Lake Elsinore, CA – California Highway Patrol (CHP) Sergeant Steve Licon was killed in the line of duty on Saturday, when a suspected drunk driver crashed into him as he was conducting a traffic stop on another vehicle.
The incident occurred at approximately 4:26 p.m., after the veteran motorcycle trooper stopped a driver on Interstate 15 for a speeding violation, The Press-Enterprise reported.
Sgt. Licon was writing a citation to the driver, when 36-year-old Michael Callahan drove his gray Toyota Corolla onto the right-hand shoulder of the freeway, and slammed into the sergeant’s motorcycle.
“The impact was significant,” CHP Inland Division Special Services Commander Captain Mario Lucio said.
The force of the crash pinned Sgt. Licon and his motorcycle between Callahan’s vehicle and the car the sergeant had stopped, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
He was airlifted to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he was pronounced dead, Capt. Lucio told The Press-Enterprise.
The family of four inside the vehicle involved in the traffic stop were uninjured in the collision.
Callahan suffered minor injuries.
He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and murder, and was transported to the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, where he was ordered to be held without bail.
“We have uncovered evidence which shows gross negligence both during and before this tragic collision occurred,” Capt. Lucio said. “Because of that, our investigators…believe recommending murder charges are completely appropriate.”
Callahan’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday.
Sgt. Licon served the CHP for nearly 28 years, and was preparing for retirement, KABC reported.
He worked in the Riverside, Baldwin Park, and Santa Ana areas during his career, California Governor Gavin Newsom told The Press-Enterprise.
“We mourn the loss of a husband and father of two who lost his life while protecting the state of California,” Newsom said. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends and his many California Highway Patrol colleagues for their devastating loss.”
Capt. Lucio said that Sgt. Licon was a well-respected role model within the agency,
“Sergeant Licon was just an officer’s sergeant,” the captain explained. “He was one of the guys, but he was firm and he was strict and he held people accountable for [their] actions. I saw him as a mentor. I credit him for being where I am at today, and that’s the truth.”
He leaves behind his wife, daughter and stepdaughter.
“He was a family man, and when I say that, in the truest form, he was a family man, with strong faith, he loved the Highway Patrol and loved his family, and he talked about those things often,” Capt. Lucio said. “That’s just who he was.”
California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said that she and Sgt. Licon have worked together on numerous occasions throughout the years.
“This man was a hero,” Kasinga said. “It affects too many people when something like this happens. Not only his family and his close co-workers, but it’s just on such a large level.”
The procession of law enforcement vehicles that escorted the fallen sergeant’s body to the coroner’s office on Saturday night stretched for miles, KABC reported.
“Our hearts are heavy after the immeasurable loss of a friend, father, husband, and hero,” the CHP said in a Facebook post. “Rest easy brother, we have the watch from here.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of California Highway Patrol Sergeant Steve Licon, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.