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WALNUT CREEK (CBS13/AP) — A California Highway Patrol officer is on life support and a suspect is dead after a Tuesday morning rush hour shootout on Interstate 680 near Walnut Creek, authorities said.
The shooting prompted the closure of the highway in both directions for hours as traffic came to a standstill. The incident occurred shortly before 8:30 a.m. after officer, identified Tuesday night as Kenyon Youngstrom, conducted a traffic stop, CHP and sheriff’s officials said.
“One of the officers contacted the driver. The driver then pulled out a gun and shot at that officer, severely injuring him,” said Sgt. Jimmy Lee of the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office.
Lee said at an afternoon news conference that it was not clear what prompted the traffic stop. The sheriff’s office is heading the investigation into the shooting.
Lee also confirmed a witness account that a second CHP officer fired at the suspect. The suspect was fatally wounded and pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
“The second officer did fire his weapon at the driver,” Lee said.
The suspect’s name has not been released. Youngstrom is a married father of four who works in the Contra Costa County area. He’s a seven-year veteran of the CHP and served in the military before that.
Authorities were alerted by a 911 call to Walnut Creek police from a motorist, saying an officer needed help, CHP Officer John Fransen said. A second CHP officer arrived and assisted his wounded colleague.
“As you can imagine, it’s very difficult for us and so we reach to each other,” CHP Sgt. Diana McDermott said. “I’ve known him for a short period of time. His family will be in our prayers and thoughts.”
His law enforcement family is hurting too.
“Just everyone reaching together, being strong for each other, and in times like this it’s very important to us,” she said.
One eyewitness, Gene Russell, told KRON-TV that he heard loud popping sounds while traveling in his car on southbound I-680. He looked under the vehicle next to him and saw an officer down.
Russell said he then saw a second officer shooting at the vehicle.
“I would say he emptied his gun,” Russell said. “The traffic continued to roll. My response was, ‘I’m in a soft-top car. I need to get as far away from there as possible.'”
Near sundown Tuesday night, some of the officer’s loved ones were escorted into the hospital.
Youngstrom has a large extended family in Southern California, some of whom were on their way to Walnut Creek to be at his side.
“They want to send out appreciation to all those of you who have expressed their concern for the family,” McDermott said.
The sheriff’s department remained tight-lipped about the investigation, declining to reveal the reason for the traffic stop that led to the rush-hour shootout.
“We do have dash-cam video we’re going to analyze to see what happened, but the first officer did make contact with the driver,” Lee said.
The shooting has rocked local law enforcement as they pray for their friend and colleague to pull through. The CHP commissioner paid a visit to the hospital where, Tuesday night, the officer was fighting for his life.
“I know him personally, and as I stated, he’s a fantastic individual,” McDermott said. “It’s a time that we reflect and remember when we get up to brush our teeth, we may not be coming home.”
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)