A Winchester man accused of crashing into and killing a California Highway Patrol sergeant who was conducting a traffic stop in Riverside County was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday.
Michael Joseph Callahan pleaded not guilty to the charge during his first court appearance.
Callahan, 36, was allegedly driving under the influence when his vehicle travelled onto the right shoulder of the 15 Freeway in Lake Elsinore and struck Sgt. Steve Licon on April 6.
Licon’s motorcycle and a 2017 Chrysler 300 that was pulled over for a traffic violation were stopped on the freeway when Callahan's vehicle plowed into them, according to the DA’s office.
Licon, a 27-year veteran of the CHP, was transported by helicopter to Inland Valley Medical Center, where he later died.
"Our hearts are heavy after the immeasurable loss of a friend, father, husband, and hero," CHP officials wrote in a statement on Facebook following the crash. "Sergeant Steve Licon, #13348, of the CHP Riverside Area made the ultimate sacrifice today while serving his community."
Licon is survived by his wife Ann, daughter Marissa and stepdaughter Kelly.
The family of four in the car Licon had pulled over were not hurt.
Callahan was determined to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, the DA’s office said. No details as to the alleged level of intoxication were released.
Callahan was charged with second-degree murder in the incident.
The murder charge was based in part on a 2004 misdemeanor DUI conviction Callahan received in Orange County, the DA’s office said.
As a condition of the 2004 conviction, Callahan had attended MADD classes, during which they say he was educated about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Callahan is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
If convicted as charged, Callahan faces 15 years to life in state prison.
He's due back in court on May 16.