A police spokesman confirmed multiple fatalities and multiple wounded. USA TODAY
SAN JOSE, Calif. – A Northern California rail yard worker who gunned down nine other employees before taking his own life appeared to target his victims and fired more than 39 shots, the Santa Clara County sheriff said Thursday.
The gunman, whose ex-wife says struggled with anger issues, told at least one person: “I’m not going to shoot you,” Sheriff Laurie Smith said. “And then he shot other people. So I imagine there was some kind of thought on who he wanted to shoot.”
Authorities say the suspect, identified as Samuel J. Cassidy, 57, opened fire at about 6:30 a.m. local time Wednesday in two buildings at the sprawling Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail hub. VTA provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the most populated county in the Bay Area.
“When our deputies went through the door, initially he was still firing rounds,” Smith said. “When our deputy saw him, he took his life.”
U.S. Customs officers detained Cassidy in 2016 and found he professed a hatred of his workplace, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Cassidy possessed “books about terrorism and fear and manifestos … as well as a black memo book filled with lots of notes about how he hates the VTA,” when Customs and Border Protection detained him after a trip to the Philippines, according to the memo reported by the Journal.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately confirm the memo to USA TODAY.
Timeline of events: Officers rushed into San Jose rail yard as gunshots were still ringing out
He tried to warn his co-workers, then he was shot: Loved ones mourn victims of shooting at San Jose rail yard
The victims were mostly front-line workers: bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and an assistant superintendent.
Eight victims were initially identified by the Santa Clara County coroner’s office: 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.
A ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, 49, was taken to a local hospital before he died Wednesday evening.
Cassidy was a long-time rail company worker. Payroll records obtained by ABC-7 News indicate he earned $160,000 in base, overtime and other pay as a VTA “substation maintainer.”
Investigators are trying to determine whether he was involved in a fire at his home and another nearby blaze. Cassidy was seen on a neighbor’s security camera footage leaving his home at 5:39 a.m. with a duffel bag, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
About an hour later, the San Jose Fire Department received a call about a blaze at a lumber business about 5 miles away from the rail yard. Then the first 911 calls reporting the shooting at the light rail yard came in, followed minutes later by a call of a fire at Cassidy’s home.
Smith said Cassidy appeared to have set a timer or slow-burn device to set his home on fire.
A woman who dated Cassidy filed a restraining order against him in 2009, accusing him of rape and sexual assault. The filing, obtained by The Mercury News, also includes accusations that Cassidy had severe mood swings and suffered from alcohol abuse.
His ex-wife says he had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago. “I never believed him, and it never happened,” Cecilia Nelms said. “Until now.”
Nelms was married to Cassidy for about 10 years before they filed for divorce in 2005. She told The Mercury News he often was angry at co-workers and about his assignments at work. She said, however, that she had not spoken with him in more than a decade.
Authorities have not said whether Cassidy was a legal gun owner. Smith, the sheriff, told CNN and NBC that Cassidy was armed with two semiautomatic weapons and 11 magazines. She told the outlets a locker at the rail yard believed to be the gunman’s contained “materials for bombs, detonator cords, the precursors to an explosive.”
Cassidy’s social media presence, if he had one, was not readily apparent, nor is a criminal record.
‘What the hell is wrong with us?: After San Jose shooting, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asks
California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with some family members of the victims and spoke at a news conference Wednesday, expressing frustration with the ongoing cycle of mass shootings in the U.S. He praised the efforts of law enforcement at the scene but asked: “What the hell is wrong with us, and when are we going to come to grips with this?”
Later Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he was “yet again” ordering flags be flown at half staff to mark another mass shooting tragedy and made a plea for gun control legislation.
“I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America,” he said.
The U.S. has historically reported a gun homicide rate about 25 times higher than that of other wealthy nations. In 2021 alone, there have been 15 mass killings, 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 87 lives.
The shooting Wednesday marks Santa Clara County’s 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.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va.; Hauck from Chicago. Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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