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Dad killed while asking for directions in California, son says

A file photo of an empty road.
A file photo of an empty road. Getty Images

A San Francisco Bay Area doctor who was on an off-roading trip with his 15-year-old son was shot and killed after he stopped to ask a man for directions, his son and other relatives said.

Dr. Ari Gershman of Danville was shot on the Fourth of July near Downieville in rural Sierra County. Gershman and his son, Jack, had never been to the remote Tahoe National Forest and pulled over at a fork when a man came up behind their Jeep on an ATV.

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“My dad suggested that we ask him for directions,” Jack Gershman told CBS News Thursday. “The shooter pulls out a pistol and starts shooting.”

The teenager said he ran from the car into the surrounding woods and got lost. When he was finally able to call his mom, Paige Gershman, he barely had reception and his phone was running out of power.

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“I said, `Where’s Dad?’ And he’s like, `He’s been shot.’ And I said, `What do you — what do you even mean?”’ Paige Gershman told CBS News.

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Ari Gershman, 45, died at the scene and his son spent 30 hours alone and lost in the dense woods, drinking from a stream, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt. He was covered in bug bites and scratches when he was rescued, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

John Thomas Conway was arrested following a police chase on his ATV.

Ari Gershman, a doctor of internal medicine, bought the Jeep a day before the shooting to share his love of the outdoors with his two sons and daughter. He had hoped to retire in the Downieville area, according to a GoFundMe fundraising account.

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It had already been a difficult year for the Gershman family. Paige Gershman, a speech and language therapist for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma six weeks ago, said a cousin, Marlo Meyers-Barer.

Police said they captured Conway, 40, of Oroville after he tried to run through a checkpoint on an ATV. The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office said Conway posed an unspecified threat, and at least one officer fired a weapon and a police dog was released.

Conway was taken to a hospital in Chico where he is recovering from a gunshot wound, the Chronicle reported. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Conway had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf. Messages left with the Sierra County district attorney’s office weren’t immediately returned.

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Moments before the shooting of Ari Gershman, Conway also shot and injured two other people nearby who survived, the office said.

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Last year, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office listed Conway as one of its most wanted fugitives as he had outstanding felony warrants for vandalism, battery and two counts of making terrorist threats. A judge held a mental competency hearing and the case was allowed to continue, according to court records.