Gunman Kills 8 People at San Jose Rail Yard
The gunman, who apparently killed himself, was an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, a regional transit agency for Silicon Valley.,
SAN JOSE, Calif. — A municipal transit worker opened fire as the Wednesday morning shift was gathering for work at a San Jose rail yard, killing eight people in the latest of the mass shootings that have plagued the United States this year.
California law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Samuel James Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker who had been with the Silicon Valley’s regional transit agency for at least a decade. The authorities said he appeared to have killed himself at the scene.
It was unclear how many people were wounded, but at least one person was in critical condition at a hospital, officials said.
The gunman was an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which oversees bus, rail and paratransit service for commuters, said Sgt. Russell Davis, a spokesman for the county sheriff’s office. He did not identify the victims or the weapon used, or offer a possible motive.
In an interview, Connie Wang, 58, Mr. Cassidy’s former girlfriend, described him as someone who was “not mentally stable.” Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose said co-workers had “expressed generalized concerns about his mental health.”
At the rail yard, workers said, panic erupted as word spread of gunfire in two buildings. While bomb squads searched for explosives there, firefighters were responding to a blaze at Mr. Cassidy’s empty home, about eight miles away.
Survivors of the shooting were led to a separate building in the municipal complex where some were reunited with family members, a scene that James Kostmayer, a local government employee, called “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.'”
Wednesday’s violence was the latest in a scourge of shootings as the coronavirus pandemic has waned in the United States, including attacks at spas in the Atlanta area, a massacre at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket and a shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis. A shooting on Monday claimed the lives of four people near Columbus, Ohio.
President Biden summed up his reaction in one word: “Enough.”
In a statement released by the White House, in which the president called out the other recent shootings, he said: “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.”
California has some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, with more than 100 restrictions including background check requirements, constraints on buyers and dealers, and “red flag” bans that let family members and the police go to court to take firearms away from owners who are considered at risk of committing violence.
However, with a population of nearly 40 million, California also has endured many mass shootings. Wednesday’s was the deadliest in the Bay Area since 1993, when eight people and a gunman died in a high-rise in San Francisco. It also evoked memories of the 2019 shooting at a garlic festival in nearby Gilroy, in which a gunman killed three people and wounded more than a dozen others before killing himself.
“It just seems like this happens over and over and over again — rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who met with the families of the San Jose workers.
“There’s a sameness to this and a numbness,” the governor said. “All the right emotions and perhaps the right words, but it begs the damned question: What the hell is going on in the United States of America?”
Mayor Liccardo called it “a horrific day for our city” and vowed to “do everything possible to make sure this never happens again.”
The shooting was first reported at 6:34 a.m. in the 100 block of W. Younger Avenue and San Pedro Street, in downtown San Jose, a city of about one million people that is the third largest in California. The Valley Transportation Authority rail yard, used to store and dispatch transit vehicles, is part of a hub for the authority’s work force of some 2,100 employees.
The Santa Clara County district attorney, speaking at a news conference, said the shooting took place after a union meeting. John A. Costa, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said in a statement that the organization’s “hearts and prayers are with our sisters, brothers, and their families” at Local 265 in San Jose.
Glenn Hendricks, the chairman of the authority’s board, said the V.T.A. workers were close-knit, with bonds that had been reinforced during the pandemic, when many had risked their health keeping the public transportation system running for much of Silicon Valley.
“V.T.A. is a family,” Mr. Hendricks said, his voice shaking. “Everyone in the organization knows everyone.”
As multiple 911 calls came in Wednesday morning, officers were dispatched from the San Jose Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which is headquartered next door to the rail yard. Local fire crews, meanwhile, raced to Mr. Cassidy’s home in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose, a quiet suburban enclave populated largely by Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants.
Andy and Alice Abad said they called 911 when they saw a funnel of smoke pouring out of Mr. Cassidy’s home, a one-story gray house with white trim and a patchy lawn. “The flames were above the rooftop,” Mr. Abad said.
He took a picture on his cellphone before leaving with his wife to a doctor’s appointment. When he returned home at noon, the cul-de-sacs were swarming with multiple emergency vehicles, federal agents and a boxy blue truck from the San Jose bomb squad. Men with gas masks and oxygen tanks stood amid the flashing lights.
Family court records show that Mr. Cassidy was married for 10 years to a dental assistant; the couple had no children and broke up in 2004, citing irreconcilable differences. In 2009, he sought a restraining order against his former girlfriend, Ms. Wang.
In papers filed with family court, he accused her of vandalizing his roommate’s car, calling at late hours, hurling insults and suggesting she had him under surveillance. She responded at the time that he had tried to force himself on her sexually, and that he had “major mood swings due to bipolar disorder” that were exacerbated when he drank to excess. The court ordered Ms. Wang to stay at least 300 yards from him, his parents and his new girlfriend for three years.
In an interview, Ms. Wang said that she had met Mr. Cassidy on Match.com in 2008, and that he proposed after just two months. When she refused, she said, the relationship “went downhill” and he became physically abusive.
They dated for less than a year, she said, adding that she had not spoken to him since shortly after their breakup, when he took her brand-new Toyota Camry, for which he had a key, without permission and returned it a month later, damaged from what he said was an accident.
“He hurt me a lot,” she said.
Outside the American Red Cross center in San Jose, where survivors and their families were later dispatched for counseling, Christina Gonzalez choked back tears as she waited for news of her cousin Michael Rudometkin.
She said she heard from family members that Mr. Rudometkin, who lives in Santa Cruz, was among the people who had been shot.
“I’m just waiting and praying and hoping he’s OK,” said Ms. Gonzalez, who did not know what condition her cousin was in or where he was, but said he had been at a union meeting that morning.
He “loved his job and just always stood up for everyone’s rights,” she said. “He is just a very good person so we’re really hoping this isn’t the place to tell us the bad news.”
Reporting was contributed by Frances Robles, Patricia Mazzei, Nicole Perlroth, Neil Vigdor, Christine Hauser and Will Wright. Kitty Bennett and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.