'Grim toll': 9th victim dies after rail yard shooting in San Jose; gunman was longtime rail employee
SAN JOSE, Calif. – A ninth victim has died in a shooting spree at a Northern California light rail yard, the "last grim toll of yesterday's shooting," Mayor Sam Liccardo said Thursday.
"Now, all we can do is what we must: support our families and coworkers in pain, and assist their journey to healing," Liccardo tweeted.
The gunman, an employee whose ex-wife says had struggled with anger issues, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police spokesman Russell Davis said. Other employees were among the victims. Authorities had not determined a motive.
The suspected gunman, identified as Samuel J. Cassidy, opened fire at about 6:30 a.m. local time in two buildings at the at the sprawling Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail hub. VTA provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the most populated county in the Bay Area.
"When our deputies went through the door, initially he was still firing rounds," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said. "When our deputy saw him, he took his life."
Timeline of events:Officers rushed into San Jose rail yard as gunshots were still ringing out
He tried to warn his co-workers, then he was shot:Loved ones mourn victims of shooting at San Jose rail yard
The initial eight victims were identified by the Santa Clara County coroner's office Wednesday night: Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.
A ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, 49, was taken to a local hospital before he died Wednesday evening.
They had been bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and an assistant superintendent over the course of their careers.
Cassidy, 57, was a long-time rail company worker. Payroll records obtained by ABC-7 News indicate he earned $160,000 in base, overtime and other pay as a VTA "substation maintainer."
Investigators are trying to determine whether he was involved in a fire at his home and another nearby blaze. Cassidy was seen on a neighbor's security camera footage leaving his home at 5:39 a.m. with a duffel bag, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
About an hour later, the San Jose Fire Department received a call about a blaze at a lumber business about 5 miles away from the rail yard. Then the first 911 calls reporting the shooting at the light rail yard came in, followed minutes later by a call of a fire at Cassidy's home.
A woman who dated Cassidy filed a restraining order against him in 2009, accusing him of rape and sexual assault. The filing, obtained by The Mercury News, also includes accusations that Cassidy had severe mood swings and suffered from alcohol abuse.
His ex-wife says he had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago. "I never believed him, and it never happened," Cecilia Nelms said. "Until now."
Nelms was married to Cassidy for about 10 years before they filed for divorce in 2005. She told The Mercury News he often was angry at co-workers and about his assignments at work. She said, however, that she had not spoken with him in more than a decade.
Authorities have not said whether Cassidy was a legal gun owner. Smith, the sheriff, told CNN and NBC that Cassidy was armed with 2 semiautomatic weapons and 11 magazines. She told the outlets a locker at the rail yard believed to be the gunman’s contained "materials for bombs, detonator cords, the precursors to an explosive."
Cassidy's social media presence, if he had one, was not readily apparent, nor is a criminal record.
'Enough':Biden urges Congress to pass gun control bills after lowering flag for latest mass shooting
'What the hell is wrong with us?:After San Jose shooting, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asks
California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with some family members of the victims and spoke at a news conference Wednesday, expressing frustration with the ongoing cycle of mass shootings in the U.S. He praised the efforts of law enforcement at the scene but asked: "What the hell is wrong with us, and when are we going to come to grips with this?"
Later Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he was "yet again" ordering flags be flown at half staff to mark another mass shooting tragedy and made a plea for gun control legislation.
"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," he said.
The U.S. has historically reported a gun homicide rate about 25 times higher than that of other wealthy nations. In 2021 alone, there have been 15 mass killings, each with at least four victims killed, according to an Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University database. All cases were shootings and claimed a total 87 lives.
The shooting Wednesday marks Santa Clara County's second mass shooting in less than two years. In 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, killing three people and wounding 17.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va.; Hauck from Chicago. Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
What We Know About the San Jose Shooting
The authorities in Santa Clara County, Calif., said that 10 people were dead, including the gunman, and others were injured in a shooting at a transportation facility.
San Jose shooting: gunman had talked about killing people at work
Shooter who left nine people dead spoke about killing people at work more than a decade ago, said his ex-wife
An employee who gunned down nine people at a California rail yard and then killed himself as law enforcement rushed in had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago, his ex-wife said.
“I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now,“ a tearful Cecilia Nelms told the Associated Press on Wednesday following the 6.30am attack at a light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority.
“When our deputies went through the door, initially he was still firing rounds. When our deputy saw him, he took his life,” the Santa Clara county sheriff, Laurie Smith, told reporters.
The sheriff’s office is nextdoor to the rail yard, which serves the county of more than 1 million people in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The attacker was identified as 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy, according to two law enforcement officials. Investigators offered no immediate word on a possible motive but his ex-wife said he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.
“He could dwell on things,“ she said. The two were married for about 10 years until a 2005 divorce filing and she hadn’t been in touch with Cassidy for about 13 years, Nelms said.
It was the 15th mass killing in the nation this year, all of them shootings that have claimed at least four lives each for a total of 86 deaths, according to a database compiled by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
At the White House, 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.
Governor Gavin Newsom visited the site and then spoke emotionally about the country’s latest mass killing.
“There’s a numbness some of us are feeling about this. There’s a sameness to this,” he said. “It begs the damn question of what the hell is going on in the United States of America?”
The shooting took place in two buildings and killed employees who had been bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and an assistant superintendent over the course of their careers. One had worked for the agency since 1999.
The Santa Clara county office of the medical examiner-coroner identified the victims as Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.
A ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, age 49, was transported to Santa Clara Valley medical center in critical condition and died on Wednesday evening, the coroner’s office said.
Singh had worked as a light rail train driver for eight or nine years and had a wife, two small children and many family members, said his cousin, Bagga Singh.
“We heard that he chose the people to shoot, but I don’t know why they chose him because he has nothing to do with him,” he said.
The shooter had more than one gun, county district attorney Jeff Rosen said. It was not immediately clear whether he had obtained the guns legally.
In court documents, an ex-girlfriend described Cassidy as volatile and violent, with major mood swings because of bipolar disorder that became worse when he drank heavily.
Several times while he was drunk, Cassidy forced himself on her sexually despite her refusals, pinning her arms with his body weight, the woman alleged in a 2009 sworn statement filed after Cassidy had sought a restraining order against her. The documents were obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted.
Cassidy had worked for Valley Transportation Authority since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pension database Transparent California, first as a mechanic from 2012 to 2014, then as someone who maintained substations.
Officials were also investigating a house fire that broke out shortly before the shooting, Davis said. Public records show Cassidy owned the two-story home where firefighters responded after being notified by a passerby. Law enforcement officers cordoned off the area near the home and went in and out on Wednesday.
Doug Suh, who lives across the street, told the Mercury News in San Jose that Cassidy seemed “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.”
Wednesday’s attack was the deadliest shooting in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1993, when a gunman attacked law offices in San Francisco’s Financial District, killing eight people before taking his own life.
It also was Santa Clara county’s second mass shooting in less than two years. A gunman killed three people and then himself at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy in July 2019.
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