The year had barely started when a major Bay Area freeway saw its first burst of gunfire, right at the onset of rush hour.
On the afternoon of Jan. 4, a bullet fired by a yet-unknown shooter hit Alameda County sheriff’s recruit David Nguyen as he drove his Toyota Prius west on Interstate 580 toward the Bay Bridge toll plaza. Nguyen apparently slumped over the wheel and crashed his car into a guardrail, becoming one of the latest victims of a surge in highway violence.
Over the past three years, shootings have more than tripled on the arterials that knit the region together — from 49 Bay Area freeway shootings in 2018, to 165 through October last year, according to the California Highway Patrol in response to a public records request from The Chronicle. Limited available records also show a spike in deaths — from two fatal freeway shootings for the whole Bay Area in 2018, to six gun deaths on Oakland freeways alone in 2021.
Among the lives claimed by these attacks were a toddler strapped in his car seat, teenagers packed onto a party bus and Amani Morris, a mother on her way to a job orientation. Their stories reflect the human toll of a trend that presents galling challenges for law enforcement.
“It just angers me so much,” said Alicia Benton, Morris’ mother. The two were FaceTiming minutes before gunfire killed Morris on I-80 near the Bay Bridge on the morning of Nov. 18.