SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – An employee opened fire on a California rail yard on Wednesday, killing eight people before committing suicide as law enforcement rushed, authorities said, marking the latest attack in a year that has seen a surge in mass killings as the nation emerges from coronavirus restrictions.
Filming took place around 6:30 a.m. in two buildings of a streetcar facility for the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides buses, streetcars and other transit services in Santa Clara County, County Le most populous in the San Francisco Bay Area.
âWhen our deputies walked through the door, at first, he was still firing shots. When our deputy saw him, he committed suicide â. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters. Deputies âWalked through the halls saying, ‘Sheriff’s office! He knew then that his time for shooting was over.
The victims, many of whom were longtime transit agency employees, were identified by the Santa Clara County coroner’s office on Wednesday evening as 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.
Their jobs included bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and an assistant superintendent. One had worked for the transport company since 1999.
Singh had worked as a light rail driver for eight or nine years and had a wife, two young children and many family members, his cousin Bagga Singh said.
“We heard that he chose people to shoot, but I don’t know why they chose him because he has nothing to do with him.” he said.
San Jose city councilor Raul Peralez said Rudometkin was a close friend. “There are no words to describe the grief we are feeling right now, especially for her family,” he wrote on Facebook. “Eight families are feeling the same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is in mourning as well.”
The attacker was identified as Sam Cassidy, 57, according to two law enforcement officials. Investigators gave no 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, âBut I never believed it, and it never happened. So far. “
Nelms, with tears in her eyes and shaken by the news, said her ex-husband would come home coiled up and angry with things going on at work. While he was talking about it, “He would get crazier,” she said. “He could dwell on things.”
When Cassidy lost her temper, Nelms said there were times when 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 had not been in touch for 13 years. She said he was treated for depression.
Deputy Sheriff Russell Davis spokesman said he was unaware of the type of weapon used in the attack. Bomb crews searched the railway complex after receiving reports of 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 is not clear the meeting was linked to the attack.
When she heard gunshots, transport company mechanic Rochelle Hawkins said she dropped her phone.
âI was running so fast. I just ran for my life â she said. âI hope everyone would just pray for the VTA family. Just pray for us.
Other friends and family were awaiting news after being unable to reach loved ones through calls or text messages. Some had traced the missing person’s cell phone to the marshalling yard but had no information from the authorities.
Officials were also investigating a house fire that broke out shortly before the shooting, Davis said. Public records show Cassidy owned the two-story house to which firefighters responded after being warned by a passer-by. The police cordoned off the area near the house and entered and exited on Wednesday.
Doug Suh, who lives across the street, told the Mercury News in San Jose that Cassidy seemed “strange” and that he has never seen anyone visit.
“I would say hello, and he would just look at me without saying anything,” Said Suh. Cassidy once yelled at him to stay away as he backed up his car. âAfter that, I never spoke to him again.
Cassidy had worked for Valley Transportation Authority since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pensions database Transparent California, first as a mechanic from 2012 to 2014, then as a substation maintenance manager.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking with emotion outside a county office where flags were flown among half the staff, said relatives of the victims were “Waiting for news from the coroner, waiting for news from one of us, desperately desperate to know if their brother, their son, their father, their mother are still alive.”
Another man injured in the attack was in critical condition at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said.
The bloodshed comes amid an increase in massacres after the pandemic closed many public places and kept people confined to their homes last year.
A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks all massacres for the past 15 years shows that the attack on San Jose is the 15th massacre so far in 2021, all shootings.
Eighty-six people have died in the shootings, up from 106 for all of 2020. This is the sixth massacre in a public place in 2021. The database defines mass killings as four or more people dead , not counting the shooter, which means that the overall toll of gun violence is much higher if smaller incidents are added.
At the White House, President Joe Biden ordered half-staff flags and urged Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence.
âEvery life taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more, “ Biden said in a statement.
San Jose, the 10th largest city in the United States with over a million people, is about 50 miles south of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The trains were already running in the morning at the time of the shooting. The tram 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 himself at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy in July 2019.
The Gilroy attack was on Mayor Liccardo’s mind on Wednesday as text messages poured in, reporting the shooting and fires.
“Not yet,” he thought as he jumped into his car and ran to the town hall. Transportation officials told him they knew Cassidy.
“You are trying to figure out what could cause someone to do so much harm,” Liccardo said over the phone. “It’s unfathomable.”