Convicted felon Byron Williams loaded up his mother's Toyota Tundra with guns, strapped on his body armor and headed to San Francisco late Saturday night with one thing in mind: to kill workers at the American Civil Liberties Union and an environmental foundation, prosecutors say.
Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to "start a revolution" with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, authorities said.
But before he made it to the city, Williams was stopped at early Sunday by California Highway Patrol officers for speeding and driving erratically on westbound Interstate 580 west of Grand Avenue in Oakland.
Police say he then initiated a chaotic, 12-minute gunbattle with officers, firing a 9mm handgun, a .308-caliber rifle and a shotgun. He reloaded his weapons when he ran out of ammunition and stopped only after officers shot him in areas of his body not covered by his bullet-resistant vest, authorities said.
On Tuesday, Williams, 45, of Groveland (Tuolumne County) appeared in an Oakland courtroom on charges that he tried to murder four CHP officers. Authorities described him as a heavily armed man determined not to return to prison. Bullets from the suspect's rifle could penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, police said.
After he was wounded and taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, Williams told investigators "his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU," Oakland police Sgt. Michael Weisenberg wrote in a court affidavit.
The Tides Foundation is a liberal not for profit that supports Progressive causes. The otherwise obscure group is often the subject of attacks by Glenn Beck.
Read more on Glenn Beck and the Tides Foundation from TPM. Also see commentary from the Guardian.
Williams was upset about "Left-wing agenda" of Congress. From TPM: (note: His mother, Janice Williams, seems to be as much of a Tea Party nut as her son is).
The man, identified by local news reports as Byron Williams of Groveland, was allegedly pulled over for driving erratically by the California Highway Patrol. As the officers approached his truck, they saw several guns and ammunition, according to police, and they saw the suspect reach for a handgun.
The officers ran back to their car and called for backup as the man allegedly opened fire. Officers reported seeing a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle, and that the shooter fired at least two of the weapons. The shootout -- which according to CHP involved 10 police officers and lasted about eight minutes -- left the suspect, who was wearing body armor, seriously wounded. He was taken to the hospital and is listed in stable condition.
Two officers were hurt by broken glass, but none were shot.
"There is no doubt in our mind, given the body armor and the extensive amount of ammunition he had, that he was on his way to do a very serious crime against either someone or a group of people," CHP Sgt. Trent Cross said.
Officers discovered a binder labeled "California" in the truck. It has so far been described only as a "list."
When local reporters called the truck's registrant, Janice Williams, she realized her truck, and her guns, were gone.
Williams told the San Francisco Chronicle that Byron, her 45-year-old son, was upset by "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items."
"He hasn't been able to get a job because he's an ex-felon and nobody will hire him," she said, adding that he was angry about his unemployment and about "what's happening to our country."
"I have no doubt it is him," Williams said. "He's been upset with the direction the country is going. ... He feels the people of this country are being raped by our government and politicians."
Janice Williams said she kept the guns, which were locked in safe, because "eventually, I think we're going to be caught up in a revolution." She also told the Chronicle that she had warned Byron that "he didn't have to be on the front lines."
Commentary on Glenn Beck
More commentary from the Seattle Weekly
It's ironic that he was angry about unemployment, but was too much of an idiot to understand how the economy works and how Republicans sent the nation over a cliff. He didn't understand that the Recession officially started in 2007 and the fiscal crisis and job losses started in the Fall of 2008, caused by the failed policies of his Republican President. Nor did he understand that employment is a lagging economic indicator and will take years to recover. And it appears that he was also clueless about the fact that Republicans (for weeks) were trying to block any unemployment benefits that he may or may not have been entitled to.
The irony is amazing. And it's not just with this nut. We see this ignorance flowing all throughout the Tea Party crowd.
Columnist Ted Rall recently made the following observation when describing the Tea Party... and he describes it perfectly:
So much anger. It’s too bad that the (justifiable) rage of the white male middle-class is directed against their fellow victims. It’s worse that they’re playing into the blood-soaked hands of their own oppressors.
Read Rall's full commentary