A man accused of striking a veteran California Highway Patrol sergeant while driving drunk on Interstate 15 in Lake Elsinore last weekend was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder.
Michael Joseph Callahan, 36, could face 15 years to life in state prison if convicted of killing Sgt. Steve Licon last Saturday.
Callahan appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon and pleaded not guilty. He remains in custody at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside in lieu of $1 million bail pending a felony settlement conference for May 16 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
Licon, 53, of Perris was conducting traffic enforcement on his CHP motorcycle about 4:25 p.m. Saturday when he was struck on southbound I-15, about 1 1/2 miles north of Nichols Road.
The area has been besieged with visitors to see the now-fading wild flower “super bloom” on the hills around Walker Canyon, and over the last two weeks, the CHP and sheriff’s office had increased patrols to prevent traffic mayhem.
Moments before he was struck, Licon had stopped the driver of a Chrysler sedan for an unspecified traffic violation. The 28-year CHP veteran was on the shoulder of the freeway when Callahan allegedly plowed into him, his bike and the Chrysler from behind, investigators said.
Licon died at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar less than an hour later. The family of four in the Chrysler escaped injury.
Callahan was treated for minor injuries and booked into jail. Prosecutors contend he was drunk at the time of the crash, although they declined to reveal his alleged level of intoxication.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Callahan was convicted of misdemeanor DUI in Orange County in 2004, when he was placed on probation and ordered to attend classes in which he was “educated about the dangers of drinking and driving.”
Licon, who had previously held positions in the Baldwin Park and Santa Ana CHP offices, is survived by his wife, Ann, daughter Marissa and stepdaughter Kelly. He had been assigned to the Riverside CHP office since 2013, according to the agency.
The California Association of Highway Patrolmen Credit Union is accepting donations online at www.cahpcu.org/SergeantSteveLiconMemorialFund, or at the following address: Sergeant Steve Licon Memorial Fund, CAHP Credit Union, P.O. Box 276507, Sacramento, CA 95827-6507.