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On March 7, 2023, John Thomas Conway appeared in the Sierra Superior Court to plead guilty to charges filed by the Sierra County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office related to a mass shooting that occurred on July 3, 2020.
According to reports, Mr. Conway traveled to a remote area of Sierra County, known as Poker Flat, where he shot three individuals in a stolen side-by-side without any provocation. The attack left one victim dead, while the other two were severely injured. A juvenile managed to escape and spent the night in the wilderness before being found by law enforcement the next day.
The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene immediately after the report of the shootings and coordinated a massive law enforcement response to the area where the shooter was last seen. Several agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Grass Valley Police Department, and other counties, were involved in the operation. Helicopters from several agencies also assisted throughout the incident.
On July 4, 2020, Fish and Wildlife Wardens who were maintaining a checkpoint in the area of Saddleback Road and Eureka Mine Road came across Mr. Conway in the stolen side-by-side. Despite being commanded to stop, Mr. Conway swerved and attempted to injure the two wardens. A vehicle pursuit followed, with the Wardens following Mr. Conway down Saddleback Road, while another Warden traveled up Saddleback Road to intercept Mr. Conway before he reached Downieville.
The Warden coming up Saddleback made contact with Mr. Conway, and a collision occurred. Mr. Conway then attempted to flee on foot, but he was shot by the Warden. He was taken to Enloe for treatment of his injuries and has been in custody since then.
The Office of the Attorney General assisted the Sierra County District Attorney’s office in prosecuting this matter through a preliminary hearing, a motion to dismiss, and two competency trials. The outcome was Mr. Conway’s guilty plea to charges of second-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, and two counts of assault on the Fish and Wildlife Wardens.
Mr. Conway is currently being held at the Nevada County Jail in Nevada City and will be sentenced on May 16, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. in the Sierra Superior Court. This case has left a deep impact on the community and serves as a reminder of the need for stricter gun laws to prevent such senseless acts of violence.