RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A California Highway Patrol sergeant who was killed by an alleged drunken driver in Lake Elsinore was remembered today in Riverside, where loved ones and colleagues spoke of his “memorable legacy” and dedication to work and family.
Sgt. Steve Lawrence Licon, 53, of Perris was fatally injured April 6 as he was conducting a traffic stop on the southbound shoulder of Interstate 15.
A memorial service honoring the 28-year CHP veteran was held at Harvest Christian Fellowship, where peace officers from agencies throughout California gathered to pay homage to a man who, in CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley's words, “spent most of his career on two wheels and loved every minute of it.”
“Steve took pride in his uniform and badge,” Stanley said. “He led his troops by example. He was the true definition of a public servant, demonstrating the drive and ethic that every CHP officer should strive for. He leaves behind a memorable legacy.”
Riverside CHP Office Commander John Tyler said Licon had an “impeccable record as a sergeant and leader.”
“Regardless of the task, he always gave 100 percent,” Tyler said. “His work ethic was second to none. Steve always took care of other officers, peers and the public.”
Tyler recalled idiosyncrasies that made the motor officer stand out, including his distinct high-pitched laugh, love of motorcycles, tendency to “talk to himself while sitting at his desk, and wear his helmet while sitting at his desk.”
Licon's 22-year-old daughter, Marissa, said she could always count on her father to be there for her, “teaching new things, sharing stories and wisdom.”
“He loved God, family, friends and John Wayne,” she said. “My dad once broke his back, femur and arm. But nothing ever slowed him down.”
The fallen officer's brother said his sibling was a source of strength and took on difficult tasks without complaint, including caring for his terminally ill son, Nathan, who required regular attention from his birth to death 12 years later in August 2012.
“Steve loved the Fourth of July, because he was born on July 5 and always thought of the fireworks as being for him,” Daniel Licon said.
He said the day before his brother died, the lawman had spent 12 hours clearing debris and doing other maintenance around his parents' Anaheim property, taking care of chores that his father, due to health problems, could not handle.
Daniel Licon acknowledged that his brother's death came as he worked an extra-duty assignment in response to the “super bloom” that brought traffic to a standstill and created numerous public safety hazards as visitors flooded Walker Canyon east of I-15 to view carpets of blooming flowers over the last few weeks.
The fallen sergeant's former training officer -- and longtime friend --
was working the same detail that fateful Saturday afternoon. He said Licon was there as a supervisor and did not have to patrol the freeway on his bike, but he “chose to work rather than sit.”
“In 31 years, I never met a harder-working person than Steve,” Officer Scott Wayne said. “It was an honor to work for him and with him.”
A private burial service followed the memorial at Harvest.
Licon, an Anaheim native, had been assigned to the Riverside CHP office since January 2013 and had previously worked at the Baldwin Park and Santa Ana offices.
The lawman had stopped the driver of a Chrysler sedan about a mile north of Nichols Road moments before 36-year-old Michael Joseph Callahan allegedly came barreling down the shoulder of southbound I-15, apparently to get around bumper-to-bumper traffic.
According to the CHP, Callahan, at the wheel of Toyota Corolla, plowed into Licon, his motorcycle and the back of the Chrysler.
Licon was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died a short time later.
The occupants of the Chrysler escaped injury. Callahan suffered minor injuries.
The convicted DUI offender has since been charged with second-degree murder and could face 15 years to life in state prison if convicted. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside and is due back in court on May 16 for a felony settlement conference.
The California Association of Highway Patrolmen Credit Union is accepting donations for Licon's family -- his survivors in addition to his daughter include his wife, Ann, and stepdaughter Kelly -- at https://www.cahpcu.org/SergeantSteveLiconMemorialFund, or at the following address: Sergeant Steve Licon Memorial Fund, CAHP Credit Union, P.O. Box 276507, Sacramento, CA 95827-6507.