SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — An employee carrying multiple guns opened fire in a mass shooting at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail facility in San Jose Wednesday morning, killing nine victims and injuring several other workers.
- HOW TO HELP THE VICTIMS: Where to donate to help the families of VTA shooting victims
The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office released the names of the eight slain workers Wednesday night. They were:
- Paul Delacruz Megia, age 42
- Taptejdeep Singh, age 42
- Adrian Balleza, age 29
- Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, age 35
- Timothy Michael Romo, age 49
- Michael Joseph Rudometkin, age 40
- Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, age 63
- Lars Kepler Lane, age 63
Late Wednesday night, the coroner’s office identified a ninth victim, 49-year-old Alex Ward Fitch. Officials said Fitch died after being transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in critical condition.
- SPECIAL SECTION: San Jose VTA Shooting
Additional details were being learned about the victims as family, friends and coworkers memorialized those who were lost in the senseless tragedy.
Authorities identified the attacker as 57-year-old VTA employee and San Jose resident Samuel Cassidy, who also died at the scene at the Guadalupe rail yard at W. Younger Avenue.
The shooting began early Wednesday morning at about 6:30 a.m., according to authorities. The incident took place in two buildings at the VTA facility.
Police officers and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies responded in force after receiving multiple 911 calls of an active shooter at the light rail yard. The location is next door to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and a block from the San Jose Civic Center and county offices.
Authorities said about 75-80 people were at the facility when the shooting started, right around when the shift change for VTA workers is scheduled.
At an afternoon press conference, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen refused to utter Cassidy’s name.
“I’m not going to confirm that,” he responded when reporters asked him to confirm the gunman’s name. “I feel like I’ve seen it so many places that you have confirmed it. Part of why just confirm it is I, I don’t want to bring more publicity to the person who did this by saying the person’s name. Because I don’t want to give more recognition to someone like this.”
He said when asked about the murder weapons — “There were multiple guns, but not a ghost gun.”
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis said during an afternoon press conference it’s believed Cassidy took his own life as officers closed in.
“I can confirm with you that deputies did not exchange gunfire and right now we’re going to preliminarily go with the assumption that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound from the suspect,” said Davis.
There was no immediate word on a possible motive.
The investigation was complicated after a bomb-sniffing dog detected possible explosives at the site. Authorities have spent the entire day combing through the VTA facility in order to ensure that no explosive devices are on the premises.
“We have received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building,” Davis said. “That being said, we activated our bomb squad which is currently out on scene. Pretty much we’re trying to clear out every room and every crevice of that building to ensure public safety.”
VTA shut down rail service at noon as the search by the bomb squad continued. Officials did not know when public transit service would be restored.
“These folks were heroes during COVID-19. The buses never stopped running, 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,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
Cassidy was listed as the owner of a home 13 miles away which caught fire around the same time as the shooting. After the fire was extinguished, police vehicles and a bomb squad were seen gathered at the home on the 1100 block of Angmar Ct. in the Ramblewood neighborhood of South San Jose.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also spoke at the 1:30 p.m. update provided to the media, praising the law enforcement officers who responded to the scene.
“You’re going to learn over the next number of days and weeks about the heroism of the San Jose police who saved lives; the deputy sheriffs who quite literally ran moments after, seconds after hearing about this incident, without any consideration for their own lives, and did an extraordinary job to save other peoples lives,” said Newsom.
The governor also talked about the difficulty in dealing with yet another mass shooting.
“There’s a numbness I imagine some of us are feeling about this. Because there’s a sameness to this; Anywhere U.S.A. This feels like this happens over and over and over again. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat,” Newsom said. “It wasn’t that long ago I was standing out here talking about the tragic loss of two children, one in a mother’s arms at the Gilroy Festival, here in this community.”
He mentioned other mass shooting incidents in San Bernardino and Santa Barbara as he continued: “Pick a state. And here we are in the United States of America, where we’re experiencing something that is not experienced anywhere else in the world. There’s a sameness to this, and I think that numbness is something we’re all feeling…It begs the damn question, what the hell is going on in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us? And when are we going to come to grips with this?”
Newsom also praised the heroism and bravery of the victims families, who he had met with and spoken to prior to talking to the press. He closed by saying San Jose’s mayor and the county could count on the state’s support.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo thanked the governor and announced that there would be a vigil for the shooting victims at 6 p.m. Thursday evening. The vigil will be held at San Jose City Hall Plaza. Liccardo as well as members of the San Jose City Council and county and VTA officials will be attending.
The San Jose-based community organization Working Partnerships USA and the South Bay Labor Council set up a fund to support families of the shooting victims. Donations can be made at bit.ly/vtasolidarity.
President Joe Biden gave a statement around 2 p.m. Wednesday where he called the shooting a “horrific tragedy” and called on congress to take action as the shooting was just one of many this past month.
“I have the solemn duty of yet again of ordering the flag to be lowered at half-staff, just weeks after doing so following the mass shootings at spas in and around Atlanta; in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado; at a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina; and at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana,” Biden said. “Enough.”
Authorities said that a total of nine people including the gunman had died. At least two male patients were taken to Valley Medical Center in San Jose.
“Earlier San Jose Valley Medical Center received two patients — one was deceased upon arrival and the other is in critical condition,” said Valley Medical Center spokesperson Joy Alexiou. “We aren’t expecting any other patients.”
Raw Video: Scene of Mass Shooting at San Jose VTA Light Rail Facility
“A horrible tragedy has happened today,” said a visibly-shaken VTA Board Chair Glenn Hendricks. “Our thoughts and love goes out to the VTA family, to the organization, and what they’ve had to go through.
Hendricks said the shooting happened in the rail yard and not in the control center, adding that VTA service would be suspended Wednesday afternoon and bus bridges would replace light rail trains.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith thanked San Jose police for being at the scene as officers entered the building during the deadly incident as the gunman was still firing a weapon.
“We appreciate [that] San Jose PD was with us immediately going into the building,” said Smith. “Our teams showed exemplary behavior — what they’re trained to do — as shots were still being fired. Our teams with San Jose PD were entering the building while shots were still going off. We attempted rescues; It’s uncertain where that is right now.”
“This is a horrific day for our city, and it’s a tragic day for the VTA family,” said Liccardo earlier. “Our heart pains for the family and coworkers because we know so many are feeling deeply this loss of their loved ones and their friends. Now is the moment for us to collect ourselves and understand what happened, to mourn and help those who have suffered to heal.”
“We are in a very dark moment,” added Liccardo.
A tweet from the ATU Local 265 Transit Union following word of the shooting had a simple message, “Pray.” The union represents the VTA workers and there were unconfirmed reports that the shooting took place at morning union meeting.
— atu_local_ 265 (@265Atu) May 26, 2021
Amalgamated Transit Union International President John A. Costa released the following statement:
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the multiple fatalities and injuries at a shooting today at a VTA rail facility in San Jose. Our hearts and prayers are with our sisters, brothers, and their families at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 in San Jose. We are working to provide support and assistance to the victims’ families, and everyone impacted by this tragic event.”
Road closures were in effect on Younger Ave both directions from 1st St. to the VTA facility. San Pedro St. was closed in both directions closed from Younger Ave. to Hedding St.
A reunification center for VTA employee family members was being established at the County Building at 70 W. Hedding Street with grief counselors on site. A number for family members to call for information was also provided: 408-299-2311.
Our sincerest condolences and prayers to the victims' families and our communities during this tragic incident. Thank you to all the brave and courageous first responders.
— Anthony Mata (@SJPDChief_Mata) May 26, 2021
The full statement on the San Jose mass shooting from President Biden:
“Vice President Harris and I have been briefed on the horrific tragedy that took place this morning in San Jose, where a lone gunman murdered at least eight people and wounded several others at a county rail yard.
We are still awaiting many of the details of this latest mass shooting, but there are some things we know for sure. There are at least eight families who will never be whole again. There are children, parents, and spouses who are waiting to hear whether someone they love is ever going to come home. There are union brothers and sisters – good, honest, hardworking people – who are mourning their own.
I have the solemn duty of yet again of ordering the flag to be lowered at half-staff, just weeks after doing so following the mass shootings at spas in and around Atlanta; in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado; at a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina; and at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Once again, I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America.
Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more.
God bless all those whose lives were lost today, and all those who loved them.”