CrimeRiverside shooting suspect was Vagos motorcycle gang member with criminal history, sources say
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The man who authorities say engaged officers in a violent gun battle during a traffic stop off the 215 Freeway in Riverside, killing one California Highway Patrol officer and wounding two others, was identified Tuesday as 49-year-old Aaron Luther.
Luther, who died in Monday's shootout and was member of the Vagos motorcycle gang, has a lengthy criminal record dating to the late 1980s in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, according to public records and law enforcement sources.
Luther's convictions include disturbing the peace, vandalism, battery, stalking, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon and corporal injury on a spouse. He was convicted of attempted murder and burglary in Los Angeles County in 1994 and served time in state prison, according to court records.
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Authorities have not determined a motive in the shooting.
Luther's father, Dennis Luther, told KTLA that his son was a "desperate man" and had recently been depressed.
"I think he just thought he didn't have much to live for," Dennis Luther said. "This might just have been suicide by the police. It's just unfortunate that he happened to hurt anybody but himself."
What began as a routine traffic stop Monday evening quickly turned deadly, prompting a massive response from law enforcement agencies across the region.
The situation began at 5:35 p.m. when CHP Officer Andre Moye stopped Luther, who was driving a white GMC pickup, for an unknown offense at the Eastridge Avenue/Eucalyptus Avenue offramp. At some point during the traffic stop, Moye decided to impound the man's vehicle and called for a tow truck, said CHP Inland Division Assistant Chief Scott Parker.
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It was not immediately clear where Luther was heading when he was stopped. While Moye was filling out paperwork, the man got a rifle from his truck and started shooting at the officer, Parker said.
"We don't know why" the suspect shot at Moye, Riverside police spokesman Ryan Railsback said. "That is all going to be part of this lengthy investigation."
Moye returned fire, and even though he had been shot, he was able to radio for help. Three other CHP officers soon arrived, followed by three deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and at least one officer from the Riverside Police Department, authorities said.
Moye, 34, was airlifted to Riverside University Health System Medical Center and died on the way to the hospital. Another CHP officer was critically injured and a third was wounded during the gunfire. Authorities said two civilians are thought to have suffered minor injuries.
1 CHP officer dead, two other officers injured in wild shootout near 215 Freeway
LOS ANGELES - A California Highway Patrol officer was killed and two other officers were wounded in a wild shootout Monday evening off the 215 Freeway in Riverside County that left the gunman dead and motorists dodging bullets. The conditions of the other two officers were unknown, according to the Riverside Police Department. The suspect was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. According to initial reports from law enforcement at the scene, a CHP motorcycle officer stopped a driver for an offense. The driver then is thought to have grabbed a rifle from inside the car and opened fire on the officer.
Gabriela Mendoza, 21, was chatting with her fiance while driving to class at Platt College when she got stuck in traffic near the 215 Freeway overpass. When she looked to her right, she saw a man holding a rifle advancing toward a CHP cruiser. She hung up the phone and started recording.
The 11-minute video shows CHP officers huddled behind a cruiser engaged in a gun battle.
"The way he was holding the gun and dodging bullets, it looked like he had some kind of training," Mendoza said of the gunman. "He looked like he knew what he was doing."
Eventually, the armed man disappears from view and a helicopter arrives to airlift Moye to the hospital, the video shows.
Dozens of rounds were fired over the course of the gunfight, according to law enforcement officials. The type of rifle the shooter used has not been identified. It is not clear whose gunfire killed Luther, officials said.
The freeway offramp remained closed Tuesday while authorities continued to scour the area for evidence.
"It was a long and horrific gun battle, and resulted in a very extensive crime scene," Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said at the news conference Monday night.
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The motorcycle gang Luther was allegedly involved with is considered one of the nation's largest and most dangerous outlaw motorcycle gangs, alongside the Hell's Angels and Mongols. The gang was founded in California in the 1960s but now claims 1,000 members in several chapters throughout the U.S., federal agents said in a 2017 indictment charging 23 Vagos' members with racketeering.
In that case, federal law enforcement targeted Vagos' members in California, Nevada and Hawaii alleging the gang had been involved in a number of brutal murders and beatings, as well as cocaine and meth trafficking.
The gang has a history of threatened violence against law enforcement. When Vagos' members suspected their Las Vegas chapter had been infiltrated by an undercover officer in July 2013, the group placed a $100,000 bounty on the man's head, according to the 2017 indictment.
The Vagos also have chapters in Mexico and Oregon, according to a 2015 Department of Justice report on outlaw motorcycle gangs. Vagos' members can often be seen wearing a cut with a large green patch with a red devil emblazoned at the center atop a tire.
Moye's death prompted an outpouring of support from law enforcement agencies across California.
Dozens of officers stood in salute outside the hospital late Monday as Moye's body was loaded into a hearse and taken to the coroner's office. Some embraced as they stood outside the medical center.
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Moye was a CHP officer for almost three years and was assigned to the Riverside office after graduating from the CHP Academy on March 3, 2017. He previously worked as an electrician, but had dreamed of being an officer since he was a child. He is survived by his wife, Sara, his parents and his siblings.
Videos posted to Moye's YouTube account show him and his wife zip lining and snorkeling during a vacation in 2014 in the Riviera Maya and riding wave runners through the canyons at Lake Powell a year later. In one video, Moye grins while suspended on a zip line high above the trees in Mexico.
Moye is the third officer to be shot and killed in Southern California in the past two months.
In June, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano was gunned down inside a Jack in the Box in Alhambra. He died two days later. Then last month, off-duty LAPD Officer Juan Jose Diaz was shot after confronting someone tagging a wall outside a taco stand while grabbing a bite to eat with his girlfriend and her two brothers.
"I am devastated by the tragedy that unfolded earlier in Riverside," CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said in a tweet Monday. "Tonight, I mourn the loss of one of our own, CHP Officer Andre Moye, who was killed during a shootout following a traffic stop. Prayers go out to all, including the responding officers injured in the shooting."
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