Deputies Watched Horror Unfolding at Toll Plaza

Police say armed, plainclothes deputies were about 300 feet away from scene

The Marin County Sheriff's Office is defending two of its deputies who were at the Richmond San Rafael Bridge toll plaza last week when a gunman shot and killed two people during the height of the evening commute.

Nathaniel Burris, of Richmond, is charged with two counts of murder for allegedly shooting his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Ross, and her friend, Chuck Everett, at the toll plaza on Aug. 11.

Richmond police revealed this week that two Marin County sheriff's deputies were near the scene when the shooting happened, but they didn't try to stop it or follow the vehicle Burris was driving when he fled the scene.

The deputies were 75-100 yards away from the incident, the Marin County Sheriff's Department said, and while they didn't try to stop the shooting from happening, they stopped traffic, radioed for help when they heard the gunshots and rushed to help one of the victims of the shooting.

Their quick actions were crucial to helping authorities identify Burris and eventually arrest him, the department said.

The two deputies were armed but wearing plainclothes and driving unmarked cars, the department said. They were on their way back from an unrelated investigation in San Pablo and when they got to the bridge, they saw a man "running through the toll plaza in heavy commute traffic," the Marin County Sheriff's Department said.

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle voiced strong support for the deputies, issuing the statement, "citing the chaotic environment and split-second decision-making that was required of them for an incident that took less than one minute from the time the deputies heard the shots being fired until the suspect fled the area."

Doyle applauded the actions of the two deputies, adding that there was fear in the moments after the shooting that another gunman could have been in the area.

Doyle expressed outrage over reports of a rift that the incident has caused between the Richmond Police Department and the Marin Sheriff Department.

"The controversy in this case has been driven by the media," Doyle said, "not by either the Sheriff’s Office or the Richmond Police Department."

Burris allegedly shot and killed Ersie "Chuck" Everett in the parking lot then jogged through traffic waiting at the toll plaza and opened fire on his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Ross.

Ross, who had worked for Caltrans for eight years, died from multiple shotgun wounds to her upper body and arms, a deputy coroner said.

Burris has also been charged with enhancements for the use of a shotgun in the two murders and the special circumstances of committing multiple murders and lying in wait, charges that make him eligible for the death penalty.

He pretty much made the case for prosecutors on Friday during his plea hearing when he said,  "I did it. I'm guilty." But the judge refused to accept Burris' guilty plea.

A visitation and viewing will be held today for Ross. Mourners are invited to leave flowers in her memory at Guerrero Mortuary Chapel in San Leandro.

Funeral services for both Ross and Everett are scheduled for Friday.

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