July 19, 2010


Be forewarned, this video is disturbing and NSFW, language-wise. It is a real-time record of a shootout between the California Highway Patrol and an angry, well-armed man. While much of the visual is very dark, there's no question about what's going on. It was posted by Twitter user MannyBlack, who shot the video from his window during the shootout.

The shooter, Byron Williams, was shot by police during the gun battle and is in serious, but stable condition according to local news sources.

What is most disturbing about this is the emergent theme that Williams was angry at government, further stirred up by his unemployment and cable news. Whether this theme plays out as facts emerge, this much is clear: He was well-armed, well-armored, and looking to do harm to someone.

An early report from SFGate.com:

As officers walked toward the pickup, they saw the man pick up a handgun, police said. They said they returned gunfire and radioed for help.

Three CHP vehicles had their windows shot out, but no officers were shot, police said. They said the driver was armed with a rifle and a shotgun as well as the handgun and fired at least two of the weapons during the shootout.

Morgan said the driver was hit numerous times and survived only because he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest.

As more details emerged, it was clear that this man was not simply a guy with a pistol in his truck. He caught the attention of officers for weaving in and out of traffic, cause for a routine stop.

The Tuolumne County man opened fire on two CHP officers who pulled him over on westbound Interstate 580 near Grand Avenue a few minutes before midnight, and continued shooting for several minutes with a high powered rifle before 10 officers returned fire and seriously wounded him, despite body armor he was wearing, CHP Sgt. Trent Cross said.

Cross said Byron Williams, a 45-year-old Groveland resident, was found with a pistol, a shotgun, the rifle, a bullet-resistant vest and a suspicious object that prompted investigators to call a bomb squad to the scene. The object was detonated without mishap in the center divide of the freeway, which cause headache nightmares throughout the East Bay.

"There is no doubt in our mind, given the body armor and the extensive amount of ammunition he had, that he was on his way to do a very serious crime against either someone or a group of people," Cross said. [read more...]

Williams is a convicted felon with two strikes. He was on parole and if stopped, would have been charged with a third-strike felony. However, police believe he was motivated by anti-government sentiments.

His background, coupled with the presence of possible explosives, was enough to prompt the FBI to get involved in the investigation, Cross said.

"Right now, this is not being looked at as a domestic terrorism case," Cross said Sunday afternoon. "But there's more evidence to go through, and that could change."

Among that evidence was a white three-ring binder recovered from the truck by a bomb squad robot. Scrawled by hand on the cover of the binder was the word, "California." Officials would not describe the contents of the binder.

His mother says that he was upset by the "left-wing Congress":

Williams' mother, Janice Williams of Groveland, said her son had been living next door and taking care of her father's house and land. She said he had been released from prison about 2 1/2 years ago after a felony conviction, which she declined to describe, and had almost completed his parole.

"He hasn't been able to get a job because he's an ex-felon and nobody will hire him," she said.

She said her son, who had been a carpenter and a cabinetmaker before his imprisonment, was angry about his unemployment and about "what's happening to our country."

Williams watched the news on television and was upset by "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items," his mother said. [Read more]

I'm inclined to take the mother's assertion with a grain of salt, given that she also said this:

She said she then checked the locked safe where she kept her guns, all legally purchased and owned, and found that they were also missing.

Janice Williams said she kept the guns because "eventually, I think we're going to be caught up in a revolution." But she said she had told her son many times that "he didn't have to be on the front lines."

I can't say for sure based on these sparse quotes whether this man was as anti-government as he is being painted. But his mother certainly sounds like she is, and it's not unreasonable to assume that she wasn't shy about making her views well-known to her son.

Caught up in a revolution... Sharron Angle's call for a "Second Amendment solution" echoed in those words. So did Sarah Palin's call for a revolution. Is it coincidence that Glenn Beck had a 7-hour long call for "American revival" among right-wingers yesterday and today we have someone armed, armored, and dangerous taking pot shots at California Highway Patrol officers?

Here's the thing. This mom and her son may have just been crazy, but that's always been the danger with inflamed rhetoric. It's not the sane ones I worry about. It's the angry, alienated, paranoid, out-of-touch with reality people who are stoked up on the nonsense spewed by Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

And let's not kid ourselves. It isn't only those out on the fringe stirring the pot. The phrase 'railroading through all those left-wing agenda items?' John McCain said virtually the very same thing in the Arizona debate Friday night. Republican senators routinely use the terms "shoved down" to refer to legislation passed that they've worked hard to block. Shoved and rammed down are two of their favorite phrases for any legislation passed by this Congress.

People hear it. Some dismiss it. Others laugh at it. Still others put on their armor like Glenn Beck told them to, pick up their breastplate of righteousness like he preached on stage yesterday, load up the guns and head out to fire the first volley.

Is this what happened? I'm not sure, but if that mother's remarks are any indicator, odds are it did.


Investigators are trying to figure out where a man was heading Saturday with guns and body armor, when he got into a shootout with CHP officers on I-580 in Oakland.

In the meantime, FBI agents are looking into 45-year-old Byron Williams' background and the contents of his controversial diary which was seized after the shooting.

When Williams was arrested he was in possession of a high-powered rifle, a shotgun and a handgun. Authorities say he had enough ammunition on him to kill at least 50 people, but it was a notebook that brought the FBI into the picture. The contents of the notebook are still unknown, but information provided by his mother indicates he had a very serious problem with what he considered to be liberals and what they were doing to the United States.

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