For the record:
3:48 p.m. Dec. 30, 2022: A previous version of this story said the deputy was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Temple City. The shooting was in Jurupa Valley.
Since he was a child, Isaiah Cordero had wanted to be in law enforcement.
He considered the Border Patrol, then decided instead to join the Sheriff’s Department. The positive, energetic deputy worked in jails in Riverside County, but ultimately chose to be out in the streets patrolling and applied himself to become a part of the department’s motorcycle unit.
“He gave his all to his job,” said his ex-girlfriend, Karla Morales.”He loved his co-workers. That’s what kept him going even on his toughest days.”
William Shea McKay, 44, had a long and violent criminal history and was constantly fleeing from police.
The three-time convicted felon had a history of trying to evade police, which in each case led to violent confrontations, court records show.
His first strike came in 1999, when he pleaded guilty to assault with a firearm and spent three years in prison. The second came in 2005, when he and a co-defendant attacked a sleeping couple in their apartment, assaulting them and stealing $3,700 from a safe.
The third strike came when he was convicted on Nov. 8, 2021, of false imprisonment, evading a peace officer, criminal threats likely to result in death or great bodily injury, and receiving stolen property. Evidence included zip ties, duct tape, an ax and gang paraphernalia. McKay represented himself at trial, but absconded before his sentencing. There had been a warrant out for his arrest since October.
On Thursday on a suburban street in Riverside County, Cordero’s and McKay’s lives collided.
McKay shot and killed Cordero during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley. McKay then led police on a freeway chase that ended in a shootout that left him dead.
A close friend of Cordero in the motorcycle unit, Kenneth Shinn, was about a mile away when he heard the dispatcher make a call for all units to respond to the scene.
“I went there to help and I was pulled away by a sergeant and that was probably for the best,” Shinn said.
He had worked with Cordero in the department’s DUI unit, then both had become motorcycle deputies. Thursday morning started like any other day: Shinn bought himself and Cordero an energy drink at a gas station before work, but when he showed up he found that Cordero had bought Shinn an energy drink too.
“Always thinking of others,” Shinn said of Cordero. The deputies attended reggae concerts together and were planing a vacation to Colorado.
When Morales received a phone call Thursday night from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, she was hoping it was to inform her that her ex-boyfriend Cordero was going to be OK, that he was going to survive.
Though they had recently broken up, Morales was still Cordero’s emergency contact, so she had already been informed by text that he had been shot during a traffic stop.
“I got the call. I was hoping it was an update that he was going to be fine, but it was [the] total opposite,” said Morales, crying in an interview with The Times. “The minute I started dating him … you just know what you’re getting yourself into. You think about what could happen every night when they leave, and when they come home you’re thankful.
“It’s always in the back of your mind.”
Morales was nervous when Cordero joined the motorcycle unit earlier this year.
“He was so happy to be on the motorcycle unit. I personally didn’t like it. You don’t have any backup, anything to cover you if someone shoots at you. I had spoken to his mom about it, and we both felt the same way, but we supported him through it,” she said. “We all feared this happening.”
“There is an inherent danger. … It could have happened to any of us,” Shinn said.
Cordero was conducting a traffic stop when McKay pulled out a gun and shot him as he approached, said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. The reason for the traffic stop was not immediately clear.
McKay then led deputies on a massive freeway chase, as about 30 police vehicles followed him south on the 15 Freeway to Norco.
After running over a spike strip set up by law enforcement, McKay’s car began to smoke and soon became disabled. McKay shot at officers pursuing him, who returned fire and killed him, Bianco said.
“I’m angry. I feel like I’m more angry than sad. He took everything from this family,” said Morales, who has been in contact with Cordero’s mother since the killing.
Cordero’s mother declined to comment about her son, crying when she answered a call from a reporter Friday morning.
“We’re taking time to grieve as a family. And we’re not taking any questions at this time,” a Cordero family member said.
It was not McKay’s first police chase. He had led police on a high-speed chase in 1999, driving 90 mph on surface streets, forcing Caltrans workers to dive out of the way as he sped through a work zone, according to court documents. When his car was disabled, he got out with a gun and waved it in the air menacingly at officers before finally surrendering.
He did it all again in 2021, fleeing after being stopped for driving a stolen vehicle with a co-defendant, court records show. The two sped off, evading police in the desert for 20 miles, then took off on foot armed with knives after their car was disabled. McKay’s co-defendant stabbed a police K-9 during that pursuit.
“At no time in the defendant’s adult life has he led a sustained crime-free existence,” wrote prosecutor Tess Ponce in a sentencing memorandum in April that detailed McKay’s past criminal history.
McKay’s criminal history dated to the 1990s and included kidnapping, robbery and multiple assaults with deadly weapons, according to the memorandum.
His violent history should have kept him in jail, Bianco said. He was convicted of his third strike in November 2021, but was released after a judge lowered his bail in the case, according to Bianco.
McKay and two other co-defendants in that case were accused of holding one of his acquaintances captive between March 23 and March 27, according to court records and the sentencing memorandum filed by San Bernardino County prosecutors in April 2021. The woman had been house-sitting for McKay while he was in custody on another case, according to prosecutors. When she left the house for a few hours, the residence was burglarized.
After the woman helped bail McKay out of jail, he asked her to come over to speak about the burglary, according to prosecutors.
“Defendant punched victim several times in the face, told her he was going to kill her and her mother,” prosecutors wrote.
McKay then duct-taped the woman’s wrists and ankles and held her at the house for days.
He and his co-defendants repeatedly assaulted the victim, who managed days later to loosen her restraints, escape and call police on March 27, according to prosecutors.
McKay’s bail in the case was originally set at $950,000 in June 2021, court records show. After the verdicts, including his acquittal on kidnapping charges, Judge Cara D. Hutson reduced his bail to $500,000.
On Nov. 8, 2021 — the day Hutson reached her verdict — the record notes that a “confidential document” had been filed in federal court: an indictment. There is no record of McKay being charged in public federal court databases. It’s unclear whether he was the subject of a sealed indictment.
McKay postponed his sentencing and posted the $500,000 bond through a Riverside bail agency in March of this year, court records show.
McKay was also facing charges of possessing a firearm as a felon, though the case was later dropped, records show.
On Dec. 16, 2020, Cpl. Serbando Saenz of the San Bernardino Police Department saw a maroon Ford Flex turn at the intersection of H Street and Baseline Road without signaling.
Saenz testified that when he pulled over the SUV, he saw McKay slump over in the driver’s seat, as if he were reaching for the floorboard.
Inside a bag on the driver’s side floorboard was a .22-caliber revolver loaded with six rounds, Saenz testified. McKay was also armed with two knives, one tucked in a sheath and another in his pocket, Saenz said.
Two passengers in McKay’s car were found to be carrying methamphetamine and pipes.
McKay was charged with possessing the revolver as a felon, but the district attorney’s office dropped the charge the same day he was found guilty in his other case of false imprisonment, making criminal threats, evading police and receiving stolen property, records show.
“I am angry that judge let him go,” Morales said. “I’m angry that criminals seem to have more rights [than victims]. I’m just angry.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.