A chance encounter near Downieville, Sierra County on July 3 ended with the murder of a Danville physician, his son lost after running into the Tahoe National Forest to escape the gunman, others wounded and a suspect in custody after he allegedly attempted to flee sheriff’s deputies on a Utility Terrain Vehicle.
On Tuesday, Sheriff’s officials confirmed the identity of the suspected gunman as John Thomas Conway, 40, or Oroville. Conway is believed to be held in a local hospital after suffering a gunshot wound inflicted by an officer at the time of his capture.
Family friends Monday confirmed the shooting victim was Dr. Ari Gershman and said the doctor’s 15-year-old son – Jack – apparently spent more than 30 hours alone and lost in the forest after fleeing the unprovoked gunfire. The father and son were spending the day off-roading in the physician’s new four-wheel drive Jeep, according to friends.
A sheriff’s spokesman in Sierra County referred reporters to a Facebook post supporting most of the facts as given by family friends, who described the act as a “random, unprovoked” killing.
The incident unfolded around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon when family members said the unidentified gunman was caught rummaging through a camper’s belongings and, when discovered, immediately shot that camper without provocation. He went to a second, nearby campsite and ran into a woman looking for her dog, and then shot her. Both of those victims were transported by car to the nearest main road by their families, and then by helicopter to the hospital.
Immediately following those two shootings, family members said, the gunman came upon Ari and his son Jack on the 4×4 trail, shooting at them without provocation at least three times with an unknown type weapon. Gershman was fatally wounded, but was able to stop his Jeep – thus giving his son time to escape according to family members – before succumbing to his injuries almost immediately.
One of several police agencies involved (several nearby sheriff offices, CHP and state emergency services) ultimately found Jack Gershman late afternoon Sunday, after deploying ground and air searches along with drones and tracking dogs.
Shortly after locating the juvenile, the suspect approached two CDFW wildlife officers and a USFS officer at high speed in the UTV. The officers were maintaining a checkpoint on Saddleback Road and attempted to stop the vehicle. The suspect failed to stop and tried to run over the two wildlife officers and then fled south on Saddleback Road towards Downieville.
A third wildlife officer was positioned down the road in Downieville and started driving up the hill to block the suspects’ vehicle. A vehicle collision ultimately occurred as officers were attempting to take the suspect into custody. The suspect immediately represented a threat to the officers, according to police, 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.
No motive has yet been given for any of the shootings.
On their GoFundMe page, Friends said the doctor’s wife Paige is “in the fight of her life right now undergoing Chemo treatments for Cancer” and that she and the couple’s three children needed community support.
The GoFundMe page was built to help pay for funeral costs, chemotherapy treatments and doctors appointments, family counseling, and daily expenses, according to its originator.
With a state goal of $200,000 the page had raised $131,737 as of Monday night.
Anyone with information about the case can contact sheriff’s officials in Sierra County at 530-289-3700.
Tragic circumstances all around for this family.
This guy was salt of the earth.
What an unbelievably tragic and sad story and overall weekend with so many terrible things happening to some very good people. No words anymore.
My God. We are so sorry about this, and so much else happening lately. Just awful news.
Unfortunately there are a lot of bad actors running around the woods these days. So sorry for this family, who are obviously going through so much.
Some parole jumping survivalist. In my state. It make me sick to think about it. Praying for the victims and their families.
This jasper is lucky he’s living in civilized times. If this was 1850 he’d be buzzard meat by now. Pray for the innocent and held them in your hearts.
Let’s have a look at this killer.
First —- allow me to say this hurts me like it was my own family. My own family spends a lot of time in this area and to have something like this happen is just beyond comprehension. My wife took this very har.d. Second – I feel i have to say there are some very sketchy people in the forest these days and they have guns. I’m not sure if this influx is a result of prisoner releases or increased interest in prepping and survival training but we have encountered similar types and we have often wondered what would happen if they were armed and took direct action. Our absolute best to this mans family and we are praying for them all tonight.
It will never be stopped until fire arms are banned. The 3rd amendments kills tens of thousands of Americans every year and it kills more and more each year.
What does an amendment prohibiting the housing of military personnel in a citizen’s home during peacetime and requiring the process to be prescribed by law in times of war have to do with this case?
don’t be a jerk, it was obviously a typo and intended to read the Second Amendment…
The point of course would be that more careful reading and writing would head off a LOT of the confusion and misdirected angst we see out there these days.
Sounds like they need to get the Gallos up and running in Downieville again!!!
The killer has been identified as John Thomas Conway (40) of Oroville.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, he has a lengthy record, most recently was one of “Butte County’s Most Wanted,” and *should* have been in prison for 7 years for his most recent convictions (multiple cases and convictions in 2019 and early 2020) for vandalism, battery, terrorist threats, committing a felony while on probation, violating probation, failing to appear in court, violating court orders, felony vehicle theft, and felony receipt of stolen property.
-> There’s a press release on the Sierra County Sheriff Office Facebook page.
The work of local law enforcement and search & rescue there was extraordinary. Multiple agencies responding to victims and searching for the son while this guy was known to still be in the area and on the loose, deputies and their spouses providing food and lodging to the victim’s family, and just yesterday more than one group of law enforcement up there passing the hat and contributing to the family’s “go fund me” set up by a family friend.
If this is all true, why was he released?
Charges include murder, attempted murder, burglarizing a gold mine, unlawful discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, being a felon in possession of a firearm. He ain’t going anywhere.
My misunderstanding. I had thought John Thomas Conway was released from prison prior to murdering Dr. Ari Gershman.