It may sound like a headline from 1850, but it’s indeed a headline today in 2020. The suspect in the July 3 murder of Danville doctor Ari Gershman was just charged with murder, attempted murder, and burglarizing a gold mine.
A quick search of the Downieville area in Sierra County where Gershman’s murder took place will lead quickly to maps and images of this part of California Gold Country where some major “mother lodes” of gold were mined back in the mid-1800s, near the ghost town of Poker Flat. There’s even an ad currently online listing the Telegraph Mine for sale for $30 million that suggests there is still “$120M in probable placer gold in the main channel alone” on this property, with more to be found in other veins that have been mapped going back over 100 years.
The area is also a popular off-roading spot for dirt bikes, ATVs, and other vehicles, and Gershman was engaging in this pastime in a newly purchased Jeep with his teenage son when the shooting took place two Fridays ago.
Oroville area resident John Thomas Conway, 40, was identified last week as the sole suspect in the shooting. And as KPIX reports, he was formally charged on Monday in Sierra County, where the shooting took place, and the charging details provide a clue as to why Conway may have been in the area in the first place, just over two months after getting out of jail for stealing someone’s ATV.
He’s accused of burglarizing the Telegraph Mine, according to a statement from Sierra County District Attorney Sandra Groven, in addition to the murder and attempted murder, unlawful discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
It is not clear what he may have stolen out of the gold mine.
According to Gershman’s son, who escaped the scene and hid in the woods for 30 hours before authorities located him, his dad had stopped at a fork in the road and decided to ask directions as the suspect approached from behind. The suspect then opened fire on their vehicle, shooting Gershman through the driver’s seat and mortally wounding him.
Earlier comments from local authorities have suggested that Conway suffers from methamphetamine addiction, and that he may also have mental health issues. Prior to the shooting that killed Gershman, Conway is accused of assaulting two fish and wildlife wardens, and earlier reports suggested he had shot and injured them as well.
Conway was arrested on July 4 after allegedly ramming through a police checkpoint at high-speed on a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) and attempting to run over two officers. He was ultimately apprehended after an exchange of fire and the deployment of a K-9, and he was briefly hospitalized with a gunshot wound.
Previously: Suspect Arrested In Sierra County Killing Of Danville Doctor Was Wanted On Two Felony Warrants