YOUNTVILLE (CBS SF) — It was supposed to be a festive gathering, but then a former patient walked in with a gun and the horror began.
One moment, Pathway Home residential counselor Haley Rekdahl was laughing with co-workers and veterans at a going way party inside the program’s offices at the Veterans Home in Yountville. The next moment is still all a blur as she was running for her life.
“We had just started the party when the gunman walked into the room that we were in,” she told KPIX 5.
Rekdahl said she recognized the gunman as a former patient. The California Highway Patrol has identified him as 36-year-old Albert Wong — a decorated Army veteran who had recently been kicked out of the Pathway program.
“He was just very calm and just kind of looked at all of us,” Rekdahl said.
As time passed, Wong began to letting people go one by one.
“So first he let the veterans go,” she said. “Then he said — ‘Staff needs to stay.’ So at that point there were seven of us, seven staff members and then he said our names by first name and said you can go.”
When Rekdahl heard her name she quickly left the room.
“I just ran out as fast as I could, and I thought that my life was saved,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.”
Four were allowed to escape, but three remained — the program’s executive director Christine Loeber and psychologists Dr. Jen Golick and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba.
Rekdahl said Wong’s choice of hostages was not random. When asked why she believes that, Rekdahl replied: “I don’t think I can disclose that information.”
A long standoff ensued. When CHP officers and other SWAT team members entered the room hours later, Wong had killed the three women before turning the gun onto himself.
Rekdahl was back at the Veteran’s Home Sunday, helping some of the program’s patients move their belongings out of the building where the Pathway Home is housed.
She was still wrestling with her emotions, saying she never thought such an act of violence could ever happen.