I have a feeling we are going to see more incidents like this.Alleged gunman says he wanted 'a revolution'
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Convicted felon Byron Williams loaded up his mother's Toyota Tundra with guns, strapped on his body armor and headed to San Francisco late Saturday night with one thing in mind: to kill workers at the American Civil Liberties Union and an environmental foundation, prosecutors say.
Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to "start a revolution" with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, authorities said.
But before he made it to the city, Williams was stopped at early Sunday by California Highway Patrol officers for speeding and driving erratically on westbound Interstate 580 west of Grand Avenue in Oakland.
Police say he then initiated a chaotic, 12-minute gunbattle with officers, firing a 9mm handgun, a .308-caliber rifle and a shotgun. He reloaded his weapons when he ran out of ammunition and stopped only after officers shot him in areas of his body not covered by his bullet-resistant vest, authorities said.
On Tuesday, Williams, 45, of Groveland (Tuolumne County) appeared in an Oakland courtroom on charges that he tried to murder four CHP officers. Authorities described him as a heavily armed man determined not to return to prison. Bullets from the suspect's rifle could penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, police said.
'Start a revolution'
After he was wounded and taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, Williams told investigators "his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU," Oakland police Sgt. Michael Weisenberg wrote in a court affidavit.
The foundation has funded environmental and social justice projects since 1976 and also provides philanthropic advice, according to its website. The ACLU of Northern California is based in San Francisco.
"Obviously, we're dismayed that this has happened, and we're not really going to speculate about the investigation while it's ongoing," said Tod Hill, a Tides spokesman. "We're taking appropriate safety measures."
ACLU officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Sheriff's deputies brought Williams into Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland in a wheelchair Tuesday. His right hand was bandaged. He showed no emotion and kept his head down as he read his copy of the criminal complaint. Asked by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers if he wanted to be represented by the public defender, Williams said yes.
Litany of charges
The complaint accuses Williams of trying to kill CHP officers Vincent Herrick, Richard Coward, Ty Franklin and Todd Owen. In addition to the four charges of attempted murder of a peace officer, Williams was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing ammunition. He also faces enhancements for firing a gun and wearing body armor.
The unemployed carpenter has two strikes - one for a 2001 bank robbery in Madera County and the other for a 1995 bank robbery in Washington state. That means he faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of a third strike in connection with the shootout. He is being held without bail.
The FBI joined Oakland police in investigating the incident because a notebook, titled "California," was found in Williams' car and removed by a bomb squad robot, investigators said. Authorities did not reveal its contents.