A Tuolomne County man who was involved in a shootout with California Highway Patrol officers on Interstate Highway 580 in Oakland in 2010 was convicted today of four counts of premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer. Byron Williams, 48, of Groveland, who has two prior bank robbery convictions, was also convicted of three counts of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the 12-minute gun battle, which occurred on I-580 near the Harrison Street exit just before midnight on July 17, 2010.
Jurors deliberated for the equivalent of three full days before announcing their verdicts against Williams today. Prosecutor Autrey James said in his closing argument last week that Williams, who was wearing body armor, initiated the gun battle by shooting at CHP Officer Vincent Herrick after Herrick stopped Williams for speeding and weaving. But defense attorney Eric Schweitzer alleged that CHP officers started the gunfight by shooting Williams in the head, which he said made Williams think that his life was in danger and prompted him to shoot at CHP officers in self-defense.
Schweitzer said the gun battle was “one-way for most of the time” because Williams only fired 10 shots while officers fired nearly 200 shots at him. Williams fired three shots from a 9mm handgun and seven shots from a 12-gauge shotgun, the defense attorney said. Williams told investigators after the shootout that he had planned to start a right-wing revolution by going to San Francisco and killing people at the Tides Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, according to court documents.
Schweitzer argued that because Williams was focused on targeting liberal groups in San Francisco, it wouldn’t make sense for him to get sidetracked by a highway gun battle unless he thought his life was in danger. Williams and two CHP officers suffered minor injuries in the shootout. Inside the Toyota Tundra Williams was driving, investigators also found a .308-caliber rifle.
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