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Police: Freeway shooter was targeting ACLU

A California man known for his anger over left-leaning politics said after a freeway shootout with CHP officers that he had been planning an attack on the ACLU, police say.
Byron Willimas
This undated photo provided by the Madera County Sheriff's Department shows Byron Williams. Williams, 45, of Groveland, armed with three guns and wearing a bullet proof vest opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers for several minutes during a traffic stop on an Oakland freeway Sunday before he was shot several times and wounded, authorities said. (AP Photo/Madera County Sheriff's Department via the Contra Costa Times)AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A California man known for his anger over left-leaning politics said after a freeway shootout with CHP officers that he had been planning an attack on the ACLU and another nonprofit group, police said Tuesday.

Byron Williams, 45, a parolee with two previous bank robbery convictions, wanted to "start a revolution" by killing people at the American Civil Liberties Union and Tides Foundation, Oakland police Sgt. Michael Weisenberg said in court documents.

The weekend shootout occurred in a 24-hour span in Oakland when a sniper shot at police officers from a high-rise building, and a Virginia man who had a job interview in the San Francisco Bay area was fatally shot in downtown Oakland by robbers who got away with just $17.

The spate of violence came just a week after Oakland laid off 80 officers and is facing criticism for slower response to calls.

The Oakland Police Department is leading the investigation into the shootout, but no city police were involved in the incident that occurred on Interstate 580.

Officer Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman, said the two groups were targeted because of their politics. The ACLU is a civil rights group, while the Tides Foundation says on its website that it works to advance progressive social change.

Williams was arraigned Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court after being released from a hospital when he was treated for gunshot wounds to his arms and legs. He did not enter a plea to four counts of attempted murder on peace officers, plus weapons and body armor enhancements.

No CHP officers were seriously injured in the shootout.

Williams was wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three guns as he traveled to San Francisco late Saturday night in his Toyota Tundra, police said. He is accused of opening fire on California Highway Patrol officers who approached his truck after pulling him over.

Williams surrendered and was arrested after a 12-minute gunbattle with 12 officers, most of whom responded to a call for backup, police said.

Weisenberg said in his probable cause statement that Williams had "made a decision that he would not be arrested and that he was willing to shoot and kill the officers," the statement said.

During a police interview at the hospital, Williams said he had planned to camp out in San Francisco on Sunday night then begin his attack when the ACLU and Tides Foundation opened Monday, Thomason said.

Christine Coleman, spokeswoman for the Tides Foundation, said the organization had taken additional security measure to protect its staff.

"We had never heard of this man before," Coleman said. "We cannot speculate about the incident while the investigation is going on."

Phone calls to the ACLU of Northern California were not immediately returned.

Williams also told investigators he was upset because he had not been able to find a job and because of the poor economy, Thomason said.

Williams' mother, Janice Williams, told the San Francisco Chronicle her son had been angry with "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items."

A phone message left for Janice Williams by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.