SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday, July 3, before a trip to the Sierra area near Poker Flat, a Danville doctor was shot and killed and his son wound up lost for nearly 30 hours.
The Danville residents Ari Gershman, 46, and Jack Gershman, 15, were driving through a dirt road, when they came across a man who wanted directions.
The man has been identified as John Thomas Conway, 40, who shot at Gershman’s vehicle.
In an email sent on July 8, the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office stated:
“On July 3, 2020, at about 1600 hours, the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office received information that two persons sustained gunshot wounds by an assailant in the Poker Flat area of northwestern Sierra County. The assailant was driving a utility terrain vehicle (UTV). Neither victim knew the shooter, and the act appeared to be a random act of violence. After the two victims were transported out of the area, a 911 call came in from a 15-year-old caller in the same general area. The 15-year-old told the 911 dispatcher that he and his father, who was later identified as Dr. Ari Gershman, a physician from Danville, encountered the suspect while driving down a dirt road. The suspect opened fire on Dr. Gershman and his son, killing Dr. Gershman. The juvenile son fled into the forest to escape the shooter and find an area where he could call for help.
Ari ended up dying after being shot and Jack hid in the woods for over 25 hours.
In a phone interview, Executive Assistant to the Sheriff Autumn Long-McGie with SCSO told the San Francisco News, “We just had the autopsy done yesterday and I don’t have all that information at this point, but I don’t believe it was an immediate death, but I do believe it was within the hour.”
Jack ran up a hill until he got cell phone service, and dialed 911. He also called his mom before his phone died, according to Long-McGie.
Ari and Jack’s family came to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office while a search was put out for Jack. The family was there from about 11:15 p.m. on July 3 until the evening of July 4.
“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. Even though the juvenile had fled the shooting and spent the night alone in the forest, he was in good physical condition and did not require medical attention. After giving him some food and water, officers transported him to the Sheriff’s Office, where he was reunited with his mother,” states the press release.
Jack told his family he drank from a creek in the woods, but did not eat anything during that 30-hour span.
“Shortly after locating the juvenile, the suspect approached two CDFW wildlife officers and a USFS officer at high speed in the UTV. The officers were maintaining a checkpoint on Saddleback Road and attempted to stop the vehicle. 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. A vehicle collision ultimately occurred as officers were attempting to take the suspect into custody. The suspect immediately represented a threat to the officers, leading to an officer-involved shooting and deployment of a K-9. The suspect was taken into custody, and after receiving medical treatment at the scene, he was transported to the hospital. The suspect has been identified as John Thomas Conway, age 40, Oroville.”
Conway has been booked with SCSO, but he is being treated in a hospital in a neighboring county. He has not been responsive to authorities while in custody.
This is an ongoing investigation anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office at (530) 289-3700.