OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A heavily-armed Tuolumne County man who had been on a mission to attack liberal groups in San Francisco was sentenced today to 400 years to life in state prison for shooting at California Highway Patrol officers on an Oakland freeway four years ago.
Byron Williams, 48, of Groveland, was convicted last month of four counts of premeditated attempted murder and three counts of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm for his 12-minute gun battle with CHP officers on Interstate Highway 580 near the Harrison Street exit just before midnight on July 17, 2010.
Prosecutor Autrey James said Williams, who was wearing body armor and was armed with three guns, initiated the gun battle by shooting at CHP Officer Vincent Herrick after he stopped Williams for speeding and weaving.
But defense attorney Eric Schweitzer alleged that CHP officers started the incident by shooting Williams in the head, which he said made Williams think that his life was in danger and prompted him to shoot at the officers in self-defense.
Williams made that same argument before he was sentenced today, insisting that CHP officers shot at him first and alleging that officers “falsified evidence” and made “false statements” in the case.
Williams also said, “This was a false conviction because of my testimony against the political powers that control this area and those who are in power in this day and age in our government.”
In addition, Williams claimed that jurors in his case got it wrong, alleging that they “didn’t pay attention to the evidence” and “didn’t pay attention to the jury instructions.”
But James said “it’s offensive” for Williams to continue to allege that officers fabricated evidence and lied in their testimony.
James said, “That is not the case because the officers were frank in their testimony and the jurors believed them and convicted him.”
The prosecutor said Williams “refuses to take responsibility for what he was prepared to do” and the officers were forced to shoot at him in order to defend themselves.
According to the evidence in the case, Williams fired 10 shots and CHP officers fired about 200 shots at him.
Williams and two CHP officers suffered minor injuries in the incident.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay said he agrees with James that the evidence in the case clearly indicates that Williams fired first and it was the CHP officers who fired in self-defense.
Clay said that when CHP officers stopped Williams, “he was on a mission to kill executives at the Tides Foundation,” a San Francisco-based nonprofit group that advocates social change through philanthropy.
Clay said that if Williams couldn’t find anyone at the Tides Foundation office, he planned to move on to the American Civil Liberties Union office in San Francisco and kill lawyers there.
Referring to the exchange of gunfire on the freeway, Clay said, “It’s beyond comprehension to see a gun battle like that on a highway in the Bay Area.”
The judge said Williams “is a very articulate man and very smart” but if he was upset with liberal groups in San Francisco, he should have engaged in peaceful protests instead of planning to kill people.
“You don’t just take guns to the Bay Area,” Clay said, saying that Williams’ actions were “very selfish.”
Clay said Williams “did his research and had a whole list of names” of people he wanted to kill.
Williams already faced life in prison for his conviction for four counts of premeditated attempted murder of a peace officer, but Clay increased his sentence to 400 years to life because he’s a “three strikes” defendant with two prior bank robbery convictions.
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