Police are trying to determine if a prominent San Francisco attorney was gunned down Thursday in El Cerrito in a random act of violence or whether he was targeted.
Officers responded to reports of shots fired at 8:53 p.m. in the 2600 block of Mira Vista Drive and found 62-year-old James Gilliland Jr. on his front porch suffering from gunshot wounds, according to police.
"We heard two shots and then three rapid ones, and something in my gut says, 'This is not fireworks,'" said Anne Schumacher, whose instincts were right.
The shots killed Gilliland.
Schumacher also described hearing "a lot of commotion and yelling and a dog howling for hours and hours."
Investigators determined Gilliland, whose clients include Apple, Oracle and Sony, had just returned home from a social event when he was confronted by a suspect or suspects who opened fire on him.
His wife "heard the shots as did others in the neighborhood," said Lt. Robert De La Campa. As of Friday night, Gilliland's family has asked for privacy.
Police say the crime is unusual for their department, and they have not yet released suspect information or a possible motive.
Gilliland was a partner at Atlanta-based law firm Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton LLP, which issued a statement about his death.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of our colleague, friend and partner, Jim Gilliland. Our most heartfelt condolences and sympathies go to Jim's family and all of his colleagues, friends and clients," Managing Partner Susan Spaeth said, adding that Gilliland's family was "the center of his life."
Gilliland tried cases in federal and state courts for 35 years and was managing partner, chairman and most recently chairman of the firm's litigation department.
Spaeth continued: "Jim was an absolute pillar of our law firm. He was our trusted colleague and close friend, as well as a mentor and role model to so many. Jim will be missed deeply."
Some neighbors told police they saw a white car leaving the area and possibly someone running away. Police are asking witnesses and neighbors to come forward with surveillance video from home cameras.
El Cerrito police are encouraging anyone who may have information about the case to call 510-215-4400, ext. 40 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.