On Wednesday, a California transit employee killed eight coworkers and injured another before killing himself, the latest in a string of tragic mass shootings in the United States, prompting the state’s governor to wonder, “What the hell is happening with us?”
Authorities could not immediately provide many details or a suspected reason for the shooting, which occurred at a light-rail yard for commuter trains operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in the heart of Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area at 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time (1330 GMT).
At a news conference, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said a bomb squad was inspecting the yard and surrounding buildings after at least one explosive device was discovered.
According to Sheriff Laurie Smith, shooting was still going off when her first deputies got on the site, and the offender committed suicide when he realized authorities were closing in on him.
According to Davis, officers never fired a shot at the suspect. Nonetheless, Smith credited deputies from the sheriff’s department, who rushed to the incident from their headquarters next door to the rail yard, for saving a much larger loss of life.
Governor Gavin Newsom, appearing with Smith and others in San Jose, voiced exasperation at the frequency and regularity of gun violence in America.
“There is a sameness to this and that numbness, I think, is something that we are all feeling,” Newsom said. “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?”
The gunman, the eight victims shot dead, and a survivor who was hospitalized in critical condition were all employees of the transit agency situated near the city’s airport, officials said. The victims were found in two buildings on the site.
The County of Santa Clara medical examiner-coroner’s office identified the victims late on Wednesday. They appeared to all be men and ranged in age between 29 and 63. Their names are: Paul Delacruz Megia, Taptejdeep Singh, Adrian Balleza, Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, Timothy Michael Romo, Michael Joseph Rudometkin, Abdolvahab Alaghmandan and Lars Kepler Lane.
Authorities did not release the gunman’s name or age. The San Jose Mercury News and other media outlets identified him as Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker at the yard.
Cassidy had worked for the transit authority since at least 2012, when he was listed as an “electro-mechanic,” and was promoted to “substation maintainer” in 2015, according to records posted by the nonprofit website Transportation California.
Last year, he earned a salary of $102,000, plus benefits and $20,000 in overtime, the records showed.
The suspect and another individual filed domestic violence restraining orders against one another in 2009, three years after Cassidy divorced his spouse, according to online court records.
“A horrible tragedy has happened today and our thoughts and love go out to the VTA family,” Glenn Hendricks, Chairman of the VTA board, told reporters.
The shooting took place in a section of the rail yard where workers perform maintenance on vehicles, and was not in the facility’s operations and control center, he said. Rail service on the commuter line was suspended after the shooting.
San Jose, a city of about 1 million residents, lies at the heart of Silicon Valley, a global technology hub and home to some of America’s biggest high-tech companies.
“These are, and were, essential workers,” San Jose’s mayor, Sam Liccardo, said of the victims.
He confirmed in television news interviews that authorities had also responded to a fire at the home of the suspect that erupted at about the same time as the shooting.
Multiple fire department, police and bomb squad vehicles were still parked outside the suspect’s house, along a cul-de-sac in southeastern San Jose, hours after the shooting.
An explosives-detecting robot sat in the street near the home while two bomb squad technicians entered the ranch-style house. Arson investigators along with agents of the FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also present.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, and his staff continued to monitor the situation while keeping in close contact with local officials to offer any assistance needed, the White House said.
“What’s clear, as the president has said, is that we are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence in this country, both from mass shootings and in the lives that are being taken in daily gun violence that doesn’t make national headlines,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
Mass gun violence, commonplace in a country with one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world, has escalated considerably following a year-long lull as the United States emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.
Wednesday’s massacre was the latest in a run of at least nine deadly mass shootings in the United States in the last three months, beginning with a succession of attacks at Atlanta-area day spas that claimed eight lives in mid-March and a rampage days later that killed ten at a Colorado supermarket.
Last month, a former FedEx employee in Indianapolis shot and killed eight coworkers before killing himself. At a birthday celebration in Colorado earlier this month, a man fatally shot his fiancée and five other people before killing himself.
According to a report by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group, there were at least 200 mass shootings in the United States in the first 132 days of this year. Mass shootings are defined as occurrences in which four or more individuals, other than the offender, are shot, regardless of the number died.