Gun Violence

‘Horrible Tragedy’: At least 9 dead in mass shooting at San Jose rail yard

VTA: “This is just a horrible tragedy that has occurred”

The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear

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US PRESS GROUP

A gunman opened fire early Wednesday at the light rail yard where he worked in the California Bay Area, fatally shooting at least nine people in the latest spasm of mass gun violence to rock America. The suspected gunman—identified by multiple outlets as 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy — reportedly set his own home ablaze, then drove to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) rail yard and began shooting during a union meeting around 6:30 a.m. PT. Authorities confirmed the shooter died in the attack, with multiple reports saying he killed himself.

The suspect’s father, 88-year-old James Edward Cassidy, told The Daily Beast that he was shocked by the news, as his son “seemed completely himself” in the days before the incident.

“He didn’t talk about his job or politics. I just found out he was dead and his house on fire and all that a minute ago,” he said in an interview.

Late Monday morning, authorities were still investigating multiple scenes and clearing the rail yard after receiving “information” there were still explosive devices in the building, Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis told reporters on Wednesday. “We activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Health System told The Daily Beast said that at least two of the shooting victims were taken to the local hospital. One male victim was pronounced dead on arrival and another was listed in critical condition.

“This is just a horrible tragedy that has occurred,” VTA Chairman Glenn Hendricks said during a Wednesday press conference. “We’re so sorry this event happened...VTA is a family.”

VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress told The Daily Beast that the shooting occurred at the Guadalupe light rail maintenance yard, and resulted in “multiple casualties,” but that “the extent of the injuries is still being determined.” The Los Angeles Times reported the suspect died by suicide.

“All employees were evacuated. The sheriff’s office which is just down the street from the location is the reunification center for employees and family members who may be looking for them,” Childress added.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a tweet that “several” people were being treated for injuries, but that the facility had been evacuated and the shooter was “no longer a threat.”

Liccardo added to The New York Times that it appeared the suspect’s house was on fire Wednesday morning, “but that there was nobody inside.”

“There’s a strange connection here between arson and the shooting,” the mayor added.

Aerial footage of the shooting scene obtained by KGO showed a massive law enforcement presence and several ambulances near the rail yard. California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Wednesday that his office was in “contact with local law enforcement and monitoring this situation closely.”

The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear, but the mother of a VTA employee reportedly contacted KTVU to say her son called to say he was sheltering in the auditorium of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, and that the shooting occurred during a union meeting.

In the hours after the attack, at least 100 VTA workers and friends and family were seen walking through a concrete plaza into a low-slung Santa Clara County building in San Jose to a reunification center for victims.

One uniformed worker told The Mercury News, “The whole crew is gone, the whole shift is gone. It’s horrible.”

Also among the group was Keith Baldwin, a 58-year-old from Tracy, who was looking for his neighbor, Tim Romo.

Baldwin told The Daily Beast that Romo was still unaccounted for, so he went to the center to wait as his neighbor’s wife was still more than an hour’s drive away.

“I was just with him last night,” Baldwin told The Daily Beast. “He was going to go on vacation—just him and his wife were going to see his son on Sunday, and he was looking forward to doing that.”

Michael Hawkins, a San Jose resident, was also anxiously waiting at the reunification center. He told a group of reporters he arrived a few minutes after 10 a.m. to look for his wife, Rochelle, after he got a message from her that she was alive.

“I’m just here for my wife and hoping she’s OK and whoever else in there is okay,” he told reporters. “The message [she sent] said that she dropped her phone and she’s alright. She said she dropped her phone from running and she’s using a coworker’s phone.”

By late morning local time on Wednesday, police, firefighters, and paramedics were blockading the environs of the suspect’s San Jose home. The neighborhood was replete with single-family homes in light shades of tan, off-white, and pink, surrounded by fences and trees, including the occasional palm reaching high into the sky. Even with the fire crews and police, children rode their bicycles and scooters on adjacent streets.

Joy Lovett, 61, a former neighbor, was in shock upon hearing the news, describing Cassidy in an interview as “normal,” and recalling that he seemed to have a typical social life and frequently had friends around.

There was “nothing bizarre” about him, she told The Daily Beast. “He didn’t seem isolated.... He was a happy go-lucky-guy.”

The Bay Area mass shooting comes amid a spate of gun violence across the nation, including a “targeted attack” at a New Jersey birthday party last weekend that killed three people.

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