Shootout suspect to face trial in July

By Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat June 24, 2013 10:56 am
A Groveland man charged with attempted murder after a shootout with law enforcement officers on an Oakland freeway three years ago could head to trial in August. Byron Williams, 47, pleaded not guilty in 2010 in Alameda County Superior Court and, since then, his case has dragged through the courts due to legal maneuvering and a variety of continuances.

Last week, a judge denied Williams’ request to suppress evidence, claiming his car was illegally searched.

The shootout occurred July 7, 2010, on Interstate 580. Authorities allege Williams, heavily armed, was on his way to kill members of the American Civil Liberties Union and Tides Foundation, a liberal think tank.

He hoped, authorities claim, to start “a revolution.”

Williams’ defense attorney argues his client didn’t instigate the 10-minute gunfight, and was acting in self defense.

Defense Attorney Eric Schweitzer sought to suppress evidence obtained during a search of Williams’ truck.

He argues that the California Highway Patrol officer who stopped Williams, allegedly for swerving, initiated an illegal search by opening Williams’ passenger door to talk. Schweitzer sought to suppress information about what the officer saw and a subsequent search of the truck.

In denying the request, Judge Jon Rolefson cited legal precedent protecting searches done with a probable cause to believe crimes are in progress.

Schweitzer also challenges some of the evidence brought forth by law enforcement.

According to Schweitzer, police claimed around 70 spent shell casings found in the truck pointed toward the guilt of Williams in his four counts of attempted murder against officers. 

But he says an evidence technician who documented the evidence clarified at the motion hearing last week— under penalty of perjury — that only one shell casing was found in the truck. Furthermore, he explained that it was a .40 caliber shell, matching police pistols, and not the 9mm pistol Williams had.

Schweitzer declined to comment further before trial, but hinted that this development could change the entire narrative of the alleged crime. 

Williams was charged with four counts of attempted murder of a police officer, three charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one charge of possession of ammunition. 

In his shootout with 10 law enforcement officers, he allegedly fired each of three guns he had in the truck — a handgun, shotgun and rifle. Williams, wearing a bullet-proof vest, was shot several times in the arms and legs.

Deputy District Attorney Autrey James declined to comment on the case, besides noting that numerous spent shell casings from Williams’ guns were found outside the vehicle. 

Williams is set for a pre-trial hearing on Aug. 1, and his jury trial is set to begin Aug. 5.