2 dead in toll plaza shooting

August 12, 2009 12:39:54 AM PDT
One man went on a killing spree and he is still on the run. Just before 6 p.m. a toll taker and one other person were shot and killed at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

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Two toll workers are dead in what police are calling a domestic dispute. A photo of the suspect, Nathaniel Burris of Richmond, was released by police. Police are still searching for him and say he is armed and dangerous.

Burris was last seen early Tuesday evening driving a white van in Richmond. The van is a 2005 Ford vehicle with orange and blue lettering that reads "Western Eagle Shuttle" on the side of it. The license plate is 8U40504.

Investigators say Burris was driving the white shuttle when he pulled up to toll booth number three. With a shotgun he allegedly shot and killed 51-year-old Deborah Ross, a toll taker.

He also killed a toll worker in his mid to late 40s who was sitting in a Chevrolet pickup truck parked in the toll plaza parking lot. Sources tell ABC7 the toll worker was wearing his uniform as he sat in the truck.

Police believe the shooter started out in his vehicle initially, but at some point he got out on foot and walked over to the parking lot. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Because this took place at 5:55 at the peak of rush hour, there were multiple witnesses; one of them being an off-duty police officer.

"We're getting several different reports... from family members. We're just getting a lot of different reports. We're not going to say exactly at this point what we have, but we believe it was definitely targeted," says Richmond Police Sgt. Bisa French.

"We had several witnesses that called into our dispatch center and we have been able to isolate and identify those witnesses here at the scene," said CHP Officer Sam Morgan.

Someone who knows the toll workers told ABC7 that the shooter was the boyfriend of the female toll worker -- a boyfriend of seven years.

Burris then fled Eastbound toward Richmond in the white van. Anyone with information is urged to call police.

Police search Burris' home

Police left the Burris' home in Southwest Richmond late Tuesday night after they were hoping to find and arrest him.

"I hope he doesn't come back here. I really don't... if somebody's enraged. He seemed like a nice person," said a neighbor.

Burris' neighbors are shocked to hear what the 46 year old is accused of. Moments before the shooting, those in the Southwest Richmond neighborhood saw Burris leave the townhome he shared with his girlfriend, Deborah Ross. Ross was the female murdered toll booth agent.

"He was a nice gentleman to me. He was very courteous. You wouldn't expect this, not at all," said Natalie Samm from Richmond.

Richmond police rushed to the Second Street home soon after the shootings, but there was no sign of the suspect. Police spent hours looking for clues in the home, while neighbors slowly came terms with what has happened.

"You never expect to live next door to someone who would commit a crime. You never expect to know a person who was just killed, their life taken. So, it's kind of just one of those things. It's a double 'Oh my gosh,'" said Erin Clark, a neighbor.

Burris and Ross lived in the townhome together for two years. Neighbors think Burris is originally from Illinois, but his mother lives in Sacramento. While she agreed to answer officers' questions about her son, she did not want to talk to reporters.

While the search continues in Sacramento, a statement about the shootings came from the governor's office a short time ago. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said "Maria and I join Californians in expressing our shock and sadness over the death of Deborah Ross. Deborah was a devoted and hard working public servant and we are grateful for her dedicated service to our state."

Ross was an employee of Caltrans for eight years. In honor of Ross' death, flags will be flown at half staff at the capitol.

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