A police spokesman confirmed multiple fatalities and multiple wounded. USA TODAY
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: 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.”
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.
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.
Raul Peralez, a San Jose City Council member, said on Facebook Wednesday night that one of the victims, Rudometkin, was a “long time great friend” he’s known since middle school.
“There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family,” he wrote on Facebook, commemorating the VTA worker. “Eight families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well.”
Another victim, Romo, was planning a vacation with his wife to visit their son, his neighbor Keith Baldwin told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I was hoping to see him walking through here,” Baldwin told the Chronicle.
Singh had worked as a light rail train driver for eight or nine years and had a wife, two small children and many family members, said his cousin, Bagga Singh, to the Associated Press.
“We heard that he chose the people to shoot, but I don’t know why they choose him because he has nothing to do with him,” Bagga Singh told AP. He said he was told that the gunman targeted certain people and let others go.
A vigil is planned for Thursday. Pictures posted to Twitter showed there were already flowers and memorials in front of San Jose City Hall Wednesday night.
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.
Santa Clara County is the sixth-largest county in California, and its county seat of San Jose is the most populous city in Northern California. 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.
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.
More on San Jose, California, shooting: Gov. Gavin Newsom asks, ‘What the hell is wrong with us?’
“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
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