On Thursday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson and the West Contra Costa County Police Chiefs Association met to discuss strategies to prevent, investigate, and prosecute freeway shootings in the West County area, and also to review the current efforts to address the shootings.
The West Contra Costa County Police Chiefs and their respective City Managers and City Council members believe that approaching this issue in a collaborative manner is essential. Prior to yesterday’s meeting, West County Chiefs met regarding the freeway shootings; all six chiefs agreed that with collaboration comes a better understanding of diverse perspectives and that the coordinated efforts of many can accomplish more than the efforts of one or a few separately.
Attending the meeting were chiefs from the El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole, Hercules, and Kensington police departments, as well as members of the county’s Probation Department, and the Offices of the Sheriff and District Attorney.
Since November 2nd, 2015, there have been 13 shootings on Interstate 80, and one on Interstate 580, for a total of 14 shootings in the western portion of Contra Costa County. Of the 14 shootings, two resulted in the deaths of the occupants of the vehicles. On several other occasions, no one was injured as the shots struck only the vehicles, or missed the intended vehicle occupants and their cars entirely.
To date, the great majority of these freeway shootings are gang related. Many of the victimsand witnesses in these cases have been uncooperative with investigators. The lack of cooperation coupled with the random nature of the shootings makes solving such crimes extremely problematic. Additionally, since the crimes occur at very high speeds, there are very few, if any, percipient witnesses.
Chief Paul Fontana, commander of the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) Golden Gate Division, has convened several recent meetings of law enforcement executives from throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties regarding the shootings. In the county, an ad-hoc task force of teams of investigators from the CHP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Contra Costa Safe Streets Task Force respond to all freeway shootings in the county.
The Task Force includes members of the California Highway Patrol, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Richmond Police Department, Pittsburg Police Department, Antioch Police Department, Concord Police Department, El Cerrito Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms,and Explosives.
In addition, Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove who has over a decade of experience prosecuting murder cases has been assigned to assist on all freeway shooting investigations; he routinely responds to the shooting sites to provide legal advice and investigative guidance.
In addition to the investigative efforts, law enforcement is working with representatives of the Governor’s Office, the California Department of Transportation, and local mayors and other elected officials to explore the use of other technologies to assist in the effort to stop the shootings. These include the installation of high resolution cameras, gunshot detection technology, and other technologies, on the freeways and the entry/exit ramps.
Preventing freeway shootings, and prosecuting those responsible for them, is one of the top priorities for government at all levels in the county.Nearly a quarter million people travel daily on Interstate 80 in Contra Costa County, and we will do everything possible to ensure their safety.
We are seeking the public’s help on this critical public safety matter. Anyone with information concerning the shootings is encouraged to contactthe California Highway Patrol Investigative Services Unit at (510) 622-4609 or 1-800-TELL-CHP, or your local law enforcement agency.
West County Police Chiefs Association
Hercules Chief of Police Bill Goswick (Chairperson, West County Police Chiefs)
El Cerrito Interim Chief of Police Paul Keith
Kensington Chief of Police Kevin Hart
Pinole Chief of Police Neil Gang
San Pablo Chief of Police Lisa Rosales
Richmond Chief of Police Allwyn Brown
Office of the Sheriff Captain Dan Hoffman, Patrol Division Commander