Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Driver dies, CHP officer critically wounded in shootout on I-680 in Alamo - San Jose Mercury News

Driver dies, CHP officer critically wounded in shootout on I-680 in Alamo - San Jose Mercury News

A California Highway Patrol officer was critically injured and a motorist was killed in a traffic-stop shootout Tuesday morning on a San Ramon Valley freeway, sparking a daylong road closure and drawing dozens of officers to the hospital to keep vigil over their downed comrade.

The CHP exchanged gunfire with a suspect about 8:20 a.m. near the Livorna Road offramp from southbound Interstate 680, officials said. Both the suspect and one of the officers were rushed to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek with critical injuries.

The suspect died at the hospital, according to Contra Costa Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee, whose agency is leading the investigation. The suspect has not been identified pending
notification of relatives.

Outside John Muir hospital, where media awaited news on the conditions of the officer and suspect, CHP Sgt. Diana McDermott said she appreciated concerns expressed by the public.

"We are family and the community is part of that family as well," McDermott said. "This is a situation where we all take an oath not to swerve from the path of duty. As you can imagine, it's difficult."

The unidentified CHP officer was making a traffic stop on a Jeep-style vehicle on southbound I-680, just north of Livorna.

"The driver pulled out a gun and shot at the officer, severely injuring him," Lee said.

A backup officer who also responded to the stop then fired into the vehicle, wounding the driver,
Lee said.

There was no radio call after the shooting from officers needing assistance. Instead, authorities were alerted by a 911 call to Walnut Creek police from a concerned citizen, saying an officer needed help, said CHP Officer John Fransen. The second CHP officer aided the injured officer until emergency medical crews arrived. 

Authorities did not reveal additional information about the wounded officer other than that he is based out of the Contra Costa area field office in Martinez. Police sources have said the officer was shot in the neck, though officials have not disclosed that detail. Investigators also plan to review dashboard-camera footage from one of the patrol cars.

In the midst of the investigation, an alert was issued for a second vehicle, a 1998 Nissan Maxima, which was found in Danville, Lee said. The driver, a 35-year-old Oakley resident, was located, interviewed, and cleared of suspicion. She had been stopped nearby for an unrelated cellphone violation around the time of the shooting, and authorities sought her to assess any possible involvement.

An expanding battery of patrol cars and police motorcycles from the CHP, Walnut Creek police and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office is gathering at the hospital as officers mill in and out of the emergency room. Reporters have been turned away from the campus grounds.

The investigation into the shooting is being led by the Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office, which is standard procedure for any officer-involved shooting that occurs in Contra Costa County.

Southbound Interstate 680 between South Main Street and Livorna Road will be closed until at least 5 p.m. Tuesday while investigators examine the scene, the CHP said. Motorists are advised to avoid the area.

Northbound lanes between Sycamore Valley Road in Danville and South Main Street were also shut down but reopened about 1 p.m.

The incident occurred during the busy rush hour and traffic was at a standstill for much of the morning. According to Caltrans, 180,000 vehicles a day travel on the stretch of I-680 at Livorna Road, with a peak of 14,000 vehicles per hour during the commute.

Check back later for updates to this story. 

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