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December 3, 2023

Ex-Hollister cop arrested two days before Gilroy incident on field

The former Hollister police officer arrested Sunday on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle onto a sports field in Gilroy had been arrested and released in Merced County just two days earlier while accused of battery on a police officer and cocaine possession, a Merced County sheriff’s spokesman confirmed.

Chad C. Browning, age 42, is the suspect accused of driving a car onto a field at Gilroy High School where Hollister Pop Warner players and cheerleaders were among participants and about 1,000 people had been in attendance. Gilroy police recommended charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, possession of methamphetamine and auto theft.

Browning is a former Hollister police officer who worked for the agency until about 2006 or 2007, Hollister Police Chief David Westrick confirmed today. Westrick did not know when he started but confirmed Browning was at the agency when the chief arrived in 2003.

Gilroy police allege Browning drove on an unattended field Sunday afternoon in the direct vicinity of the high school football complex and that an officer fired a shot at the car to cause him to lose control before his arrest. Browning apparently intended to drive onto the field where football teams were playing, but alert Pop Warner organizers shut the gate before he could enter. A parent also jumped into Browning’s stolen vehicle in an attempt to stop him.

It turns out Browning had been arrested Friday in the Santa Nella area at Highway 152 and Dinosaur Point. Merced County Sheriff’s Officers responded to a report of threats against a resident and ended up arresting him on suspicion of battery — accusing him of slapping and spitting on an officer — and possession of cocaine, Allen confirmed.

“Deputies contacted him. It looked like they were going to give him a ride to a safer location,” said Merced County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Daryl Allen. “He kind of freaked out and spit at the deputy, and also slapped the deputy. He also wanted to fight the deputy.”

But Browning was booked and released that same day, according to Merced County Jail personnel. Merced County Jail information listed Browning at 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds.

Browning’s current address is in the Fresno area, and he has had legal troubles in that county as well, a Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman confirmed.

Browning has been booked at the Fresno County Jail four times dating between 1996 and November 2016, although Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Tony Botti said records didn’t indicate specific charges.

“Our agency hasn’t had any personal dealings with him,” Botti said. “We haven’t arrested him for anything. I do see that he’s been entered into our system before.”

Fresno County court records do indicate he was cited for unsafe speed for conditions in 2017 and not having a valid driver’s license in 2014. He was arrested for possessing a concealed weapon in 2013 and suspected trespassing in 2013. The trespassing case was dismissed, while he received three years of probation for the misdemeanor weapons charge.

Mug shot courtesy of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office

For a previous story detailing the Gilroy High incident, go here.