RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A DUI suspect on Wednesday was formally charged with one count of murder in connection with the death of California Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Licon, a motorcycle officer who was fatally struck on the 15 Freeway in Lake Elsinore.
Michael Joseph Callahan entered a not-guilty plea to the second-degree murder charge at his arraignment Wednesday afternoon in a Murrieta courtroom.
If convicted as charged, the Riverside County resident faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life in state prison, prosecutors said.
Licon, a 27-year-veteran of the Highway Patrol, had pulled over a 2017 Chrysler 300 for a traffic violation on April 6 and was stopped on the freeway's right shoulder before the crash. According to authorities, Callahan's vehicle was travelling along the shoulder - not in designated traffic lanes - at the time of impact.
Licon was airlifted from the scene to Inland Valley Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries.
In a statement, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said Callahan was under the influence of alcohol when he struck the CHP sergeant. "The DA's Office will not be releasing any details as to the alleged level of intoxication at this time," the news release said.
According to prosecutors, Callahan was charged with murder due in part to a 2004 misdemeanor DUI conviction he received in Orange County. The sentence in that case was three years of summary probation.
"As a condition of probation, the defendant was required to attend MADD classes, during which he was educated about the dangers of drinking and driving," the Riverside County DA's office said.
DUI suspect charged with murder in crash that killed CHP Sgt. Steve Licon in Lake Elsinore