Surveillance video shows the fatal punch that knocked an off-duty San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy unconscious when he got out of his vehicle to talk to another driver after a minor daytime traffic collision on New Year’s Eve.
Longtime Deputy Larry Falce, 70, is seen in the video standing on the sidewalk near the intersection of Kendall Drive and University Parkway in San Bernardino after he was involved in what was described by family members as a minor fender bender about 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31. He was in his personal vehicle at the time of the crash.
The video, provided by a nearby business, shows the other driver involved in the crash walking up to an approaching Falce. The two exchange words, then the other driver walks back toward his car while the two men apparently continue to talk and gesticulate. Then, less than a minute after Falce and the driver first walked toward each other, the man returns to Falce and punches the deputy in the head.
Falce immediately falls to the ground; he never regained consciousness.
The other driver returns to his vehicle and begins to pull into the street and drive away when a witness tries to stop him, using his SUV to try to ram the assailant’s vehicle, the video shows.
“I was just so, so shocked. My instincts just kind of kicked in,” the witness, who did not want to be identified, told KTLA Wednesday evening.
He said he first got out of his truck and approached the suspect, but then went back into his pickup after the suspect tried to flee the scene.
“He jumped in his car and tried to leave, so I rammed him once and then I backed up and he was able to go around my actual truck, so I rammed him a second time in the back of his car and spun him out across the street and into a … tree,” the witness said.
After, the witness cradled the unconscious off-duty deputy until paramedics arrived.
Ultimately, the man suspected of punching Falce was found and taken into custody about 12 hours later, after another witness was able to provide the vehicle’s license plate; the suspect was identified by San Bernardino police on Wednesday as 30-year-old Alonzo Leron Smith.
He was arrested on suspicion of murder, inmate records show, and he made his first court appearance Wednesday morning. Smith’s bail was set at $1 million.
Falce, meanwhile, was taken to Loma Linda University Hospital, where he remained on life support until he died Tuesday evening. A nighttime procession escorted Falce’s body from the hospital to the county coroner’s office.
“He loved interacting with the community,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Marc Bracco, who described Falce as an “amazing deputy.”
“This is a tragic loss for the department and the family of Deputy Larry Falce,” Bracco said.
Falce’s fellow sworn officers mourned him on social media, lauding his long career. Falce was with the Sheriff’s Department for 36 years, 32 of those working patrol at Central Station in San Bernardino.
“Army vet. Over three decades of police service in San Bernardino. Would not retire. Service above self. LEGEND to the end. Tragic and senseless loss,” wrote sheriff’s Lt. Casey Jiles. “Larry was what we should all strive to be. Honorable, dedicated and loved by many.”
KTLA’s Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.