A transit worker opened fire at a rail yard in San Jose, Calif., early Wednesday, killing eight people, many of them fellow employees, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which reported that the gunman was also dead.
California law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Samuel James Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker who had been with the V.T.A. for at least a decade and whose suburban home was in flames as the shooting started.
The attack — which occurred as dispatchers and maintenance workers at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority were preparing for the start of the day’s service — spread turmoil through the sprawling municipal complex near downtown San Jose, the nation’s 10th-largest city and the heart of Silicon Valley.
Buildings were evacuated, and light rail service was gradually shut down as bomb squad teams scoured the area for explosives. Employees who had been working the busy morning shift were led to a separate building, where family members awaited.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California met with some of them. In an afternoon news conference, he praised sheriff’s deputies for their response to the shooting and lamented yet another American tragedy. “What the hell is wrong with us,” he said, “and when are we going to come to grips with this?”
In a statement, President Biden urged Congress to take action on gun violence and said, “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.”
The medical examiner’s office in Santa Clara County identified the victims on Wednesday night as 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; and Lars Kepler Lane, 63. In addition, at least one wounded person was in critical condition.
James Kostmayer, a San Jose County employee who works in the building where families were waiting to hear word about their loved ones, said the scene inside was “heartbreaking.”
“You could hear the screams and cries of the families” from the elevator, he said, adding that he heard “a mother screaming, ‘My son, my son.’”
Sgt. Russell Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said that police officers did not exchange gunfire with the gunman, and that they believed he had killed himself. He also said they had no indication about a possible motive.
In an interview, Connie Wang, 58, a former girlfriend of the suspect, said she had not seen or spoken to him in 12 years, but described him as someone who was “not mentally stable.” Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose said those who had known the suspect as a co-worker for years also “expressed generalized concerns about his mental health.”
“This is a horrific day for our city,” Mr. Liccardo told reporters. “And it’s a tragic day for the V.T.A. family.”
Glenn Hendricks, the chairman of the authority’s board, noted that the authority’s work force of some 2,100 employees had been essential during the coronavirus pandemic, risking their health to provide bus, rail and paratransit service for commuters in much of the Silicon Valley.
“V.T.A. is a family,” Mr. Hendricks said, his voice shaking. “Everyone in the organization knows everyone.”
The violence was first reported at 6:34 a.m. in a corner of a large complex of municipal buildings. Officers were dispatched from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which is headquartered next door.
Neil Vigdor contributed reporting.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California condemned the “rinse and repeat” cycle of mass shootings in America as he spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the killing of eight people at a rail yard in San Jose.
There have been 68 mass shootings in the United States in the past two months, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are injured or killed.
“It begs the damn question, what the hell is going on in the United States of America?” Mr. Newsom said. “What the hell is wrong with us, and when are we going to come to grips with this?”
Mr. Newsom implored lawmakers to take action, and told all Americans to “take a little damn responsibility, all of us, to do a little bit more and a little bit better this time, and move beyond the platitudes and the usual rhetoric that tends to mark not just these moments but the aftermath of these moments.”
The number of mass shootings declined during much of the coronavirus pandemic, but they have become more frequent since March, when a gunman killed eight people at spas in the Atlanta area. Mr. Newsom called mass shootings a “pre-existing condition” that had once again “reared its ugly head.”
The shooting in San Jose is believed to be the deadliest in the Bay Area since 1993, when a gunman used three semiautomatic pistols to kill eight people at an office building in downtown San Francisco.
The names of the eight victims in the San Jose shooting at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority rail yard have been released. Here is what we know about some of their lives.
Taptejdeep Singh, 36
Taptejdeep Singh, a light rail operator for the V.T.A., was remembered by a cousin as the nicest person in his family and a gregarious man who enjoyed playing volleyball.
“We are very sad right now,” said the cousin, Bagga Singh, who was one of more than a dozen family members waiting all day to learn what had happened to their relative. Shortly after 6 p.m., they got the bad news. Several family members broke down sobbing at a Red Cross facility and were escorted away.
The death of Mr. Singh, who was Sikh and moved to the United States from India in 2005, marks the second time in two months that members of the country’s Sikh community mourned after a mass shooting. In April, four Sikhs were among the eight people killed in a shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis.
Taptejdeep Singh had a wife and two young children, Bagga Singh said, and enjoyed his job at the V.T.A., where he had been working for eight or nine years. He also had an insurance license and was a real estate agent, Bagga Singh said.
“He can work anything he wants, very smart guy,” he said.
Family members said county officials told them that Taptejdeep Singh acted heroically when he detected danger during the attack, calling out to his co-workers that shots were being fired and quickly ushering one woman into a secure room.
“I think he’s the one who tried to save the people, as many as he could,” said Bagga Singh, who also spoke out against gun violence: “Nobody should have a gun.”
Lars Kepler Lane, 63
Ed Lane expressed anguish on Wednesday night over the death of his brother Lars Lane, who worked as a journeyman lineman — working on outdoor electrical equipment — for the V.T.A., according to his LinkedIn profile.
“My brother was murdered today,” Mr. Lane said in an email. “Not by a gun but by a man that could have been helped.”
Mr. Lane spent much of the day waiting to find out if his brother, who local media outlets reported was a husband and a father, was among the victims. He sharply criticized the way the notification process was handled, in addition to the renewed call for tougher gun control laws in the aftermath of another mass shooting.
“I’m tired of the gun control propaganda,” he said. “Politicians and law enforcement patting themselves on the back leaving my family in the dark for 12 hours. The family assistance was absolutely a front of incompetence.”
The man identified by California law enforcement officials as the gunman in a mass shooting at a San Jose rail yard on Wednesday lived alone and had a hostile personality, according to interviews with a neighbor and an ex-girlfriend, as well as a review of court records.
The gunman, Samuel James Cassidy, 57, lived southeast of downtown San Jose, in a suburban neighborhood of cul-de-sacs and palm trees, public records show. Doug Suh, a real estate agent who lived across the street, described Mr. Cassidy, who authorities say appeared to have killed himself, as someone with a short temper.
“I was afraid of him,” Mr. Suh said. “My wife was scared of him, too.”
“He lived alone,” Mr. Suh said. “I never saw any friends or family. I never saw anyone else going into the house.”
Mr. Suh recalled Mr. Cassidy once lashing out at him when Mr. Suh turned his car around in Mr. Cassidy’s driveway. “He yelled, ‘Do not come onto my driveway.’”
On Wednesday morning at 5:40 a.m., Mr. Suh’s security camera captured Mr. Cassidy, who was wearing a uniform with reflective stripes, loading his white pickup truck with a black bag. About an hour later, Mr. Suh left his house to play golf and saw that Mr. Cassidy’s house was on fire. Mr. Suh called 911.
Family court records show that Mr. Cassidy was married for 10 years before divorcing in 2004. The couple had no children.
In 2009, Mr. Cassidy sought a restraining order against his former girlfriend, Jingkun Wang, known as Connie. In court filings, he accused her of vandalizing his roommate’s car, calling at late hours of the night, hurling insults and suggesting she had him under surveillance.
Ms. Wang countered that Mr. Cassidy, whom she had dated for a year, had “major mood swings due to bipolar disorder” which were exacerbated when he consumed large quantities of alcohol. She also accused him of forcing himself on her sexually.
Their relationship failed when he told her around February 2009 that a female houseguest had moved in, and that she should no longer come visit.
She denied vandalizing any vehicles, and accused him of stealing items from restaurants and employers, and failing to return her television and computer printer.
“He has manipulated me in many ways which are apparent to my friends and family,” she said.
The court ordered Ms. Wang to stay at least 300 yards from him, his parents and his new girlfriend for three years.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Ms. Wang, now 58, said she had not spoken to Mr. Cassidy in 12 years, but described him as someone who was “not mentally stable,” who would be loving one moment and mean the next. She also described his drinking as excessive.
They met on Match.com, Ms. Wang said. Two months into their relationship, he told her to pick a diamond ring and he would buy it, she recalled. She declined.
After they broke up, Mr. Cassidy showed up at her apartment complex one day, Ms. Wang said. A neighbor let him in and he took her brand-new Toyota Camry, for which he had a key, without permission. He returned it damaged from what he told her was an accident, she said.
Andy and Alice Abad were in their kitchen Wednesday morning in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose when they saw a funnel of smoke pouring out of a neighbor’s home, a one-story gray house with white trim and a patchy lawn.
Mr. Abad called 911 and was told that firefighters were already on the way. “The flames were above the rooftop,” Mr. Abad said.
He took a picture of the house with his cellphone and headed out with his wife to a doctor’s appointment. When he returned home at noon, the neighborhood was swarming with fire and police vehicles, federal agents and a boxy blue truck from the San Jose bomb squad.
“What’s going on here?” Mr. Abad said as he stepped out of his car in his driveway.
The mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, described a “strange connection” between the fire in the house and the attack on a rail yard near downtown that left nine people dead, including the gunman. The site of the shooting is eight miles away from the home, a 10- or 15-minute drive.
Men with gas masks and oxygen tanks stood amid the flashing lights of emergency vehicles that penetrated into the cul-de-sacs of what is described by residents as a quiet suburban neighborhood populated largely by Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants.
Members of the bomb squad walked past citrus and palm trees to enter the home as other law enforcement officers carried shovels and other garden implements into the property. The home on Wednesday afternoon was largely intact, but the crown of the roof was darkened by fire.
Families of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employees were directed to wait for news at a county building close to the rail yard.
Jazmin Diaz arrived to find out if her brother, Max, who works for the authority, was OK. He doesn’t work at the part of the rail yard where the shooting occurred, she said, but had not answered his phone all morning.
“I hope he’s good,” she said, pausing to take a phone call from a family member. “We believe that God protected him.”
One man, who would not provide his name, arrived at the county building with his grandfather. He was hoping for news of his uncle, a light rail operator who he has not heard from all morning.
“I never thought something like this would really happen,” the man said, before entering the building. “He has two little kids — that’s all I can think about right now.”
Brandi Childress, a spokeswoman for the V.T.A., said she was informed at 6:45 a.m. local time that there was an “active shooter event.” Employees were on the job at that time, she said.
“It is where we have dispatchers and maintenance,” she said. “They get up early and they are there. That is why the focus is on containing and evacuating employees. It is where we store and maintain all of our trains.”
At about 1 p.m., at least 10 family groups emerged from the side of the county building, where Gov. Gavin Newsom of California stood in the doorway. Some, including a pair of women with their arms wrapped around a third woman, were escorted by security officers into a waiting bus.
Loirena Ruico, who drove the bus to the nearby American Red Cross building, said the ride was somber. “It’s scary, it’s so tense — everyone’s crying,” she said.
Outside the Red Cross center, Christina Gonzalez choked back tears as she waited for news of her cousin Michael Rudometkin. She said she left work and rushed to the center after her brother told her that Mr. Rudometkin was among the people who were shot.
She said she had yet to learn anything about her cousin’s condition or where he was. “I’m just waiting and praying, and hoping he’s OK,” Ms. Gonzalez said.
She said Mr. Rudometkin, who lives in Santa Cruz, was at a union meeting in the morning. “Very proud, loved his job and just always stood up for everyone’s rights,” she said of her cousin. “He is just a very good person, so we’re really hoping this isn’t the place to tell us the bad news.”
By Wednesday evening, the county medical examiner’s office had released the names of the victims, including Mr. Rudometkin, 40.
As dispatchers and maintenance workers at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s light rail yard were preparing for the start of the day’s service, gunshots threw the sprawling municipal complex near downtown San Jose into turmoil.
Glenn Hendricks, the authority chairman, called the incident “a horrible tragedy” for its work force of some 2,100 mostly unionized employees, who provide bus, rail and paratransit service for commuters in much of Silicon Valley.
“V.T.A. is a family,” Mr. Hendricks said, his voice quaking. “Everyone in the organization knows everyone.”
Transit service continued for several hours after the shooting without disruption, even as the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office — which is headquartered next door to the rail yard as part of a sprawling municipal complex near downtown San Jose — dispatched deputies to the scene of the shooting in a maintenance yard.
“As I drove here,” Mr. Hendricks said, citing the dedication of the authority employees, “I saw buses on the road.”
But service on the light-rail system’s three lines was later shut down as the maintenance facility became the scene of an active investigation. Mr. Hendricks said extra buses would be dispatched to cover for the canceled trains.
He added that grief counseling would be made available to workers, including the 100 or so who were on the scene when the shooting erupted. Sgt. Russell Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said several of the people who were killed were V.T.A. employees, as was the gunman.
“This is a horrific day for our city,” said the mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, who also serves on the V.T.A. board. “And a tragic day for the V.T.A. family.”
The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one with four or more people injured or killed, not including the perpetrator, counted at least 232 mass shootings as of May 26. (The archive, a nonprofit organization, has counted 15 mass murders, which it defines as four or more people killed, in 2021.)
There is little consensus on the definition of a mass shooting, complicating the efforts of nonprofits and news organizations to document the scope of the problem.
The Violence Project follows the narrow definition of the Congressional Research Service, requiring the attacks to be in public and excluding domestic shootings and those “attributable to underlying criminal activity.” CNN has defined a mass shooting as one with four or more injuries or deaths. The Washington Post’s effort to track public mass shootings includes shootings with four or more people killed, but does not include robberies or domestic shootings in private homes.
This year they have included shootings in Atlanta. Indianapolis. Boulder, Colo. Boone, N.C. And now San Jose.
To some, it might have seemed as if mass shootings all but halted during the coronavirus pandemic, with a year passing between large-scale shootings in public places. But the shootings never stopped. They just weren’t as public.
The Gun Violence Archive counted more than 600 such shootings in 2020, compared with 417 in 2019.