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Witness Describes Surreal Scene On the Morning Commute

A passersby attempting to navigate I-680 Tuesday describes what happened when a traffic stop went horribly wrong.

Jeff Fippin of Walnut Creek dropped the kids off at Parkmead Elementary School Tuesday morning and hopped on Interstate 680 for his commute to San Ramon.

"Traffic was creeping along," Fippin said.

He came up a rise and noticed a CHP cruiser on the right side of the road, having pulled over a motorist. Then Fippin noticed a second CHP cruiser working its way over from the diamond lane on the left to the right shoulder, to pull over in the same area as the first CHP vehicle. Fippin noticed it was a Jeep.

"I was probably 150 yards or so back, bumper to bumper," said Fippin. "I heard the gunshots and I looked up."

That's when he saw the other CHP officer, from the cruiser that had pulled over the initial car (a Nissan Maxima, according to CHP reports). Fippin was struck by how fast the officer ran up a 10- to 15-foot embankment, Fippin said. At the top of the embankment, he fired — maybe four or five times, Fippin said: "I didn't see what exactly he was shooting for."

(The CHP officer who pulled over the Jeep Wrangler — a seven-year CHP veteran in critical condition Tuesday afternoon at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek — was shot by the Jeep driver from the driver's seat, Contra Costa Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The second CHP officer fired back and hit the driver in the driver's seat, Lee said. The Jeep driver died later in the day at John Muir Hospital.)

Everything happened very fast for Fippin after that. Commuters fought gridlock conditions to get away from the scene as nearly a dozen officers from jurisdictions in Lamorinda and elsewhere, clawed their way to the scene in response to the "officer down" call.

Suddenly Fippin realized there were no cars ahead of him and a semi truck stopped alongside. "I was wondering, 'what do you do here?'" said Fippin. "I saw a CHP officer run to assist the officer who was down (near the Jeep)."

Then a white tow truck came up behind with lights flashing, maybe honking his horn. "I drove past so the tow truck driver could get there," he said. Others had stopped to administer first aid, he thought, and he would let others with more knowledge take care of it, Fippin reasoned. He drove on south.

"I didn't really talk to anybody at work," Fippin said. "I didn't talk about it till lunchtime. All I did was witness a kind of surreal thing."

Nicholas September 05, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I'm sure it was scary to see but I think I would have pulled over and tried to help.
Daniel Archuleta September 05, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I think I would have tried to help to. I know situations get crazy but I do not think I could have just continued on down the road.
Andrew L. September 05, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I couldn't second guess someone in that situation, but what if he had stopped, ran to the downed officer to try to help, and then been mistaken for one of the bad guys and fired upon? I don't find that scenario implausible. If the second CHP officer, who would have been a trained responder and capable of calling in immediate emergency assistance, had not been on the scene already, it might have been a different matter.

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