An employee opened fire Wednesday at a California rail yard, killing eight people before taking his own life as law enforcement rushed in, authorities said, marking the latest attack in a year that has seen a sharp increase in mass killings as the nation emerges from coronavirus restrictions.
The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. in two buildings that are part of a light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the most populated county in the San Francisco Bay Area. The facility in San Jose includes a transit-control center, parking for trains and a maintenance yard.
“When our deputies went through the door, initially he was still firing rounds. When our deputy saw him, he took his life,” Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters. Deputies “were going through hallways saying, ‘Sheriff’s office!’ He knew at that time that his time for firing shots was over.”
A man who was wounded was in critical condition at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, spokesperson Joy Alexiou said.
The attacker was identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, according to two law enforcement officials. Investigators offered no immediate word on a possible motive.
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis said he did not know the type of weapon used in the attack. Bomb squads were searching the rail complex after receiving information about possible explosive devices, he said.
Authorities did not identify any of the victims, who included Valley Transportation Authority employees.
Members of a union representing transit workers were meeting when the shooter began firing, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, but it’s not clear that it was related to the attack.
Grief-stricken families sat huddled together inside a county building after learning they had lost a loved one, District Attorney Jeff Rosen told reporters.
“They’re just sitting and holding hands and crying,” Rosen said. “It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s raw. People are learning they lost their husband, their son, their brother.” He said about 100 people were inside a family reunification center.
Police vehicles and crime-scene tape blocked off the area near city and county government buildings and the sheriff’s office.
Doug Suh, who lives across the street from Cassidy, told The Mercury News in San Jose that Cassidy was “lonely” and “strange” and that he never saw anyone visit.
“I’d say hello, and he’d just look at me without saying anything,” Suh said. Once, Cassidy yelled at him to stay away as he was backing up his car. “After that, I never talked to him again.”
Cassidy had worked for Valley Transportation Authority since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pension database known as Transparent California. His position from 2012 to 2014 was listed as a mechanic. After that, he maintained substations, the records said.
Trains were already out on morning runs when the shooting occurred. Light rail service was suspended and replaced with bus bridges, agency Chairman Glenn Hendricks told reporters.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking emotionally in front of a county office where flags flew at half-staff, said victims’ relatives were “waiting to hear from the coroner, waiting to hear from any of us, just desperate to find out if their brother, their son, their dad, their mom is still alive.”
At the White House, President Joe Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and urged Congress to act on legislation to curb gun violence.
“Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more,” Biden said in a statement.
Updated Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 12:17 pm .
Updated Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 12:32 pm .
Updated Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 2:13 pm .
Updated Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 7:30 pm .