A California Highway Patrol sergeant who was struck and killed by a DUI suspect was devoted to his family and job, a significant part of which was stopping drunken drivers, family and friends said his memorial service Tuesday.
During the service, brother Daniel Licon recalled watching their father struggle with alcoholism. His mother once asked Sgt. Licon what he would do if he caught his father driving drunk, and he responded that he'd cuff him right away.
"How would I feel if I didn't do my job and somebody was hurt by own dad driving drunk?" Steve Licon said, according to his brother.
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It was during an April 6 traffic stop that Sgt. Licon, 53, was struck and killed by a suspected DUI driver as he issued a citation to another driver on the side of the 15 Freeway in Riverside County.
He was just months away from retirement.
Family members and colleagues recalled how passionate Licon was about his job, partially due to watching his father battle alcoholism until he got sober in 1982, according to Daniel Licon. Though it took a while, he said Steve eventually learned to trust and forgive his father, and the two grew close.
In an emotional display of unity, a long line of motorcycle officers followed a hearse carrying the body of Sgt. Licon, a 27-year veteran of the CHP, from the funeral home to the memorial service. The procession passed under a U.S. flag suspended between two fire truck ladders.
Along with Licon's family, friends and colleagues, representatives from law enforcement agencies attended Tuesday's service, where he was remembered as an exemplary CHP officer and a loving husband and father.
Daughter Marissa Licon called her father her biggest fan. She remembered him at her soccer games, sometimes parking his motorcycle on the sidewalk to watch for a few minutes before he had to return to work.
"When I would come home he would hug me so tight it would hurt," said Marissa, 22.
The biggest lesson he taught her, she said, was how to be tough.
"Anytime I'd fall on my motorcycle or fall on the field, he'd be right there telling me, 'You're OK, suck it up,'" she said, adding that nothing ever slowed down her dad. "To me, my dad was invincible. Never did I imagine that my dad would not be here to see me graduate college or walk me down the aisle ... I just want you to know that however proud of me you are, I'm prouder to have you as my dad."
His wife, Ann Licon, wept as she said her husband showed and told her every day that he loved her.
"He would hold my hand at church, at the movies, and when we'd go to bed at night, he would hold my hand until we fell asleep," she said. "My husband was my protector, my strength, my love, my heart."
Flowers, candles and other items were left outside the CHP station in Riverside in the days following Licon's death. Colleagues described Licon as a exemplary law enforcement officer who loved his job.
"I saw him as a mentor," said CHP Officer Mario Lucio. "I credit him for being where I'm at today. The guy really spent time developing the officers that he supervised."
Licon is survived by his wife, daughter and step-daughter.
The motorcycle officer was on the shoulder of the 15 Freeway April 6 when he was struck by a Toyota Corolla. Michael Callahan, 36, of Winchester, was traveling on the right shoulder of the freeway and collided with the CHP motorcycle, according to the CHP.
The suspect was charged with second-degree murder.
In a statement, the district attorney's office said the murder charged was based, in part, on a 2004 misdemeanor DUI conviction the defendant received in Orange County. He was sentenced to three years of probation, a condition of which require him to attend Mothers Against Drunk Driving classes.
Licon was part of the saturation patrol deployed to Lake Elsinore and the Temescal Valley for weekend enforcement that began in late March in response to the "superbloom" crunch that brought traffic to a standstill and created numerous public safety hazards as visitors flooded Walker Canyon to view carpets of blooming flowers. A greater number of CHP officers and Riverside County sheriff's deputies were put on duty to contend with the dramatically increased traffic volume that prompted multiple road closures.
- The procession will proceed from Acheson and Graham Mortuary
- Exiting the Mortuary right onto Magnolia Avenue to Madison Avenue
- Left onto Madison Avenue, to Arlington Avenue
- Left onto Arlington Avenue, to Adams Street
- Right onto Adams Street and arrive at Harvest Christian Fellowship