Wednesday Aug 12 2009
Gold Run CHP arrest Bay Area toll-plaza double-slaying suspect
Nathaniel Burris held in Auburn county jail
Two Gold Run California Highway Patrol officers had little doubt early Wednesday morning that they had discovered the suspect in the shotgun slaying hours before of two people at a Bay Area toll plaza. But they took no chances with the van parked in a turnout area at the side of Interstate 80 near Baxter and were able to make an arrest without incident after a short chase on the freeway. Nathaniel Burris, 46, was taken into custody at 3:15 a.m. following a pursuit with speeds that never went higher than 80 mph. A Gold Run CHP spokesman said Burris surrendered with no struggle – stopping the van partly in the slow lane of westbound I-80 near Baxter and getting out with his hands in the air. Officers Patrick Henley and Lowell Monday, both with more than 20 years of Highway Patrol experience, made the arrest after an overnight manhunt that drew national media attention. Burris is suspected of gunning down his girlfriend and another person at the entrance to a busy San Francisco Bay toll bridge, police said Wednesday. The arrest took place 37 miles northeast of Auburn and 120 miles northeast of the shooting at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza. Burris was sleeping in an airport shuttle van, but drove off after the CHP officers approached and spotlighted the vehicle. After surrendering, Burris was booked into Placer County Jail in Auburn on two counts of murder. He's suspected of being the driver who opened fire with a shotgun around 6 p.m. Tuesday, killing his girlfriend, Deborah Ross, who was a 51-year-old California Department of Transportation toll booth collector, and 58-year-old Ersie Charles Everett, who was sitting in his truck in the toll plaza parking lot. No weapon was found in a search of the van, said Gold Run CHP spokesman Mike Pugh. Henley and Lowell had spent more than an hour on a sweep of rest stops, offramps, onramps and other parking areas before spotting the white Marin Shuttle Service van. Pugh said an alert went out at 1:30 a.m. on the van and one 911 caller reported it had been seen traveling eastbound on Interstate 80 in the Auburn area around 10 p.m. A second report from a worker on the Caltrans freeway road rehabilitation project also placed the van on the freeway later that night. Pugh said the two officers asked for backup from officers on detail at Caltrans work sites along I-80 or the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. Henley and Lowell then followed the vehicle as it turned around at the Eagle Lakes overpass and started traveling west. “No emergency lights were used and speeds never went over 80 mph,” Pugh said. “They were trying to get more people there.” Henley transported Burris to the Placer County Jail in Auburn and the Richmond Police Department was contacted to take the suspect back to the Bay Area. The Associated Press reported Ross and Burris shared a house in Richmond, and neighbors said the two had been having financial problems. Everett also was a state transportation employee and had driven Ross to work Tuesday, authorities said. Richmond police said they're looking into the relationship between the victims. Witnesses said a man used the butt of a shotgun to shatter the window of the No. 3 toll booth, then fired at least three times before fleeing in the van. Officers found Ross's body inside the booth. Patrol Sgt. Trent Cross described the scene as ``horrific.'' The bridge over the northern portion of San Francisco Bay connects well-to-do Marin County with Richmond and other East Bay suburbs. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this story.