Authorities have booked a man on suspicion of murder after he fatally struck a California Highway Patrol officer conducting a traffic stop on the 15 Freeway in Lake Elsinore, the agency announced Sunday.
Sgt. Steve Licon, 53, succumbed to his injuries at the Inland Valley Medical Center following the 4:30 p.m. crash on the right shoulder of the southbound 15 just north of Nichols Road on Saturday, CHP spokesman Ramon Duran said.
Michael Callahan, 36, of Winchester, was allegedly driving under the influence when his Toyota Corolla hit Licon, his patrol motorcycle, and the Chrysler sedan that the sergeant had pulled over.
Callahan, the sole occupant of the Corolla, sustained minor injuries, CHP said in a statement.
The man behind the wheel of the Chrysler, the woman in the front passenger seat, and the two girls in the back were not hurt, according to the agency. Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department earlier reported transporting at least three people, including Licon, to the hospital.
Officials shut down the southbound lanes from Indian Truck Trail to Nichols Road for several hours following the crash before reopening them early Sunday.
Evidence suggests "gross negligence both during and before" the collision, CHP Officer Mario Lucio told reporters on Sunday afternoon. When asked whether or not alcohol was found in Callahan's vehicle, Lucio said he couldn't comment.
Callahan was taken into custody for multiple possible charges, including DUI and murder, CHP said.
Licon was a 27-year veteran with CHP. Duran described the Riverside division sergeant as "very well-liked by everyone that came in contact with him."
Lucio echoed that sentiment at Sunday's news conference.
“He was my former sergeant," Lucio said. "He meant a lot to me as he did for others as well… He’s going to be missed."
Licon left behind a wife and two daughters, according to CHP.
His family, along with his colleagues, other law enforcement officers and members of the public gathered late Saturday as a procession escorted Licon's body to the Riverside County Coroner's Office.
Licon died protecting his community, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
A post on CHP's Facebook page reads: "Our hearts are heavy after the immeasurable loss of a friend, father, husband, and hero. Rest easy brother, we have the watch from here."
A fund to benefit Licon's family has been established through the California Highway Patrol Credit Union. Donations can be made online at cahpcu.org/SergeantSteveLiconMemorialFund, or mailed to "Sergeant Steve Licon Memorial Fund, PO Box 276507, Sacramento, CA 95827.