LOS ANGELES - Three California Highway Patrol officers were seriously wounded and a gunman killed in a wild shootout Monday evening off the 215 Freeway in Riverside County that had motorists dodging bullets.

The condition of the officers was unknown but one was airlifted to a hospital, the Riverside Police Department said. The incident appears to have started as a traffic stop. At one point, the gunman opened fire, Riverside police spokesman Ryan Railsback said.

"We don't know why. That is all going to be part of this lengthy investigation," he said.

"Please say some prayers for the CHP officers involved," state Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, a Lake Elsinore Democrat, wrote on Twitter.

Jennifer Moctezuma, 31, of Moreno Valley, was driving home with her 6-year-old twins when a bullet flew through her front windshield.

Retired Marine Charles Childress, 56, of Moreno Valley, was in the car behind Moctezuma when he heard gunfire and saw the bullet that went through her windshield.

He then heard the children screaming and knew he had to get the family out of the car in front of him.

"I was 21 years in the Marine Corps, and my training just kicked in," Childress said.

Childress led Moctezuma and her two children, all of whom were unharmed, as they crawled down to the bottom of the bridge away from the gunfire.

"He's my hero," Moctezuma said. "He's my hero."

A California Highway Patrol dispatcher said the department responded to reports of gunfire but could not provide details. A Riverside County Fire Department dispatcher said the agency was requested to respond to Box Springs Boulevard and Eastridge Avenue.

CHP cruisers, fire engines, and ambulances were on the 215 Freeway at Box Springs.

The freeway was closed, and Caltrans was urging people to avoid the area. Metrolink said the tracks near the incident were shut down and that trains were diverted.

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