Opening statements are slated a week from Wednesday in the trial of a convicted DUI offender accused of running over and killing a California Highway Patrol officer as he stood on the shoulder of Interstate 15 in Lake Elsinore while writing a citation.
Michael Joseph Callahan, 39, could face 15 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder and DUI causing great bodily for the death of CHP Sgt. Steve Lawrence Licon, 53, of Perris.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer set opening statements for next Wednesday at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
According to the CHP, Licon, a veteran motorcycle patrolman, was working extra duty on April 6, 2019, because of heavy traffic associated with the “super bloom” of wildflowers in the valleys around Lake Elsinore, drawing large crowds and clogging roadways.
The lawman had stopped the driver of a Chrysler sedan about a mile north of Nichols Road on southbound I-15 for unspecified motor vehicle violations.
Investigators allege Callahan drove onto the shoulder while drunk to get around bumper-to-bumper traffic, accelerating to 65 mph on the right dirt shoulder.
Licon had no time to react when the defendant’s Toyota Corolla came barreling toward him, smashing into the victim and plowing into the motorcycle and Chrysler, according to the CHP. Licon was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died less than an hour later.
The occupants of the Chrysler escaped with minor injuries, as did Callahan, who was taken into custody without incident.
The CHP motorcycle was destroyed.
The defendant, who has a prior DUI conviction in another jurisdiction, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: