Ten dead, including gunman, in San Jose rail yard mass shooting; victims identified
The gunman set his own house on fire before driving to a union meeting at the VTA facility and opening fire, authorities said.
In California’s largest mass shooting this year, a gunman opened fire at a San Jose light rail yard Wednesday morning, killing nine people and dying of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
The gunman set his house on fire before he drove to a Valley Transportation Authority union meeting and began shooting, law enforcement sources said. Officials said the victims were shot in two different buildings.
The shooter was identified by sources as Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker at the VTA.
Sources identified him as Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker who apparently killed himself after killing eight...
At a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom said there is a “sameness and a numbness to these incidents,” after meeting with family members of the victims, and asked when the shootings will stop.
“What the hell’s going on in the United States of America? What the hell’s wrong with us? And when are we going to come to grips with this?” he said.
Late Wednesday evening, Santa Clara County’s office of the medical examiner-coroner identified eight of the victims after notifying next of kin.
They are: 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.
Hours later, officials announced the death of a ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, 49, who died Wednesday night at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center after being transported there in critical condition.
As of mid-Wednesday, investigators had believed there were explosive devices at the VTA site, and light rail service was suspended indefinitely.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said the building is remote and the area is cordoned off, so there is no immediate risk to the public.
“We received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building,” said Deputy Russell Davis of the Sheriff’s Department. “We activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene.”
Deputies did not exchange gunfire with the suspect, Davis said, noting that the preliminary assumption is that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
During a media briefing, Santa Clara Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said the gunman had multiple guns in his possession at the scene of the shooting but did not clarify how many he had used. He said there were no ghost guns.
Early indications are that the shooting was related to a workplace issue and that it did not involve riders of Santa Clara County’s light rail system, sources said.
At Cassidy’s beige stucco three-bedroom home on Angmar Court in San Jose, investigators discovered firearms and a large amount of ammunition, according to sources.
Video from a neighbor’s security camera captured Cassidy getting into a white pickup Wednesday morning. The footage shows Cassidy dressed in a safety jacket and pants with florescent strips and carrying a black duffel bag, which he placed in the truck.
Cassidy had worked at the light rail yard for at least eight years, according to public records.
According to a law enforcement source, Cassidy shot virtually everyone on the morning shift, including some he had worked with for years.
Court records show that Cassidy got married in 1994 and divorced in 2005. In April 2009, Cassidy was granted a restraining order he sought against a former 45-year-old girlfriend, whom The Times is not naming as she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault.
Cassidy had claimed his former girlfriend grabbed him in 2008, threatened him and promised to get him fired by contacting his employer.
In response to the request, the woman’s attorney filed a declaration on her behalf alleging that during the couple’s year-long relationship, Cassidy sexually assaulted her and “exhibited major mood swings as a result of bipolar disorder.”
She denied ever having harmed him, noting that she was 5 feet 4 and he was 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, and claimed that “several times during the relationship he became intoxicated, enraged and forced himself on me sexually.”
San Jose Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Jeff Fielding said firefighters responded to a blaze at the gunman’s home at 6:36 a.m. No one was home.
Fielding said crews encountered “extremely heavy” flames but were able to bring the fire under control in under an hour. He said the fire “completely destroyed” the house and caused minor damage to a neighbor’s home.
Neighbors knew Cassidy as a “very strange, very quiet” guy in his working-class neighborhood, said Ramon Crescini, 64, a retired general contractor who lives several doors down from the gunman.
Crescini said he woke up Wednesday morning to see black smoke billowing several doors down.
“The house was on fire,” he said.
Thang Lu, 57, said the streets have all been blocked off since early this morning.
“They blocked the whole thing,” he said. “A lot of crazy things are going on in San Jose. It is getting worse, not like the old days.”
At the shooting scene Wednesday, numerous officials from the FBI, San Jose city police and Santa Clara Sheriff’s milled about, with media kept at bay by yellow police tape strung around the parking lot for county employees. Authorities had also sealed off several nearby streets.
FBI special agent in charge Craig Fair, who oversees the San Francisco office, said the FBI is assisting local authorities and is providing evidence help and technical forensic analysis of the crime scene, and will be bringing technicians from across the country.
“It is a very sizable crime scene,” Fair said.
Joshua Jackson of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said five explosion detection canines were deployed to assist authorities.
Calling it a “horrible tragedy,” VTA chairman Glenn Hendricks said the shooting happened in the light rail maintenance yard and not in the operations control center.
“I just want to say how proud I am of our VTA family,” he said. “The stress that they’re going through — the friends and family that they know — this has just been a terrible event for them.”
Two shooting victims were taken to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said. One was pronounced dead on arrival, and the other died Wednesday night.
The VTA shut down light rail service starting at noon Wednesday until further notice, the agency said on Twitter, with buses filling in some of the gaps.
“The light rail yard remains an active investigation scene, limiting our ability to provide service,” the agency said.
Officials said they received multiple 911 calls around 6:35 a.m. from witnesses who reported hearing shots ring out at the VTA rail yard on West Younger Avenue near downtown San Jose.
The rail yard is located in a cluster of public buildings, including the San Jose police department and Santa Clara sheriff’s department.
Both agencies responded quickly, and officers could still hear shots being fired when they neared the VTA railyard, according to Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
“Our hearts are broken,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “These are members of the community. These are members of our families.”
He announced a vigil at 6 p.m. Thursday at San Jose City Hall as a “time we need to be together.”
“These are women and men who supported our community through the pandemic,” Liccardo said.
John Courtney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 265, said on Facebook that he was shocked and deeply saddened by the news, and that the union — one of four representing VTA employees — was working to provide support and assistance to victims’ families and those impacted by the shooting.
A few blocks away, authorities set up a family reunification center in a county building, where Chavez and others met with families and employees, hugging each other and crying.
“I know that families are hurting. Families are still waiting to learn” about the fate of their loved ones, she said.
Kasey Halcon, director of victim services for the county district attorney, said 50 to 70 people had received assistance by mid-morning.
“There is a lot of grief and a lot of uncertainty. There is also a lot of community support,” she said.
Bagga Singh was at a Red Cross center in San Jose waiting for word of his 30-year-old cousin, a train operator and father of two children.
Singh, a resident of Union City, said a location tracking device showed his cousin’s phone was still in a building where the shooting occurred. He and other family members have called it several times, and it just rings, he said.
He said his cousin was one of several relatives, immigrants from India, who work for the transit agency, but the cousin was the only one on duty Wednesday morning.
“We’re just waiting for news,” Singh said. “There is nothing we can do,” he said. “We are here together to help each other.”
Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman said he was “in shock” from what happened. He has ordered flags to be lowered to half staff to honor the victims.
“I just want to remind everybody that these folks were heroes during COVID-19,” Chavez said. “The buses never stopped running, VTA didn’t stop running. They just kept at work. Now, we’re really calling on them to be heroes a second time — to survive this terrible, terrible tragedy.”
California is known for its tough gun laws, but has been unable to avoid spasms of gun violence common nationwide. The mass shooting was the 231st in the United States in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people — not including the assailant — are killed or injured.
In March, eight people were killed in a mass shooting at several Atlanta-area spas, and 10 were killed at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket.
In April, eight people were killed at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.
Santa Clara County last saw a mass shooting in 2019, when a gunman killed three people and injured 17 others at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
In a statement about Wednesday’s incident, President Biden said he had the “solemn duty of yet again ... ordering the flag to be lowered at half staff,” just weeks after previous mass shootings, and urged Congress to take immediate action “to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America.”
“There are at least eight families who will never be whole again,” Biden said. “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.”
Times staff writers Jaclyn Cosgrove and Maria La Ganga contributed to this report.