Driver charged with murder in crash that killed CA officer

Jermaine Jeryan Walton is arraigned at Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, for the wrong-way DUI crash that killed Elk Grove police officer Tyler Lenehan.

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Sacramento prosecutors filed a murder charge Tuesday against the motorist accused of driving the wrong direction on Highway 99 and killing Elk Grove Police Officer Tyler Lenehan after colliding with the officer’s motorcycle Friday.

The felony complaint, filed as suspect Jermaine Jeryan Walton made a brief first appearance in Sacramento Superior Court, states that Walton “did unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, murder Tyler Lenehan…”

Walton, 31, remains in custody at the Sacramento County Main Jail without bail and faces a second count of causing an accident resulting in death and failing “to render reasonable assistance” to Lenehan.

He did not enter a plea Tuesday and was ordered to return to court March 7.

The murder charge stems from the fact that Walton had a 2017 conviction on a misdemeanor charge of driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08.

Court records say Walton’s blood-alcohol content at the time of that arrest was .23 percent, nearly three times the legal limit.

Walton pleaded no contest to the charge and a driving under the influence charge was dismissed. He was sentenced to 18 days on the sheriff’s work project and 3 years probation, court records show.

But Walton also was given a “Watson advisement” at the time notifying him that he could be charged with murder if he was involved in a driving under the influence crash that resulted in someone’s death.

“You are hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle,” the advisement says, according to California’s vehicle code. “Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both.

“If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and, as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.”

Court records show Walton signed the advisory as part of his no contest plea on Jan. 24, 2018.

Lenehan, 44, a six-year veteran of the Elk Grove Police Department who became a motorcycle officer in 2020, died early Friday after being hit on southbound Highway 99 by a wrong-way driver near 12th Avenue.

Authorities say Walton was driving a 2016 Dodge Challenger northbound in the fast lane of southbound Highway 99 when he collided with Lenehan’s motorcycle. Walton was arrested as he was walking away from the crash scene, and the California Highway Patrol said he “displayed objective signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication.”

Hours before Walton’s court appearance Thursday, Elk Grove officials honored Lenehan, the first police officer to die in the line of duty in the city, with a procession through downtown, onto northbound Highway 99 and Highway 50 for a drive to take his body to Green Valley Mortuary, 3004 Alexandrite Drive, in Rescue.

This story was originally published January 25, 2022 3:00 PM.

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Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of issues, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.