OAKLAND -- Jury deliberations are under way at the trial for a Tuolumne County man whose plan to spark a right-wing revolution with a massacre in San Francisco was thwarted by a traffic stop on a highway in Oakland that quickly escalated into a gunbattle with the California Highway Patrol.
Byron Williams, 48, faces life in prison if convicted as charged with the attempted member of CHP Officers Vincent Herrick, Marcus Holden, Ty Franklin and Todd Owen. They were among 10 officers who fired upward of 200 rounds at Williams after he allegedly pulled a gun on Herrick late July 17, 2010, on westbound Interstate 580 near the Harrison Street onramp.
Williams donned a bulletproof vest and packed three of his mother's guns into her truck and drove toward San Francisco that day with a plan to kill "11 high-level participants in the plot to destroy the United States" at Tides Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union or other liberal-focused organization because he was distraught over "collusive facts behind the BP oil disaster" in the Gulf of Mexico, defense attorney Eric Schweitzer said in his closing argument Tuesday.
Schweitzer said Williams did not, however, intend to harm the CHP officers and fired 10 rounds on the freeway to "force his escape" after the officers shot him first. He argued for an acquittal based on a claim that Williams acted in self-defense and never aimed at the officers.
"Getting shot in the back of the head made his belief that he was in imminent danger of bodily harm reasonable, and the use of force necessary," Schweitzer said.
Prosecutor Autrey James argued that Williams initiated the gunbattle after Herrick and Holden pulled him over for speeding and weaving because they were getting in the way of his assassination plot. Williams, he said, was shooting to kill the officers.
"Except for poor aim, or luck, or whatever you call it, they are still with us today," James said.
Williams fired 10 rounds from a handgun and rifle before the 20-minute gunbattle ended with his surrender. He was shot four times. Owen was injured in the leg by shrapnel. Franklin was hit in the eye by shattered glass.
Williams was an unemployed carpenter with two prior convictions for bank robbery at this time of his arrest. He is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.