'Career criminal' charged in fatal punch of California sheriff's deputy

A California man who has spent much of his adult life in and out of prison was charged with murder in the single-punch death of a sheriff’s deputy on New Year’s Eve, authorities said Wednesday.

Alonzo Leron Smith, 30, is accused of delivering the deadly punch to San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Lawrence Falce, which eventually killed the 70 year old.

"We believe that he was knocked unconscious almost immediately and he never did regain consciousness," San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said.

Surveillance footage from a nearby store captured the brief encounter.

Falce was off-duty when he braked to avoid two dogs and was rear-ended by Smith, police said. The two got out of their cars, exchanged words, motioned at each other, then Smith delivered a single punch to the face and Falce fell backward, hitting his head on the pavement, police said.

Smith was able to drive away, despite a Good Samaritan ramming his vehicle to try and stop him, police said. Smith was arrested hours later.

Smith is a gang member who has spent much of his adult life in and out of lockups. San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos described Smith as a “career criminal" and said he had previously went to prison for street terrorism and selling marijuana, according to KTLA.

"This person needs to spend the rest of his life in prison," Ramos said.

Smith pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder with special circumstances.

Falce, a 36-year veteran of the force and an Army veteran, began his career with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in 1981 as a deputy sheriff. He worked patrol at Central Station for 32 years.

Falce is survived by his sister Majorie and his girlfriend Deborah.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.