A suspected burglar who allegedly killed a motorcyclist while leading East Palo Alto police on a car chase pleaded not guilty to murder and other felony charges Tuesday, Sept. 25, in San Mateo County Superior Court.
Eric Anthony Banford, 47, of East Palo Alto was arraigned nearly one year to the day after the collision that killed Danny Lee Dixon on Sept. 28, 2011. The fatal crash occurred when Banford's SUV slammed head-on into Dixon's motorcycle as Banford sped away from police at up to 70 mph in the oncoming lane on University Avenue.
Police investigating a call in the 400 block of Runnymede Street of a suspicious person in a yard spotted a gray Land Rover with its lights off. Officers attempted to stop Banford as he walked down the street at 5:15 a.m., but he jumped into the friend's Land Rover and drove off with two passengers inside.
Banford led police on the high-speed chase with his headlights off, running through stop signs and red lights, according to police. The two passengers yelled for him to stop, but he allegedly refused. Police say he lit up a crack pipe during the chase.
Still going in the wrong direction as he approached University Avenue and Bay Road, he swerved to avoid an oncoming truck and struck Dixon, 50, of East Palo Alto, who was traveling westbound on his motorcycle on University. The Land Rover continued for 25 yards, and Banford then jumped out and ran. He was apprehended at 1640 Bay Road.
Banford is charged with murder, vehicular manslaughter and driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act with gross negligence, evading a police officer and causing injury or death, and hit and run with death or serious bodily injury.
His is a three-strikes case. He has previous convictions for voluntary manslaughter -- reduced from murder -- in which he fatally punched the victim in the head during a drug robbery in East Palo Alto.
His pretrial conference is set for Dec. 18, with trial scheduled for June 3, 2013. He remains in custody without bail.