Q Last week, a motorist shot an officer on Interstate 680 in Alamo, and another officer shot the motorist. An awful, regrettable occurrence, and two people died.
I understand that there were witnesses, and it was recorded by an officer's car video camera and witnessed by the second officer. But why were both directions of 680 totally closed to traffic for most of the day for evidence gathering? Wasn't all the evidence needed already available? Hundreds or thousands of people were held hostage in their cars for hours for what seems without reason. Is there something I am missing?
A Yes, says the CHP and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, which is leading the investigation. Numerous complaints like this rolled in following the shooting death of CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom on Sept. 4.
Q This shooting tragedy that left two dead was terrible and senseless, and we mourn the loss of a dedicated officer. But the complete shutdown of 680 for eight hours to investigate the crime resulted in a total disruption of traffic in the whole Diablo Valley. Does anyone dare ask why it was necessary to close the highway in both directions when the tragedy happened on the shoulder of the southbound lanes?
A And ...
Q The incidents that seem to trigger this are officer shootings, and I certainly can understand the wish to know exactly what happened and I feel very sorry for the officer and his family. However, what about the thousands who lost work time and suffered financially and emotionally while their family members were held hostage? The priority should be to clear traffic as soon as possible.
A The CHP and sheriff's office both apologized for the lengthy delays, but both agencies said there was little they could do to speed up the reopening of 680.
There were upwards of 65 personnel from various agencies at what was a rather large crime scene on one of the most congested roads in the Bay Area at the height of the morning commute around 8 a.m. Footage from a video camera isn't always admissible and offers just one look at a crime scene.
"Police would essentially only have one opportunity to go through the crime scene, unlike a house for example. Among the many duties that took place on the freeway were the identification and search for a possible second suspect, eyewitness interviews, combing through the crime scene including the suspect vehicle, identifying and collecting evidence, mapping and photography. These are all a necessary part of an investigation like this. Unfortunately it does take some time.
"The impact of the freeway closure was on the minds of the command staff. We regret any inconvenience and thank motorists for their understanding and support."
Police had hoped to open northbound lanes shortly after the shooting occurred. But a sweep of that area uncovered a bullet fragment from the shooting. That made it part of the crime scene, so northbound lanes weren't opened until about 12:50 p.m. The southbound lanes started to open at 4 p.m.
The CHP said lengthy freeway closures are common in unusual incidents, not just police shootings. A couple of years ago a wrong-way driver killed a motorist on 101 along the Peninsula, and that freeway was closed for a similar period.
Q I got teary-eyed when I drove past the Livorna Road exit on 680 last week and stared at a big flag and a few flowers where the CHP officer was killed. Such an everyday setting for such a sad thing.
A Sad indeed.