CHP: Spike In Bay Area Highway Shootings Not Road Rage Or Random (PHOTOS)
(BANT) – The CHP and Contra Costa County’s top law enforcement official took pains Friday to assure the public that gang-on-gang violence is responsible for a recent up-tick in Bay Area highway shootings.
CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Paul Fontana said the attacks mostly involve gang members targeting each other or people who are engaged in other kinds criminal activity that know each other and aren’t typically random shootings or road-rage type incidents.
“People need to feel safe as they drive on the freeways in the Bay Area,” Fontana said, whose command includes all nine Bay Area counties.
Fontana was joined by Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson at a news conference at the CHP’s Vallejo headquarters to address the shootings.
The latest incidents involve a Thursday attack on U.S. Highway 101 in San Jose in which a 17-year-old boy was shot in the face and back and a shooting last week on Interstate Highway 80 in Richmond that killed 24-year-old Demarcus Doss.
Since the beginning of 2015, there have been 111 highway shootings in the Bay Area and 17 people have been arrested and charged, while a similar number of people with ties to the shootings have been arrested, Fontana said.
For example, last August investigators arrested 24 gang members, several of whom the CHP believes were responsible for multiple shootings in Contra Costa County, according to Fontana.
In a four-month period after the arrests, there were no freeway shootings in central Contra Costa County, where many of the attacks have taken place, Fontana said.
In fact, central and western Contra Costa County play host to a disproportionate number of the shootings, with 36 since 2015. Those shootings resulted in 21 people being injured and eight killed, according to Peterson, whose office has filed charges in six of those cases.
Peterson said adding more highway surveillance cameras, especially along Highway 4 and Interstate 80 in Contra Costa County, could help deter or solve the crimes but finding the money to install more of the devices has proven “frustrating.”
Law enforcement leaders from all over the county have been trying to work with state transportation officials to identify or develop funding sources for new cameras and will meet again next Wednesday on the topic.
However, Fontana noted that none of the shooting arrests have been made with the assistance of the existing network of highway cameras and are generally made when creditable witnesses come forward.
Solving the crimes has proven difficult, often due to the lack of good witnesses and the nature of the highway attacks, which can happen in heavy traffic and at high speeds.
Fontana said the CHP has taken several steps to address the shootings, including boosting staffing, increasing regular and overtime patrols and adding officers to investigative teams, among other things.
One of the investigative tools used by both the CHP and the district attorney’s office is the county’s FBI Safe Streets Taskforce, which is comprised of 19 officers from several jurisdictions who can focus their efforts on the attacks.
The latest suspects arrested for such a shooting include two 17-year-old boys and Elliot Johnson, 24, of Richmond, who are suspected in the Doss killing.
Johnson, who is charged with murder, attempted murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle, is schedule to be arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Richmond on Thursday.
“The CHP warns those that think that they can hide in the dynamic freeway environment to commit their crimes that the CHP is on high alert and we will catch you,” Fontana said.