An employee opened fire this morning at a VTA rail yard on West Younger Avenue in San Jose, killing eight people. The suspect is also dead.
The attacker was identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.
Transparent California, a website that stores salary data on government employees, says his title was “substation maintainer,” and that he was paid $110,383 in 2019, and that his total compensation was $160,509 including benefits. He’s worked for VTA since 2012.
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis said he did not know the type of weapon used. Authorities did not identify any of the victims, who included VTA employees.
“These folks were heroes during Covid 19. The buses never stopped running. VTA didn’t stop running. They just kept at work, and now we’re really calling on them to be heroes a second time to survive such a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said it was his understanding the shooting happened during a meeting.
The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. at the VTA Guadalupe light rail facility next door to the sheriff’s department and across the 880 freeway from the San Jose airport. The facility is a transit control center that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.
Police vehicles and orange crime-scene tape blocked off the area where the shooting happened, and reporters were kept at a distance. The rail yard is in the city’s administrative neighborhood, near the sheriff’s office and city and county offices.
Bomb squads were searching the rail complex after receiving information about possible explosive devices inside the building, Davis said.
“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 the family reunification center.
VTA trains were already out on morning runs when the shooting occurred. VTA light rail service has been shut down for the rest of the day, agency Chairman Glenn Hendricks told a news conference.
“It’s just very difficult for everyone to be able try to wrap their heads around and understand what has happened,” Hendricks said.
Officials were also investigating a house fire that broke out shortly before the shooting, Davis said. Public records show Cassidy owned a two-story home where firefighters responded this morning. Fire crews found a fast-moving blaze after being notified by a passer-by. A neighboring house also caught fire, authorities said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke emotionally in front of a county office where flags flew at half-staff. He 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.”
The bloodshed comes in a year that has seen a sharp increase in mass killings this year.
A database compiled by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing over the last 15 years shows that the San Jose attack is the 15th mass killing so far in 2021, all of them shootings.
Eighty-six people have died in the shootings, compared with 106 for all of 2020. It is the sixth mass killing in a public place in 2021. The database defines mass killings as four people dead, not including the shooter, meaning the overall toll of gun violence is much higher when adding in smaller incidents.
At the White House, President 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.
Today’s attack was the county’s second shooting in less than two years. A gunman killed three people before killing himself at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy in July 2019. — From staff and wire reports