SAN JOSE, Calif. – A gunman opened fire at a Northern California light rail yard Wednesday, killing at least eight people in the latest shooting rampage to rock the nation in recent weeks.
Police spokesman Russell Davis said the gunman, an employee at the sprawling Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail hub, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and other employees were among the victims.
The victims were identified by the Santa Clara County coroner’s office Wednesday night, reported the Associated Press: Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.
One person was in critical condition at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, spokesperson Joy Alexiou told USA TODAY.
Davis did not say how long the gunman had worked at the hub, what kind of weapon he used or whether he had a firearm license. A motive was not immediately clear.
“This is still a fluid and ongoing incident,” Davis said. “We’re trying to figure out what exactly happened.”
Davis said several 911 calls came in around 6:30 a.m. local time, as officers were changing shifts. Officers responded to the VTA site, which stores trains and serves as a maintenance yard, and rendered first aid, he said. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is nearby.
“When the sheriffs were on scene, they were on scene quickly enough to still hear gunshots,” County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. “They did their best and got on campus as quickly as they could.”
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said officers found deceased victims in two buildings on the campus and that the suspect was still alive when the deputies arrived. “He took his life when we found him,” she said, adding that the deputies never exchanged fire with the suspect.
Smith said bomb dogs alerted officers to the presence of explosives on the scene, and a bomb squad was going from room to room with a robot to clear the buildings.
“There are many, many components that we’re continuing to discover,” Smith said.
The FBI, Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting on the scene. Craig Fair, the FBI special agent in charge, said the crime scene was “fairly sizable” and is “going to take a while to process.”
The VTA runs three light rail lines covering more than 40 miles and operates 70 bus lines in the region. Light rail services would be down for several days, VTA said Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials have not publicly named the suspect. Two law enforcement sources, however, identified the suspect to the Associated Press as Samuel Cassidy. Records suggest Cassidy, 57, had been licensed with the Bureau of Automotive Repair as a smog check repair technician since 2003. He previously worked for a car dealership in the city.
Authorities have not indicated if Cassidy was a legal gun owner or what type of firearm was used in the attack. His social media presence – if he had one – is not apparent, nor is his criminal record.
Around the time of the shooting, the San Jose Fire Department responded to a large structure fire at an address listed to Cassidy. Mayor Sam Liccardo told ABC-7 it appeared that the gunman set the fire on his way to the work site. The fire department could not immediately confirm any relationship between the incidents.
“This is a horrific day for our city and tragic day for the VTA family,” Liccardo said. “Our heart pains for the families and the co-workers.”
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Flags were at half-staff Wednesday afternoon, and local officials set up a fundraiser for victims and their families. A vigil was planned for 6 p.m. local time Thursday at city hall.
“These folks were heroes during COVID-19. The buses never stopped running. The VTA didn’t stop running. They just kept at work, and now we’re really calling on them to be heroes a second time – to survive such a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Chavez said.
Loved ones gathered at a family reunification center at the nearby county administration building, where counselors provided support, Liccardo said. Michael Hawkins of San Jose came to find his wife, Rochelle, a mechanic with the VTA, after getting a phone message from her.
“I’m just here for my wife. I’m hoping she’s OK and whoever else is in there is OK,” Hawkins said. “She dropped her phone from running. She’s all right. She was using a co-worker‘s phone.”
Angel Diaz of San Jose, California, came to check on his brother, Max Dominguez, after he and his sister received a call telling them to go to the family reunification center.
“I’m a little bit worried,” Diaz said in Spanish. He said there could be many reasons why he had yet to hear from his brother. “He drives a bus, so they don’t let them use the phone.”
Santa Clara County is the sixth-largest county in California. The shooting Wednesday marks its second mass shooting in less than two years. In 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, killing three people and wounding 17.
Gilroy native Koedy Bryant was in the Santa Clara area Wednesday morning, observing the scene with fellow construction workers who had planned on installing cameras on a VTA light rail project.
“Definitely hearing about the shooting this morning was a big shock,” Bryant said. “I’m from Gilroy, so I dealt with this for the Gilroy Garlic shooting. It’s kind of shocking to see around here honestly.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, visibly emotional, expressed frustration at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. He said he felt a “sameness” and “numbness” in the wake of yet another mass shooting.
“It begs the damn question: What the hell is going on in the United States of America?” Newsom said. “We rinse and repeat someplace else in this country.”
He called on Americans to “move beyond the platitudes and the usual rhetoric” that typically follow a mass shooting and to “not make this meaningless.”
“We are still awaiting many of the details of this latest mass shooting in San Jose, but there are some things we know for sure,” President Joe Biden said on Twitter Wednesday. “There are at least eight families who will never be whole again. Every life taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We must do more.”
There have been 15 mass killings in 2021, each with at least four victims killed, according to an Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University database. All cases were shootings and claimed a total 86 lives.
Three happened in Indianapolis, two in California, and two in Colorado, according to the database. Six have been in public locations, not involving ongoing criminal activity such as robbery or illegal drug trade.
San Jose’s shooting marked the worst workplace mass shooting since last month when a gunman fatally shot eight people and then shot himself at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.
“Today is about… sending love and support to everyone who came to work this morning intending on serving the public and ended up not going home,” Jean Cohen, executive officer of the South Bay labor council, said at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s unacceptable.”
According to data compiled by The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University, there have been 14 workplace shootings since 2006, before last month’s shooting in Indianapolis and the latest shooting in San Jose.
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“When you go to work, you should be able to go back safely,” Cohen said. “Right now, we’re going to be making sure that as a family, we’re taking care of each other.”
Bacon reported from Arlington, Virginia. Hauck reported from Edgartown, Massachusetts.
Contributing: Angelica Cabral, The Salinas Californian; Elinor Aspegren and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press