possess a firearm under California law because of his criminal record. Though Luther’s motive is still unknown, Railsback disputes the idea that the man fired on officers in an attempt to commit suicide by prompting a deadly response.
“This guy was intent on killing officers,” Railsback said. “This guy, for whatever his motivations were, was intent on causing some great harm.”