DOWNIEVILLE (CBS13) — Over the weekend, a Bay Area doctor was shot to death while off-roading with his teenage son in the Sierra. Deputies said that doctor, Ari Gershman, was one of three people shot in the same area by a suspect with no clear motive.
Family said Gershman and his 15-year-old son Jack had planned a Fourth of July getaway for just the two of them. The plan was off-roading in a brand-new Jeep near Downieville.
“Ari was a big outdoors guy, he loved being outdoors,” said Marlo Meyers-Barer, Gershman’s cousin.
On July 3, their adventure took a turn they could never prepare for. While driving down a dirt road, Meyers-Barer said Ari asked a man for directions and was answered with bullets. Deputies said that man, identified as 40-year-old John Conway, had already shot two other people at random.
“The guy literally pulls out a gun and starts shooting at the Jeep. Ari put it in drive and gunned it out of there,” Meyers-Barer said.
But he was hit and killed. His son Jack started running for his life. Jack had one percent battery left on his phone, in a place with hardly any signal. So, he started sending texts to his mom with final goodbyes.
“I need you to be ok, I love you. Tell Maci and Evan I love them,” Meyers-Barer said.
Meyers-Barer said Jack survived the wilderness for more than 30 hours. He was wearing shorts and had been drinking from a stream. A K-9 unit tracked and found him on the Fourth of July.
“OES came in and set up satellites and worked with AT&T, who was Jack’s cellphone provider. And they were able to ping his phone even though it had no battery because he never turned it off,” Meyers-Barer said.
Two of Downieville’s volunteer dispatchers answered calls about this tragedy in horror.
“We were all worried about him, really worried. You don’t like a kid to stay out overnight if you’re not used to the elements,” said Joyce White, who ran dispatch on the evening of Fourth of July.
Not long after Jack was found on July 4, crews got a lead on the suspect. Deputies said he was fleeing in a side-by-side off-highway vehicle, but they were able to catch him on Saddleback Road north of Highway 49, after he threatened officers and tried to run them over.
His holiday weekend rampage now leaves a wife and children without a husband and father.
“He lived for his family. He married the love of his life, his best friend,” Meyers-Barer said about her cousin, Ari Gershman.