A California deputy was fatally shot during a traffic stop by a man who authorities said should have been incarcerated under the state’s “three strikes” sentencing law but instead was out on bond.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, was killed Thursday afternoon in Jurupa Valley when the driver opened fire after being pulled over, authorities said.
The suspect fled the scene and a manhunt ensued, authorities said. During a pursuit on several freeways in the area, the driver crashed on Interstate 15 in Norco. The suspect was cornered by a BearCat vehicle and fired several rounds at deputies before he was killed by deputies’ responding gunfire, authorities said.
The suspect was identified as William Shea McKay, a convicted felon who has an “extensive violent past,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said during a news conference Thursday night, citing multiple assaults with deadly weapons and the stabbing of a California Highway Patrol canine.
McKay was convicted on multiple felony charges in November 2021, marking his “third strike,” according to Bianco. Based on the state’s sentencing law regarding repeat felony convictions, he should have automatically been sentenced to 25 years to life, the sheriff said. However, his bail was reduced to $500,000, which he posted in March and was released while his sentencing was continued, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.
McKay was granted another continuance for sentencing in July and ultimately failed to appear for his sentencing in October, at which point a bench warrant was issued, prosecutors said.
Bianco blamed the court’s actions for Cordero’s death.
“This terrible tragedy should have been prevented by the legal system,” Bianco said. “We would not be here today if the judge had done her job.”
ABC News has reached out to the San Bernardino Superior Court, which adjudicated the case, for comment.
Court records show that on Nov. 8, 2021, McKay was found guilty of false imprisonment, evading a peace officer, criminal threats likely to result in death or great bodily injury and receiving stolen property. He was also found to be a felon who had serious prior convictions.
McKay was found not guilty of kidnapping and kidnapping to commit robbery or rape in that case.
His bail was reduced from $950,000 to $500,000 following the verdicts. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said it requested at the time that it be set at no bail.
“Our Office upheld our oath of pursuing justice by prosecuting convicted felon McKay in November of 2021, however a failure in the process to separate McKay from society and hold him accountable for his crimes has resulted in the tragic loss of a law enforcement deputy,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement.
It was unclear what exchange Cordero and McKay had prior to the shooting, Bianco said, adding that investigators plan to review body-worn camera footage.
Cordero was transported to the Riverside Community Hospital following the shooting, where he succumbed to his injuries, officials said.
Cordero, of Rancho Cucamonga, joined the sheriff’s department in 2014. He was described as a “ray of sunshine” by the Riverside Sheriff’s Association, which represents law enforcement officers in the county.
“Deputy Cordero put on his uniform daily to make a difference in his community and keep families safe,” the association said in a statement. “Deputy Cordero’s death leaves a tremendous hole in the hearts of so many people who had the chance to know him personally.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Thursday that flags at the state Capitol be flown at half-staff in his honor.
“He served his community selflessly, and with dedication and courage,” Newsom said in a statement. “We owe him our respect, gratitude, and will remember his sacrifice.”