SAN JOSE, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — At least nine people are dead after a mass shooting at a light rail facility in San Jose, California, Wednesday morning, authorities said.
Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis confirmed the suspect was dead and was a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employee. He was later identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, NewsNation affiliate KRON reported.
Davis said it appeared Cassidy died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and said law enforcement did not exchange gunfire with him. A motive is also not immediately clear according to investigators.
Victims ranged in age from 29 to 63. The city did not officially announce if all were VTA employees.
Overnight, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner announced a ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, who died at a hospital after being taken there in critical condition.
The victims’ names and ages are below:
- Paul Delacruz Megia, 42
- Taptejdeep Singh, 36
- Adrian Balleza, 29
- Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35
- Timothy Michael Romo, 49
- Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40
- Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63
- Lars Kepler Lane, 63
- Alex Ward Fritch, 49
A man who was wounded was in critical condition at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, spokesperson Joy Alexiou said.
Davis said that explosives were found inside the building and as of Wednesday afternoon a bomb squad was going through the building. Davis said he did not know the type of weapon used.
Members of a union representing transit workers were meeting when the shooter began firing, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, but it’s not clear that it was related to the attack.
“We are in a very dark moment,” said Liccardo. “We will do everything possible to ensure this never happens again in our city.”
The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. at a light rail facility next door to the sheriff’s department and across a freeway from the airport. The facility is a transit control center that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.
It happened during the shift change between the night and day shifts when employees were transitioning.
The VTA provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the largest in the Bay Area and home to Silicon Valley.
“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,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
The Santa Clara VTA facility has been evacuated.
“A horrible tragedy has happened today, and our thoughts and love go out to the VTA family,” VTA Chairman Glenn Hendricks told a news conference.
VTA trains were already out on morning runs when the shooting occurred. Light rail service was suspended at noon and replaced with bus bridges, Hendricks said. Light rail is suspended for several days as investigators examine the crime scene.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said it was his understanding the shooting happened inside the VTA building.
Victims’ grief-stricken families sat huddled together, holding hands and crying, after learning they had lost a loved one, Rosen told reporters, describing the scene inside a county building. He said about 100 people were inside the family reunification center.
“They’re just sitting and holding hands and crying,” Rosen said. “It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s raw. People are learning they lost their husband, their son, their brother.” He said about 100 people were inside the family reunification center.
Grief counseling, emergency housing assistance, food, and different compensation that the state provides for victims of mass shootings are available for those impacted. The city has also started a fund for those to donate to the families of the victims.
Outside the scene, Michael Hawkins told The Mercury News that he was waiting for his mother, Rochelle Hawkins, who had called him from a co-worker’s phone to assure him that she was safe.
When the shooting started, “she got down with the rest of her coworkers” and dropped her cellphone, Michael Hawkins told the newspaper. Rochelle Hawkins did not see the shooter, and she was not sure how close she had been to the attacker, her son said.
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 Wednesday morning. Fire crews found a fast-moving blaze after being notified by a passer-by. A neighboring house also caught fire, authorities said.
Doug Suh, who lives across the street from Cassidy, told The Mercury News in San Jose that Cassidy was “lonely” and “strange” and that he never saw anyone visit.
“I’d say hello, and he’d just look at me without saying anything,” Suh said. Once, Cassidy yelled at him to stay away as he was backing up his car. “After that, I never talked to him again.”
Video submitted to KRON shows Cassidy loading his truck before the incident occurred.
Cassidy had worked for the VTA 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 a mechanic. After that, he was a substation maintainer, the records said.
His ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, told The Associated Press that Cassidy had a bad temper and would tell her that he wanted to kill people at work, “but I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now.”
Nelms, teary-eyed and shaken by the news, said her ex-husband would come home wound up and angry about things that happened at work. As he talked about it, “he would get more mad,” she said. “He could dwell on things.”
When Cassidy lost his temper, Nelms said there were times she was scared. He was someone who could physically hurt others, she said.
Nelms said they were married for 10 years — Cassidy filed for divorce in 2005 — and had not been in contact for 13 years. She said he had been treated for depression.
At an earlier news conference, Licardo lamented the “horrific day for our city.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom described a “numbness” the country experiences over frequent mass shootings during a news conference Wednesday adding, “What the hell is wrong with the United States of America?…This happens everywhere over and over and over again,” he said. “Rinse and repeat.”
Newsom added he has been visiting with the victims’ families and those waiting to hear about their loved ones’ conditions. He said victims’ relatives were “waiting to hear from the coroner, waiting to hear from any of us, just desperate to find out if their brother their son, their dad, their mom is still alive.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shared his condolences on Twitter with the families and colleagues of those who died in the shooting. He added, “Transit workers have kept the traveling public safe this past year—we must do the same for them.”
Special agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the crime scene, officials said.
A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing over the last 15 years shows that the San Jose attack is the 15th mass killing so far in 2021, all of them shootings.
Eighty-six people have died in the shootings, compared with 106 for all of 2020. It is the sixth mass killing in a public place in 2021. The database defines mass killings as four people dead, not including the shooter, meaning the overall toll of gun violence is much higher when adding in smaller incidents.
President Joe Biden released a statement in the aftermath of the shooting and ordered all flags to be lowered to half-staff.
“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,” said Biden.
The president also commented that this was the fifth mass shooting of 2021.
“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,” said Biden.
San Jose, a city with about 1 million residents, lies at the heart of Silicon Valley, a global center of technological innovation and home of some of the country’s biggest tech companies.
Wednesday’s attack was Santa Clara County’s second shooting in less than two years. A gunman killed three people before killing himself at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy in July 2019.
Two of the victims in the Gilroy shooting — a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl — had lived in San Jose. Their deaths were on Mayor Liccardo’s mind Wednesday as text messages flooded in, reporting the active shooter and the fire.
“Not again,” he thought as he jumped in his car and raced to City Hall. Transit authority workers told him they knew Cassidy.
“You try to understand what would possess someone to do that much harm,” Liccardo said by phone. “It’s unfathomable.”
This story is developing. Refresh for updates.
NewsNation affiliate KRON, the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.