HEMET — Two men accused of targeting a Hemet police officer pleaded not guilty to multiple charges last Friday afternoon in Riverside Superior Court.
Nicholas Smit, 39, of Hemet and Steven Hansen, 36, of nearby Homeland, entered their pleas July 9 in a courtroom in French Valley, near Murrieta Valley, 20 miles from the Hemet-San Jacinto area. Smit and Hansen were ordered to return to court for a preliminary hearing on July 20. They remain in custody without bail.
Police are alleging the two men carried out several failed attacks on Charles Johnson, a Hemet police detective who arrested Smit last summer on suspicion of cultivating marijuana. Smit has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
Attacks on Hemet police, directed mainly at Johnson, occurred either on or around days Smit was scheduled to appear in court on those drug charges.
Smit now faces nine counts in connection with the attacks against police and Johnson, including three attempted murder charges on a police officer.
According to police records, there have been at least eight attacks on police officers since Dec. 31, 2009. Smit has been charged in connection with three attacks; prosecutors said they haven’t collected enough evidence to prove charges in five other attacks.
On Feb. 23, a member of the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force was nearly shot when he opened a gate on which someone rigged a gun to fire. The officer was not injured.
In a March 5 incident, another member of that task force discovered another rigged gun had fallen from beneath his vehicle, according to accounts.
An attempt to launch a rocket at police officers on June 3 from the top of a local market failed, officials said. The rocket did not ignite, but a fire started on top of the Los Altos Market on North Carmelita Street.
Hansen, released from prison earlier this year, was renting a room from Smit at the time of their arrests on July 4.