Cousin says Danville dad killed by gunman had heart of gold
DANVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) - A family in Danville is coping with confusion, relief, and heartbreak all at once.
"The whole thing is unreal. We all feel like we're in the middle of watching a horrible movie," said Marlo Meyer-Berer, a cousin of Dr. Ari Gershman who was shot and killed last Friday.
Gershman ran clinical trials to get medications ready to go to market. But his cousin said his real loves were his family and the outdoors.
"Heart of gold. Never killed a spider. He was that type," said Berer.
Last Friday he took his 15-year-old son Jack and his new Jeep for a day of off-roading in Sierra County. They were planning on coming home that night. They were in Downieville where they pulled over to get their bearings.
"They heard an ATV come up behind them and they were going to ask for directions. He turned around to ask the guy for directions and he opened fire on the Jeep," she said.
Berer said no words were exchanged between the two.
"Ari stepped on the gas to get out of there. He was hit, grabbed his chest. He was able to pull to the side and put the Jeep in park so jack could get out and run. Then ari fell out of the Jeep and that's where they found him," she said.
Jack ran and hid for 30 hours in the brush, waiting for rescuers, not knowing whether he would confront the gunman, who it appears shot two other people before confronting Gershman. Those two survived.
"He was hiding in the bushes and he hears helicopters and says 'What do I do? If I go out in the open I could get shot,'" Berer said.
Jack wasn't sure he would survive. He used what little cell phone battery he had to send heartbreaking videos to his mother fighting cancer.
"They're gut-wrenching videos like I'm really sorry, I don't think I will see you again. I wish I was a better son, which is crazy. He's such a good guy," said Berer.
Finally, rescuers found Jack the next day covered with bug bites but are otherwise okay.
A short time later, sheriff's deputies arrested a suspect in the shootings.
"It was a completely random senseless act. I'm glad they found the guy," she said.
In a press release late Tuesday, Sierra County Sheriff's Department identified the suspect as John Thomas Conway, 40, Oroville.
"The suspect was taken into custody, and after receiving medical treatment at the scene, he was transported to the hospital," the sheriff's department said.
The sheriff's department is working with the Sierra County District Attorney and anticipate charges to be announced soon.
Friends have set up a Gofundme page for the Gershmans to help with the family's medical bills.