The gunman who opened fire on coworkers at a light rail yard in Northern California on Wednesday — killing nine people before killing himself — bypassed certain people and appeared to select those he shot, a witness said.
“He … was targeting certain people. He walked by other people,” Kirk Bertolet, a worker at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, told CNN affiliate KGO. “He let other people live as he gunned down other people.”
The gunman, armed with two semiautomatic handguns, shot coworkers in two buildings around the time of a morning shift change before taking his own life in front of responding law enforcement officers, authorities have said.
At least eight of the nine killed were VTA employees, and investigators are trying to determine the motive, officials said.
The shooting is the latest example of America’s gun violence scourge. It is the 232nd mass shooting — which CNN also defines as a shooting in which at least four people were wounded or injured — this year, according to a tally by the Gun Violence Archive. Seventeen such shootings have happened in the past week, a CNN analysis of the archive shows.
President Joe Biden reacted to the San Jose shooting by urging Congress to “take immediate action” on gun legislation.
“Enough,” Biden said Wednesday. “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.”
The San Jose killings also are the latest against essential workers sustaining the US economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, following high-profile shootings including those in Indianapolis and Boulder, Colorado.
The VTA is a public transit service that operates bus and light rail services in the Santa Clara Valley and employs about 2,000 workers.
The Santa Clara County sheriff wasn’t sure Thursday morning whether the gunman had specific targets in mind, she told CNN.
“I have heard those things, (but) I haven’t heard them officially, so I’m not sure that he targeted certain individuals,” Laurie Smith said.
Each person shot by the gunman died, Smith said. They died either at the scene or, in the case of at least two victims, at a hospital, the sheriff said.
Those killed, who ranged in age from 29 to 63, were: Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Adrian Balleza, 29; Alex Ward Fritch, 49; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; and Taptejdeep Singh, 36, the Santa Clara County coroner’s office said.
They will be honored Thursday night at an event at the San Jose City Hall plaza.
Gunman’s San Jose home was burning around time of shooting, sheriff says
The gunman has been identified as Sam Cassidy, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to CNN.
Emergency calls about the shooting began just after 6:30 a.m. PT, 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 in San Jose, Smith, the sheriff, told CNN on Thursday morning. It’s not immediately clear how that fire started.
The gunman shot people inside two buildings at the rail yard, Smith told CNN. The yard is where the VTA vehicles are maintained and dispatched.
The shooter had two semiautomatic handguns and 11 magazines with ammunition, Smith told CNN.
“They were handguns of the type that would be legal in California,” Smith said, adding she didn’t know how or when the gunman obtained the weapons.
Deputies and other law enforcement officers arrived as the shooting continued, within two minutes of the calls, as the sheriff’s office has a station nearby. They confronted the gunman on a building’s third floor within six minutes, Smith told CNN.
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.
During a sweep of the scene Wednesday, bomb-sniffing dogs alerted investigators to the gunman’s locker at work. In the locker, investigators found “precursor things for explosives … ingredients for a device,” Smith said Thursday. That included detonation pulls, she said.
Smith didn’t know why the items were there or what the gunman might have intended for them, she said.
Investigators have found ammunition and “a lot more” at the gunman’s house, said Smith, who didn’t go into detail about the materials found there.
Cassidy resented his work and spoke angrily about coworkers, his ex-wife says
Cassidy, the identified gunman, resented his work, his ex-wife Cecilia Nelms told CNN affiliate the Bay Area News Group.
Nelms was married to Cassidy for about 10 years until the couple filed for divorce in 2005. She has 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.
Cassidy had a strained relationship with an ex-girlfriend, court documents show, which revealed troubling allegations she made in a filing in 2009 as she responded to a restraining order he filed against her.
The woman says she dated Cassidy for about one year in what she said became an off-and-on-again relationship after about six months.
She described Cassidy as having mood swings that were “exacerbated when (Cassidy) consumed large quantities of alcohol,” she said in the court document, and she alleged he had bipolar disorder.
She said he enjoyed playing mind games with her, according to the court document.
“Several times during the relationship he became intoxicated, enraged and forced himself on me sexually,” said the former girlfriend, who CNN is not naming and is reaching out to for comment.
Surveillance video shows a man leaving the suspect’s house
Surveillance video obtained by CNN shows a man leaving the home of the shooting suspect on Wednesday morning with a duffle bag.
A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said the video was captured around 5:40 a.m. and showed Cassidy leaving the house in a truck. The neighbor described Cassidy as a “quiet” and “strange” man.
CNN has reached out to the sheriff’s office to see if investigators have seen and are aware of this video.
The neighbor later noticed a fire broke out at Cassidy’s home around 6:30 a.m.
The fire was reported at 6:37 a.m. — a few minutes after calls about the shooting began, Smith, the sheriff, told CNN on Thursday.
No one was found inside the home, Mayor Sam Liccardo told CNN affiliate KGO.
Firefighters responded at a home in the 1100 block of Angmar Court in San Jose around the time that Smith provided, according to tweets from the San Jose Fire Department. That is about eight miles from the VTA facility.
It took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the two-alarm fire, which caused heavy damage and left the structure uninhabitable, the fire department said.