Former Hollister Police Officer Chad Browning has been charged with four crimes in relation to an alleged Sept. 9 crime spree that started with vehicle theft in Fresno and ended with Gilroy Police shooting at him before he could drive onto a local football field full of children.
Browning, 42, of Fresno, was arraigned Sept. 12 at the Morgan Hill Courthouse, his first court appearance following his Sept. 9 arrest at Gilroy High School. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, vehicle theft, petty theft and possession of methamphetamine, according to South Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Vishal Bathija.
Browning’s next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21. He remains in custody at Santa Clara County Jail, according to authorities.
If convicted, Browning faces a maximum sentence of five years, eight months in state prison.
Browning is accused of stealing a vehicle in Fresno the morning of Sept. 9 and driving to Gilroy, where he stole a cell phone from a developmentally disabled resident before making his way to the athletic fields at Gilroy High School on West Tenth Street. Browning had used the stolen cell phone to call Gilroy police, and told dispatchers he wanted to fight with officers.
Local police were aware that Browning was a former police officer, and that he had attempted to acquire a firearm from a family member earlier that day, according to authorities. Browning has no direct ties to the Gilroy area.
While on the phone with police, the suspect made some mention of Pop Warner youth football games and other Sunday afternoon activities taking place at Gilroy High School at the time he called, authorities said.
Gilroy police officers immediately rushed to the campus, where up to 600 children, parents and spectators were gathered at the football stadium for the youth games, according to police. The officers located Browning, driving the Kia stolen out of Fresno, in a nearby fenced-in service area attempting to travel onto the football field.
After a number of parents and other adults at the scene tried to stop Browning, the suspect drove the stolen vehicle directly toward a Gilroy officer, according to police. The officer, with nowhere to retreat to safety within the enclosed service road, fired a single round from his service weapon at Browning’s vehicle.
The round struck the front of the car, causing it to lose control and stop, according to police. Officers then surrounded Browning and arrested him without further incident.
Gilroy Police Capt. Joseph Deras also noted that before Browning allegedly attempted to hit the police officer with the Kia, a parent who was attending the Pop Warner games entered the vehicle in an attempt to stop Browning from hurting anyone with the car. The parent was inside the vehicle when the officer fired his weapon, but was unharmed throughout the incident. The parent has not responded to attempts by the Dispatch to contact him for comment.
No injuries were reported to Browning, police officers or any bystanders in relation to the series of alleged crimes and the shooting, according to authorities.
Browning worked as a Hollister Police Officer from January 2002 to May 2007, according to Hollister Human Resources Analyst Diana Hillstock.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick did not return multiple phone calls.
In 2005, Browning accidentally struck a pedestrian with his patrol vehicle while on-duty in Hollister, according to Hollister Free Lance archives. The accident at the corner of South Street and Prospect left the 19-year-old female pedestrian with a broken leg. A preliminary report from the California Highway Patrol noted that Browning failed to yield to the pedestrian.
The alleged crimes of Sept. 9 were not Browning’s first offenses in recent weeks, according to authorities. On Sept. 7, Merced County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call on Highway 152 at Dinosaur Point, reporting a man making threats, according to Deputy Daryl Allen.
Two deputies responded to the location and found Browning standing in the center median of the highway, Allen said. The deputies went to contact Browning, who spit on and slapped on of the two law enforcement officials.
The deputies arrested Browning on suspicion of assault against a police officer and possession of cocaine, Allen said. The cocaine was allegedly found on Browning’s person when the officers arrested him.
Browning was booked at Merced County Jail Sept. 7 and released the following day, according to authorities.