Witness describes hearing gunshots, screaming in case surrounding deadly shooting of Danville doctor

DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Danville doctor was shot and killed over the holiday weekend while on an off-roading trip with his 15-year-old son in Northern California.

The shooting happened in Downieville in Sierra County, that's east of Oroville.

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Family members identify the victim as 45-year-old Ari Gershman.

In the thick of the Tahoe National Forest on Friday, Gershman's son, identified by family as Jack, made a call to authorities to report a man had shot his father.

According to the Sierra County Sheriff's Office, they believe this was a random act of violence at the hands of 40-year-old John Conway of Oroville.

According to records, Conway made Butte County's "Most Wanted List" in August 2019. The Butte County Sheriff's Office, seeking Conway for a felony warrant charging him with vandalism, battery and two counts of making terrorist threats.

Gershman's family said the Danville doctor took Jack on an off-roading trip that morning. Gershman was driving the Jeep he had purchased just the day before.

The sheriff's office said at some point, the Gershman's came across Conway while on a dirt road. Conway started shooting.

RELATED: Danville doctor shot, killed while off-roading with son in Northern California

A witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told ABC7 News she heard gunshots a short distance from where she was camping, at Poker Flat in the Sierra.

"We assumed that they were target shooting, because it's legal to shoot guns in a national forest. So we didn't think anything of it," the witness explained. "About ten minutes later, we heard another couple of gunshots, and then screaming."

After learning about a gunman on the loose, she and her friends packed up and left. She described seeing a number of law enforcement agencies on the way out.

In a release to ABC7 News, the sheriff's office reported, "Throughout the night of July 3, and into the following day, the Sierra County Sheriff's Office coordinated a massive law enforcement response to the area.

Responding agencies included: U.S. Forest Service, California Highway Patrol, California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Grass Valley Police Department, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, and Yuba counties."

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Additionally, the release explained helicopters from the California Highway Patrol, Washoe County (Nevada), and Placer County Sheriff's Office assisted throughout the incident.

In addition to the search for Conway, deputies were searching for Jack.

The teen was on his own for 30 hours before he was rescued, spending the night alone in the forest.

The release read, "In the afternoon of July 4, CDFW wildlife officers and a K-9, using human tracking skills, hiked through the forest with a Sierra County Deputy tracking the missing juvenile. Although the juvenile had fled a considerable distance, the officers were able to track and locate him."

Family members said after Jack made the call to 9-1-1, he called his mother, Paige.

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Relatives were already rallying around Paige, who was diagnosed with cancer only 6 weeks ago.

"Jack's phone went dead after he made these gut wrenching videos for Paige," Meyers-Barer said. "About what he saw and how he's so sorry."

On the afternoon of the 4th, officers also located Conway.

In their attempt to stop him, the sheriff's office said Conway tried to run over two wildlife officers.

As described by the sheriff's office, "The suspect failed to stop and tried to run over the two wildlife officers and then fled south on Saddleback Road towards Downieville. A third wildlife officer was positioned down the road in Downieville and started driving up the hill to block the suspects' vehicle."

There was a subsequent vehicle collision as officers were attempting to arrest the suspect.

"The suspect immediately represented a threat to the officers, leading to an officer-involved shooting and deployment of a K-9," the sheriff's release said. "The suspect was taken into custody, and after receiving medical treatment at the scene, he was transported to the hospital."

Charges are expected soon.

Gershman leaves behind three children, and his wife, Paige. Neighbors created a Go Fund Me campaign to assist the family.
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