Gunman kills 8 at San Jose, California light rail maintenance yard

SAN JOSE, Calif. — An employee opened fire Wednesday at a California rail yard, killing eight people before killing himself as law enforcement rushed in, authorities said, marking the latest attack in a year that saw a sharp increase in massacres. as the nation emerges from coronavirus restrictions.

The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. at two buildings that are part of a light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the most populous county in the San Francisco Bay Area. Region. The San Jose facility includes a transit control center, train parking and maintenance yard.

“When our deputies came through the door, at first, he was still shooting. When our deputy saw him, he killed himself,” Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters. Deputies “were roaming the halls saying, ‘Sheriff’s office!’ He knew then that his time for firing shots was over.

The victims were identified by the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office Wednesday evening: Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35 years old; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.

A man injured in the attack was in critical condition at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said.

The attacker has been identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, according to two law enforcement officials. Investigators offered no immediate word on a possible motive.

His ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, told The Associated Press that Cassidy had a bad temper and would tell her he wanted to kill people at work, ‘but I never believed him, and it never happened. product. Until now.”

Nelms, teary-eyed and shaken by the news, said her ex-husband would come home hurt and angry about what happened at work. As he talked about it, “he just got crazier and crazier,” she said. “He could dwell on things.”

When Cassidy lost her temper, Nelms said there were times she was scared. He was someone who could physically hurt others, she said.

Nelms said they had been married for 10 years — Cassidy filed for divorce in 2005 — and hadn’t been in contact for 13 years. She said he had been treated for depression.

The sheriff’s spokesman, Deputy Russell Davis, said he did not know the type of weapon used in the attack. Deminers searched the railway complex after receiving information about possible explosive devices, he said.

Members of a union representing Valley Transportation Authority workers were meeting when the shooting began, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, but it’s unclear whether it was related to the attack.

When she heard gunshots, transport authority mechanic Rochelle Hawkins said she dropped her phone.

“I was running so fast. I just ran for my life,” she said. “I hope everyone will pray for the VTA family. Just pray for us.

Authorities have not identified the victims, including public transport workers. Grieving families have come together after learning they lost a loved one, District Attorney Jeff Rosen told reporters.

“They’re just sitting and holding hands and crying,” Rosen said. “It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s raw. People are learning that they’ve lost their husband, their son, their brother.

One of the victims was Michael Rudometkin, a longtime VTA employee and close friend of San Jose Councilman Raul Peralez, who announced his death on Facebook.

“My family and I have lost a great, longtime friend and there are no words to describe the grief we feel at this time, especially for his family,” Peralez wrote. “Eight families feel that same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is grieving as well.”

Other friends and family members were awaiting news after being unable to reach loved ones by calls or texts. Some had tracked the missing person’s cell phone to the rail yard but had no information from authorities.

“It’s that terrible, dark moment for them, of not knowing but at the same time fearing the worst,” Liccardo said. “I can’t imagine a more terrible feeling for a spouse or parent.”

Officials were also investigating a house fire that broke out shortly before the shooting, Davis said. Public records show Cassidy owned a two-story home where firefighters responded. Firefighters found a rapidly moving fire after being alerted by a passerby. A nearby house also caught fire, authorities said.

Doug Suh, who lives across from Cassidy, told The Mercury News in San Jose that Cassidy was “lonely” and “strange” and had never seen anyone visit him.

“I was saying hello, and he just stared at me without saying anything,” Suh ​​said. Once, Cassidy yelled at him to stay away as he backed up his car. “After that, I never spoke to him again.”

Cassidy had worked for the Valley Transportation Authority since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pension database known as Transparent California. His position from 2012 to 2014 was listed as Mechanic. After that, he maintained substations, records show.

Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking emotionally outside a county office where flags were flying at half mast, said relatives of the victims were “waiting to hear from the coroner, waiting to hear from one of us, desperate to know if their brother, their son, their father, their mother is still alive.

The Sikh Coalition tweeted that it understood “there are a lot of Sikhs employed at this facility”. The New York-based advocacy group said “the community is in our prayers and in our hearts as we work to learn more.” It comes after four Sikhs were among eight people killed in an April shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis.

The bloodshed comes amid an increase in killings after the pandemic shuttered many public places and confined people to their homes last year.

A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks all mass killings over the past 15 years shows the San Jose attack to be the 15th mass killing to date in 2021, all shootings.

Eighty-six people died in the shooting, compared to 106 for all of 2020. It was the sixth mass killing in a public place in 2021. The database defines mass killings as four or more people dead, without count the shooter, which means the overall gun violence toll is much higher when smaller incidents are added.

At the White House, President Joe Biden ordered flags flown at half-mast and urged Congress to act on legislation to address gun violence.

“Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. More can and must be done,” Biden said in a statement.

San Jose, the 10th largest city in the United States with over one million people, is about 80 kilometers south of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The trains were already running in the morning when the shooting happened. Light rail service has been suspended and replaced with bus bridges, agency president Glenn Hendricks told reporters.

Wednesday’s attack was the second mass shooting in Santa Clara County in less than two years. A gunman killed three people and then killed himself at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy in July 2019.

Gilroy’s attack was on Mayor Liccardo’s mind on Wednesday as text messages poured in reporting the shooting and fire.

“Not yet,” he thought as he jumped into his car and ran towards City Hall. Transit authority employees told him they knew Cassidy.

“You’re trying to figure out what would cause someone to do so much harm,” Liccardo said by phone. “It’s unfathomable.”

Jose P. Rogers