Trial date set for accused cop attackers

HEMET – Two men charged in a series of attacks on Hemet police now face a trial date in May, a Riverside County District Attorney said Monday.

Riverside Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez set May 9 as the tentative trial date for Nicholas John Smit, 40, and Steven Hansen, 37, both of whom are accused of trying to murder a police officer.

Nicholas John Smit, and Steven Hansen

Smit is charged in five attacks on Hemet police between December 2009 and July 2010. Police say he tried to kill Hemet police Det. Chuck Johnson as revenge for marijuana charges brought in the summer of 2009.

Hansen, who was a former roommate of Smit, was charged with two felony counts in one attack. Police say he was involved in a failed attempt to launch a World War II-style bazooka at Hemet police headquarters from the roof of a nearby market.

The attempted attacks also involved other Hemet police officers, say prosecutors. Rigged zip guns, set to fire automatically, were placed on police cars, at the home of one police officer and on an automatic gate at the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force yard, according to charges brought against Smit. Reports said that a bullet from a rigged gun narrowly missed an officer as he opened the gate.

The attacks on Johnson, say prosecutors, coincided with hearing dates in which Smit was to appear on marijuana charges.

For months, police had been baffled by the attacks. They targeted notorious motorcycle gangs and a white supremacy group as possible suspects. Police headquarters has since been modernized and reinforced with the placement of bullet-proof glass in the lobby.

Then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown, along with then-Riverside County DA Rod Pacheco, had both intervened in the case. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also participated in the investigation. A $200,000 reward had been offered for any tips that would lead to arrests.

The men were arrested on July 4, 2010 after a confidential female informant overheard the two men plotting the attacks, said prosecutors.

Smit, who had pleaded guilty last year to five felony counts for cultivating marijuana, faces multiple life sentences. Hansen, who was released from prison early in 2010, faces more than 30 years to life.


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