Nine navy blue uniform caps sat above nine photos of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employees killed in a San Jose rail yard as loved ones and community members gathered at the City Hall on Thursday to remember the latest victims of a mass shooting.
The nine who lost their lives — Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Adrian Balleza, 29; Alex Ward Fritch, 49; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; and Timothy Michael Romo, 49 — were coworkers at the VTA facility where another employee opened fire with multiple weapons Wednesday.
San Jose’s loss was the 232nd shooting where at least four people were injured this year, according to a tally by the Gun Violence Archive.
And it felt personal for the VTA employees, who said there was a particular sense of closeness in their community.
Kenneth Darden, a VTA operator of about 20 years, said the employees knew each other well. He said he felt numb as he wondered: How do we keep this from happening again?
“I don’t think we’ve actually been able to come together as a nation and understand the significance of gun violence and how it has impacted so many families across the nation for so many years,” Darden said. “It’s a difficult task to come up with, but this is the United States of America. We should be able to come together and figure this problem out.”
Karman Singh arrived at the City Hall with a bouquet of flowers to mourn his older brother, Taptejdeep Singh. But he said he was also there in honor of the other victims as well.
“He thought of them as family, and his family is my family,” Singh said, adding that he wanted to “show people so much strength that nobody ever dares to try to break anybody, to walk into a place with dozens of people and take out people one by one.”
Gunman fired with three weapons, authorities say
Some at Thursday’s vigil carried signs calling for the end of gun violence.
“All nations have people with mental illness but only the USA has mass shootings! The reason? GUNS+NRA,” Brian Haberly’s sign read.
The gunman, identified as VTA employee Sam Cassidy, was armed with three semi-automatic handguns and 32 high-capacity magazines, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.
The weapons he used in the killing spree were legally obtained and registered, FBI San Francisco special agent in charge Craig Fair said in an interview Thursday with CNN’s Josh Campbell.
Fair said he believes all the handguns were used during the attack, noting that one of the weapons jammed during the shooting spree.
According to preliminary information, the gunman appeared to target his victims when he fired 39 rounds, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told CNN.
During his rampage, the shooter told a local union official who was present but did not work for the VTA, “I’m not going to shoot you,” the sheriff told CNN.
A witness told CNN affiliate KGO that he also believed the gunman bypassed certain people and appeared to select those he shot.
“He … was targeting certain people. He walked by other people,” VTA worker Kirk Bertolet told KGO on Wednesday night. “He let other people live as he gunned down other people.”
The gunman “took his own life in front of the deputies,” Smith told CNN. She said she believes the law enforcement officers’ quick response saved many lives.
He was a disgruntled employee
Federal investigators have not found any manifesto or writings that would indicate a motive, Fair said, but noted local law enforcement was exploring the suspect’s social media presence for clues.
But Smith said the gunman was “highly disgruntled.”
“Based on recent developments in the investigation we can say that the suspect has been a highly disgruntled VTA employee for many years, which may have contributed to why he targeted VTA employees,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release Thursday.
Detectives are continuing to conduct interviews and are reviewing video and cell phone evidence in hopes of determining a motive for the shooting, the sheriff’s office said.
In 2016, Cassidy was taken into secondary inspection after returning from a trip to the Philippines and US Customs and Border Protection officers found a memo book filled with notes of hatred toward his employer, a Department of Homeland Security official confirmed to CNN. The notes were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
It doesn’t appear that follow up action was taken after the search, the official said.
His ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, told CNN affiliate the Bay Area News Group that Cassidy resented his work.
Nelms was married to Cassidy for about 10 years until the couple filed for divorce in 2005. She had not been in touch with her ex-husband for about 13 years, according to the outlet.
He often spoke angrily about his coworkers and bosses and at times directed his anger at her, Nelms told the outlet.
When the two were married, he “resented what he saw as unfair work assignments” and “would rant about his job when he got home,” she said.
911 calls come in an hour after gunman is seen arriving
Security camera footage showed the gunman arriving at the facility around 5:30 a.m. local time, Fair said.
About an hour later, there were emergency calls about the shooting as employees from the midnight shift and the day shift overlapped, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said.
Minutes after authorities were called about the shooting, firefighters were called to a fire at the suspect’s home, Sheriff Smith told CNN. It’s not immediately clear how that fire started.
Fair, the FBI agent, told CNN that investigators recovered intact Molotov cocktails, made with paint thinners and alcohol, and multiple weapons at Cassidy’s residence. No explosive materials were found in his locker.