The boy and his father, Dr. Ari Gershman, were allegedly ambushed while they were off-roading in northern California on July 3

By Christine Pelisek
July 08, 2020 05:00 PM
Ari Gershman and family
| Credit: GoFundMe

A 15-year-old boy survived more than 20 hours in the California wilderness after he ran off and hid from a gunman who allegedly killed his father.

The teen and his doctor father, Ari Gershman, were allegedly ambushed while they were off-roading near Downieville on July 3. The suspect allegedly opened fire on the boy, Jack, and his father, killing the 45-year-old father of three.

The teen escaped and spent more than 20 hours on his own in the Tahoe National Forest before he was found by wildlife officers.

“Although the juvenile had fled a considerable distance, the officers were able to track and locate him,” according to a Sierra County Sheriff's Office press release. “Even though the juvenile had fled the shooting and spent the night alone in the forest, he was in good physical condition and did not require medical attention. After giving him some food and water, officers transported him to the Sheriff's Office, where he was reunited with his mother.”

John Thomas Conway, 40, was identified as a suspect and was taken into custody the following day after an altercation with officers. It is unclear if charges have been filed.

John Conway
| Credit: Butte County Sheriff’s Office

The sheriff’s office said that, prior to Gershman’s shooting, two people were shot by someone believed to be the same suspect, driving a utility terrain vehicle in the Poker Flat area of northwestern Sierra County.

“Neither victim knew the shooter, and the act appeared to be a random act of violence,” the sheriff's press release states.

After the teen was found, the sheriff's office said they encountered Conway on his UTV at a checkpoint and attempted to stop him.

“The suspect failed to stop and tried to run over the two wildlife officers and then fled south,” according to the release. “A vehicle collision ultimately occurred as officers were attempting to take the suspect into custody. The suspect immediately represented a threat to the officers, leading to an officer-involved shooting and deployment of a K-9.”

He was later taken into custody and transported to a local hospital.

Gershman’s cousin Marlo Meyers-Barer told ABC7 that Ari, who had just bought a new Jeep, and his son were the victims of a random shooting spree.

"There was no confrontation with my cousin,” she said. “There was no trespassing, there was no 'anything'. It was completely random and senseless. They were in the Tahoe National Forest in Poker Flats. That's the first place he wanted to go with that Jeep."

Tahoe National Forest
| Credit: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty

She said her cousin was shot at a fork in the road and "was able to pull over and put that thing in park so Jack could run. Jack ran uphill for three miles in the forest."

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The teen was able to call 911 and his mother Paige before his phone went dead.

"Jack's phone went dead after he made these gut wrenching videos for Paige about what he saw and how he's so sorry," she said.

According to a GoFundMe, Ari was described as an “avid bicyclist, a vegetarian, an outdoorsman, an Internal Medicine Doctor, a devoted and loving father and fantastic friend that was willing to drop anything for his friends and family.”

“He was witty and wise.  He died doing what  he loved with his son in an area he had hoped to retire in one day.”