An Oroville man shot and killed a Danville doctor who was four-wheeling with his son not long after shooting two strangers nearby in "a random act of violence" in the Tahoe National Forest during the holiday weekend, a Northern California sheriff said in a case update this week.
Sierra County Sheriff Mike Fisher identified the alleged shooter as John Thomas Conway, a 40-year-old who was injured during a confrontation with law enforcement the day after the fatal encounter.
Charges are pending against Conway in the death of Dr. Ari Gershman, the gunfire directed at 15-year-old Jack Gershman and the shooting injuries for the two other victims, according to Fisher.
The sheriff released a more comprehensive case update on Tuesday evening, revealing new details about the investigation and apprehension of the suspect.
The situation started on Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. when deputies received a call about two people who were shot by a stranger in the Poker Flat area of northwestern Sierra County -- a lightly populated rural county in northeastern California, between Chico and Reno.
The two victims, who sustained non-life-threatening injuries, had not recognized the assailant who was driving a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), according to Fisher. "The act appeared to be a random act of violence," the sheriff said.
After those two victims were transported out of the area, a call came in to 9-1-1 from a 15-year-old boy in the same general area reporting his father had been shot and he ran from the scene to escape the danger but had gotten lost, according to Fisher. The caller was later identified as Jack Gershman.
The Gershmans were spending the day off-roading in the father's new four-wheel drive Jeep, according to family friends who organized a GoFundMe page to support the Gershman family.
The pair encountered the assailant while driving down a dirt road, according to the sheriff. The shooter opened fire on the dad and son, fatally wounding Dr. Gershman, a pulmonary doctor and married father of three. Jack Gershman ran into the forest for safety and to find an area where he could call for help.
Initial responding officers located the Jeep and Dr. Gershman, who was dead, but there was no sign of his son nor the suspect, according to Fisher.
"Officers remained in the area searching throughout the night. As day broke the following morning, tactical teams were assembled and continued searching the area," the sheriff said.
Jack Gershman was located on the evening of the Fourth of July, by law enforcement officers and a tracking K-9 unit, according to Fisher. Family friends said the teenage boy was on his own in the wilderness for more than 30 hours.
"Even though the juvenile had fled the shooting and spent the night alone in the forest, he was in good physical condition and did not require medical attention," Fisher said. "After giving him some food and water, officers transported him to the Sheriff's Office, where he was reunited with his mother."
Shortly after the boy was found, the suspect -- later identified as Conway -- approached officers from the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who were staffing a checkpoint on Saddleback Road, at a high rate of speed in the same UTV, according to the sheriff.
Conway allegedly failed to stop and tried to run down the two CDFW officers before fleeing southbound on Saddleback Road toward Downieville, one of the bigger towns in Sierra County.
A third wildlife officer, who was positioned in Downieville, drove up the hill to block the suspect's UTV. A vehicle collision occurred about a mile north of Highway 49 as officers were trying to take the suspect into custody, Fisher said.
"The suspect immediately represented a threat to the officers, leading to an officer-involved shooting and deployment of a K-9. The suspect was taken into custody, and after receiving medical treatment at the scene, he was transported to the hospital," the sheriff said.
Conway's medical and custodial status as of Wednesday afternoon was not immediately clear. Sheriff's officials have not confirmed a motive for the shootings.
Fisher said his office was working closely with the Sierra County district attorney, "who anticipates announcing charges (against Conway) soon."
Gershman is survived by his wife Paige, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, and their children Evan, Jack and Maci. The GoFundMe page had raised more than $425,000 to support the Gershman family as of Wednesday night.
Between the medical aid for the victims, search for Jack Gershman and manhunt for the shooter, Fisher said about a dozen public agencies assisted the Sierra County Sheriff's Office.
In addition to CDFW and USFS, there were California Highway Patrol, Grass Valley Police Department, Downieville and Sierra City fire departments, and Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta and Yuba counties (California) and Washoe County (Nevada).
Anyone with information about the case can contact sheriff's officials in Sierra County at 530-289-3700.