Davis man accused in head-on crash into parked CHP vehicle makes first court appearance

A Davis man who faces attempted murder charges in a head-on crash into a parked California Highway Patrol vehicle made his first appearance Tuesday in Yolo Superior Court.

The two counts of attempted murder filed against Samuel John Ellis Hanawalt, 33, include enhancements for alleged acts of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder; attempted murder in the first degree of a peace officer and inflicting great bodily injury, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday in a news release.

CHP officials have released video that they say captured the driver who “deliberately” crashed head-on into a parked patrol vehicle, injuring two officers March 13 along Interstate 80 in Davis. The video shows a white vehicle slamming into the CHP vehicle parked on the right shoulder eastbound I-80, just west of Mace Boulevard.

Hanawalt appeared in court Tuesday afternoon wearing a protective green vest. A bailiff pushed Hanawalt in a wheelchair into an area behind a plastic window for his brief arraignment hearing.

The District Attorney’s Office filed the criminal complaint against the man on March 29, court records show. At that time, the defendant remained at a hospital recovering from his injuries, the Davis Enterprise reported.

Hanawalt was booked Friday evening at the Yolo County Jail, records show.

Judge Catherine Hohenwarter appointed the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office to represent Hanawalt. She also ordered him to remain in custody without bail, saying the facts presented in the case show Hanawalt could be a danger to himself or others if he were to be released on bail.

Along with the attempted murder charges, Hanawalt faces two counts of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm upon a peace officer with an enhancement for great bodily injury, according to the filed complaint.

He faces one count of assault with a deadly weapon against a victim — identified as “K.M.” in the complaint — stemming from an incident that also occurred March 13. The attempted murder charges in the complaint identify the two CHP officers injured in the crash as “M.S.” and “D.J.”

At Tuesday’s arraignment, the prosecutor told the judge that Hanawalt drove into the path of a white Tesla vehicle, and its driver swerved to avoid colliding with Hanawalt’s vehicle. Then, Hanawalt crashed intentionally into the CHP vehicle in which Hanawalt suffered compound fractures and asked officers to shoot him as he was pulled out of the wrecked vehicle in an apparent suicide attempt, the prosecutor said.

The judge scheduled Hanawalt preliminary hearing to begin May 7, when the court will determine whether Hanawalt will stand trial as charged.

Prosecutors also charged Hanawalt with two counts of driving on the wrong side of a divided highway resulting in injury with an enhancement for great bodily injury, according to the complaint.

Ezery Beauchamp, a CHP assistant commissioner, said in a video news release that the officers working for the CHP Woodland office were “targeted” by the driver, who crashed head-on into their parked vehicle. He said the officers had just completed an unrelated traffic stop on another vehicle along the freeway.

The driver drove at a high rate of speed along the right shoulder of the freeway and “intentionally struck” the stopped CHP vehicle, Beauchamp said in the narrated CHP video, which includes footage from another driver who was in the area at the time of the crash.

The video shows the force of the impact caused the white vehicle to become airborne before it rolled over and came to rest on its wheels on the right shoulder. The crash crushed the front end of the CHP patrol vehicle, and its airbags appeared to have deployed.

At the time of the crash, both officers were seated in the patrol vehicle and wearing their seat belts. The CHP said the officers were taken by ambulance to a hospital and treated for minor to major injuries.