Byron Williams in 2002. (Madera County Sheriff’s Dept.)
Byron Williams in 2002. (Madera County Sheriff's Dept.)

OAKLAND -- A jury on Monday found a Tuolumne County man who hoped to foment a right-wing revolution with a massacre in San Francisco guilty of four counts of attempted murder in a 2010 shootout with CHP officers on an Oakland freeway.

Byron Williams, 48, held his face in his hands as he listened to the jury's verdicts convicting him of eight felonies.

Williams faces life in prison at his sentencing April 3 for the attempted murders of California Highway Patrol officers Vincent Herrick, Marcus Holden, Ty Franklin and Todd Owen.

They were among 10 officers who fired more than 200 rounds at Williams after he pulled a gun on Herrick on July 17, 2010, during a traffic stop on westbound Interstate 580 near the Harrison Street on-ramp.

Williams was wearing a bulletproof vest and had packed three of his mother's guns into her truck before driving toward San Francisco that day on a mission targeting liberal nonprofit organizations.

Williams testified he was planning to target "11 high-level participants in the plot to destroy the United States," among them members of the California Legislature and liberal-minded organizations such as the Tides Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Williams was motivated by distress over what defense attorney Eric Schweitzer described as "collusive facts behind the BP oil disaster."

Williams never made it to San Francisco that day, instead getting caught up in a gunfight that shut down the highway near Oakland's Lake Merritt.


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Schweitzer has said Williams did not intend to harm the CHP officers and fired 10 rounds on the freeway to "force his escape" after the officers shot him first. He argued for an acquittal based on a claim that Williams acted in self-defense and never aimed at the officers.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Autrey James had argued that Williams initiated the gunbattle because he believed the police officers -- by pulling Williams over for speeding and weaving from lane to lane -- were getting in the way of his assassination plot.

James said the district attorney's office declined to file charges related to the assassination plot in 2010 due to lack of evidence. Stronger evidence was revealed by Williams on the witness stand at his trial, but the statute of limitations for any potential charges have since lapsed, he said.

Williams fired 10 rounds from a handgun and rifle before the 20-minute gunbattle ended with his surrender. He was shot four times. Owen was injured in the leg by shrapnel. Franklin was hit in the eye by shattered glass.

Williams was an unemployed carpenter with two prior convictions for bank robbery at the time of his arrest. Along with four counts of attempted murder on a peace office, the jury also convicted him of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.