CHP officer on life support after I-680 shooting

ALAMO, Calif.

A Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office spokesman said Tuesday evening that they still have no motive in the shooting. "He was taken to John Muir Medical Center by ambulance and he is said to be in critical condition at this time," Jimmy Lee said.

Late Tuesday, the officer was identified as Kenyon Youngstrom, 37, a seven-year veteran of the force and a married father of four from Fairfield. He has been with the CHP for seven years and he's spent the past five years working out of the Contra Costa County office in Martinez. Prior to joining the CHP, he was a U.S. Army reservist. Youngstrom's family and friends have been coming by John Muir Medical Center all day and into the evening.

The shooting happened at about 8:20 a.m. in Alamo near the Livorna Road Exit on southbound Interstate 680. Investigators say the exchange of gunfire occurred after the officer performed a traffic stop on a jeep. A second CHP officer in another patrol car was also on the scene. "The first officer did make contact with that driver and shortly thereafter, the driver pulled out a gun and shot at that officer, and then the second officer discharged his weapon," Lee said.

That second officer fatally wounded the suspect. The CHP says a passing driver called 911 saying that an officer needed help. That called stopped to help and a woman wearing medical scrubs also stopped and gave emergency treatment to the Youngstrom as he lay on the freeway. CHP units and emergency medical crews then rushed to the scene. Both the officer and suspect were taken to John Muir Hospital. The suspect died there. "This was kind of the tail end of the morning commute and there was a lot of traffic going southbound on 680 and as it happened, there were a number of eyewitnesses who remained on the scene," Lee said.

Normally, when an officer stops a car, they park behind the vehicle they pull over. However, the I-680 shooting suspect's vehicle, a jeep, could be seen parked behind the CHP patrol car, leaving some unanswered questions. The patrol car was equipped with a dash-camera and that video may help investigators.

Identity of the gunman

Authorities are not releasing the identity of the gunman, but ABC7 News has learned the suspect's Jeep is registered to a 36-year-old man whose last known residence is in Sausalito. The current tenant of this duplex says the man moved out last year. Earlier in the day, she says two police investigators came by to question her about the former tenant. The owner of the duplex tells us she spoke to police as well.

We also tracked down the man's father who is living in Alaska and spoke to him on the phone. He told us he's aware of the officer-involved shooting and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department contacted him, urgently suggesting he and his wife fly to the Bay Area and meet with them. The father says investigators would not tell him what happened to his son, only that they needed to talk to them immediately. The father tells us his son has a master's degree in computer science from San Francisco State University. He's been a software developer for several companies and he had been living in Sausalito.

But he says they have not spoken or heard from him in more than a year, around the same time the landlord says he moved out. The father told ABC7 he knows it's a long shot, but he is hoping his son was not the driver of the Jeep.

ABC7 News obtains dispatch recording

ABC7 News was able to obtain a recording of the communication between CHP dispatch and officers right after the shooting. The initial call came in as an officer needing assistance on Interstate 680 and then of an officer being shot.

CHP Officer: 10-4, with a description of a subject, suspect, or anything like that?

Dispatch: Negative. He just said an officer was down. I've been trying to call him. No response from 680-2 yet. You're doing CPR?

CHP Officer: You have an ETA on that ambulance?

The officer on scene then asked for a CHP shooting team as there were indications they were still looking for a second suspect. It was later determined though that person was not connected to the crime.

The highway was emptied while investigators from numerous agencies including the CHP, the Sheriff's Department, and the District Attorney's Office gathered evidence and set up a crime lab under a blue tent canopy. Investigators say a deer visible on the freeway after the shooting was not hit by stray bullets. They say passing motorists had spotted the dead animal earlier in the morning commute.

By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the northbound lanes of I-680 had been reopened along with two lanes of southbound I-680. Officials hoped to have all lanes reopened by 7 p.m.

CHP officer on life support

The CHP said the officer who was shot suffered a fatal wound that severed his spinal cord, but remained on life support Wednesday morning. This report came amidst several conflicting reports including a tweet sent by the San Diego CHP border office that claimed the officer had succumbed to his wounds.

CHP Sgt. Diana McDermott said that tweet was sent prematurely. The officer is being kept alive on life support for his family. "Unfortunately, with social media and our organization, everybody is caring. They want to know. They want to share the information. We want to start mourning if that is the situation and it just came out prematurely. The officer is critical and that's the information that I have currently," McDermott said.

The CHP says there is "no expectation for the officer to survive." It will be up to the doctors and family to decide when to take the officer off life support.

Officer photo courtesy

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.