Violent felon who killed California Highway Patrol officer 'wasn't a monster,' his widow insists
The gunman who killed a California Highway Patrol officer Monday had a lengthy criminal record, including serving a decade in prison for attempted murder.
His wife, however, maintains her husband “wasn’t a monster,” and was a loving father who helped raise eight children before he was killed by police.
The cop killer, identified Tuesday as Aaron Luther, 49, of Beaumont, was driving a white GMC pickup truck Monday when he was stopped by a motorcycle officer on an overpass to Interstate 215 in Riverside. Officer Andre Moye, Jr., 34, was filling out paperwork to impound the vehicle when Luther, who was not restrained, pulled out a rifle and began shooting.
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The officer was fatally wounded but managed to call for backup. Two responding officers were also shot in the leg before authorities shot and killed Luther. Moye was rushed to a hospital where he died from his injuries.
Moye had been with the CHP for about three years and was a motorcycle officer for roughly a year before he was killed.
But the gunman's wife defended her husband.
“He wasn’t a monster,” McKenzie Luther told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside. “He wasn’t out to kill cops. I’m so sorry for the officer. I know his family is going through the same thing I am.”
Called wife for a ride
McKenzie Luther said her husband called her after Moye pulled him over for driving alone in the carpool lane. He said he was also being ticketed for having an expired license and no registration, and his truck was being impounded -- so he needed a ride.
But bullets were already flying when her vehicle, with two of her children with her, neared the scene. One bullet pierced the windshield of her car. Aaron Luther had helped her raise eight children, now between ages 2 and 24. He is the biological father of two of them, the newspaper reported.
Luther had been convicted for a lengthy list of crimes, including disturbing the peace, vandalism, battery, stalking, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon and corporal injury on a spouse. As a felon, he was not supposed to have a gun and his father, Dennis Luther, said he's not sure how his son came to possess one.
Dennis Luther said his son had struggled with drugs, was depressed and in pain from knee injuries that left him unable to work his construction job. He also mentioned his son was going through marital problems -- something McKenzie Luther pushed back on.
“We’ve been together 14 years — of course we have problems,” she said. “He told me the night before he loved me. He loved our kids.”
Dennis Luther said despite what his son was going through, his actions were not justified.
“No one deserves what happened to them,” Dennis Luther said. “And if (Aaron) went and did that, he got what he deserved. You don’t go doing that kind of stuff and expect to walk home.”
“We’re standing behind law enforcement,” Dennis Luther said in an interview with KTLA-TV of Los Angeles. “I sent a prayer for the police before I did for my son.”
“We’re standing behind law enforcement. I sent a prayer for the police before I did for my son.”
CHP Inland Division Chief Bill Dance described Moye as an “outstanding officer” dedicated to public service.
"His mother told me this was his dream job and he loved going to work," Dance said. "It's what he always wanted to do." The officer is survived by his wife, mother, father, stepfather, two brothers, two sisters and a large extended family, Dance said.
CHP Officers gathered outside the emergency room entrance to the Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley on Monday, where Moye was pronounced dead. CHP motorcycle officers lead a procession from the facility that evening.
'Too many' funerals
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags at half-staff Tuesday at the state Capitol in Sacramento and called Moye's death devastating. Newsom, who took office in January, said he's already been to "too many" funerals of officers killed in the line of duty.
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said Monday that authorities do not have a motive. Dennis and McKenzie Luther both said their family member might have been seeking "suicide by cop," in which someone wishing to die tries to provoke police into firing their weapons.
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Luther was paroled from state prison in 2004 after serving about 10 years of a 12-year sentence for attempted second-degree murder with an enhancement for the use of a firearm, first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Court records show Luther also was arrested in 2007 on felony assault charges and took a no-contest plea deal that sentenced him to 90 days in jail. He also was charged with multiple felonies in San Bernardino County and pleaded no contest in 2010 to assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Southern California News Group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.