Killer of Riverside County deputy had a history of violence, evading police

The gunman who killed Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero this week had an extensive history of violent crime and  repeated attempts to evade law enforcement, which one time resulted in the stabbing of a police dog.

Court records show William Shae McKay had been convicted of false imprisonment, receiving stolen property and evading police officers in November 2021. McKay, 44, was acquitted on kidnapping charges. He was facing a third-strike sentence of 25 years to life in prison, but his attorneys asked for a new trial and that one of the strikes be dismissed.

McKay’s bail was reduced from $950,000 to $500,000 while his case was pending, and he was released on bail in March. Records show a warrant was issued for McKay’s arrest after he failed to appear at a sentencing hearing. The trial judge in McKay’s case was Cara D. Hutson.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco and San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said the justice system had failed Deputy Cordero.

In a news release, Anderson noted his office opposed the bail reduction as well as the motion to dismiss a prior strike.

“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,” Anderson said.

Hutson, a Democrat, was appointed as a judge to the San Bernardino County Superior Court bench in 2007 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before that, she worked as a deputy district attorney from 1994 until her appointment. She was last elected in June 2022 when she ran unopposed.

Court records show McKay’s criminal career stretches back to at least 1999. In his latest case, he was accused of kidnapping a woman who was watching his house while he was in jail.

According to court papers filed by prosecutors, a woman in March 2021 told San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies that she was asked by McKay to house-sit and feed his dogs while he was in custody on an unrelated case.

The house was burglarized while she was briefly gone and McKay accused her of being involved. Prosecutors alleged McKay punched her in the face, took her purse, keys, credit cards and cellphone and dragged her to his garage.

McKay tied her hands and feet with duct tape, in view of two accomplices, according to court papers. The woman was taken to various parts of the house, while McKay and the others made purchases on her credit cards, records allege.

At times, duct tape was placed over the woman’s mouth and she was punched. She eventually broke free of her restraints and ran to a neighbor’s house, where she called police.

McKay and a co-defendant were arrested on March 29, 2021, after leading officers on a 20-mile pursuit, abandoning their disabled car and fleeing on foot, armed with knives. Police initially tried to pull over McKay for driving a stolen vehicle. A police dog was stabbed during the ordeal and had to be airlifted to a hospital.

At the time of the arrest, McKay had two prior felony strikes. The first was a 1999 felony conviction for assault with a firearm. He was sentenced to three years in state prison. In that crime, McKay was contacted by police during a traffic stop, but quickly accelerated to get away. He led police on a 100-mph chase, driving through a Caltrans work zone and sending workers scattering to get out of the path of his vehicle, records say.

When the car became disabled, McKay fled with a gun in his hand. After disobeying orders to drop the gun, McKay finally tossed it aside and surrendered to police, records say.

At the time of his arrest, he was driving with a suspended license and had a no-bail warrant for burglary.

The second strike was related to a February 2005 attack — while he was still on parole from the first conviction. A couple was in their bed when McKay and an accomplice kicked down their door, turned on the light and began beating them with objects from the room, records state.

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McKay had dated a woman who no longer lived in the residence. The male victim said he was choked until he lost consciousness. His eyes were blood-red and completely swollen shut.

The attackers demanded the location of a home safe, from which they took $3,700.

The woman said McKay smothered her with a pillow, punched her repeatedly and grabbed her by her hair and slammed her head into a desk. The attackers took her purse and the victims’ cellphones.

McKay pleaded guilty to robbery and assault with intent to produce great bodily injury. He was sentenced to 13 years in state prison and paroled in April 2016.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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