An East Palo Alto man who prosecutors said was smoking crack as he led police on a chase that ended in the death of a motorcyclist nearly two years ago has been convicted of second-degree murder. A jury on Wednesday also found Eric Banford, 48, guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, felony evading a police officer, and hit-and-run causing great bodily injury or death, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said. On Sept. 28, 2011, shortly before 5:30 a.m., East Palo Alto officers responded to a report from a resident of the 400 block of Bell Street that someone was trying to break into her home. The resident claimed she heard voices in the backyard, East Palo Alto police said at the time. Officers spotted a Land Rover driven by Banford, who had two passengers, and attempted to pull him over but he sped away, according to police.
After a brief chase, Banford, driving on the wrong side of the University Avenue, struck 50-year-old motorcyclist Danny Dixon, killing him. Guidotti said Banford had been using cocaine and alcohol, and was speeding and disregarding his passengers’ pleas for him to stop. This is a “third strike” for Banford under California’s Three Strikes law. His previous convictions include voluntary manslaughter for a March 1991 incident in which he punched a person during a drug robbery in East Palo Alto, killing the victim. “He could be looking at 35 or 40 years to life,” she said. Banford is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on Nov. 1.
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