A man previously charged with murder in the death of a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy has accepted a plea bargain to lesser charges, according to court documents.
Alonzo Leron Smith pleaded no contest Friday to voluntary manslaughter, threatening a crime and three counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury in the death of Lawrence “Larry” Falce, according to San Bernardino County Superior Court records.
Smith is scheduled to be sentenced March 1.
Falce, 70, was involved in a collision with Smith nearly a year ago, on New Year’s Eve. The 36-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department was driving his red Chevrolet pickup through an intersection in San Bernardino when he stopped or braked to avoid hitting a dog in the roadway, authorities said.
Smith was driving a 2002 Ford Explorer behind the off-duty deputy and rear-ended his vehicle, according to police.
The men pulled over to the curb, and Smith punched Falce once in the face, knocking him unconscious. The deputy never woke up and died at a hospital after being removed from life support.
Soon after, Smith was charged with murder.
“This person needs to spend the rest of his life in prison,” San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos said in January. “We need to get this career criminal off the streets.”
Smith had served time in state prison for selling marijuana and for gang activity, according to Ramos. Court records show myriad past charges, including extortion, robbery and criminal street gang participation.
Falce, an Army veteran, worked patrol at the department’s Central Station for 32 years, according to the Sheriff’s Department. He also worked corrections at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center and the Central Detention Center, both in San Bernardino.
“We will continue to remember and honor the exemplary life of Deputy Larry Falce, our partner and friend,” Sheriff John McMahon said in a statement reported by the Orange County Register. “The justice system has carried out its duty, and we must find peace with the sentence that the court will order.”