Eight killed in shooting at San Jose VTA yard | May 28, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - May 28, 2021

Eight killed in shooting at San Jose VTA yard

by Bay City News Service

A Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employee shot and killed eight people at a VTA maintenance yard in San Jose on Wednesday morning authorities said. The suspect died at the scene.

Local, state and federal authorities continue to investigate suspected explosive materials in the wake of the shooting. Investigators, law enforcement officials and political leaders held a briefing Wednesday afternoon, May 26. The suspect was identified by various media outlets as Samuel Cassidy, 57.

A spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office said that explosive-detecting dogs and robots and members of the sheriff's bomb squad were expected to remain at the VTA's Guadalupe rail yard on West Younger Avenue into Thursday to ensure it is safe. As a result, the VTA's light rail service was suspended until further notice, with bus service put into place.

"We're going to be there throughout the night to clear every room and every crevice of that building," Deputy Russell Davis said.

Investigators with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were supporting the Sheriff's Office in the investigation and supplying investigators with assets like ballistics and forensic equipment from the FBI's offices in Quantico, Virginia.

The Sheriff's Office first received reports of the shooting at 6:34 a.m. and dispatched deputies to the rail yard, which is adjacent to the Sheriff's Office's headquarters.

The gunman opened fire during a shift change at the rail yard, with graveyard shift employees leaving the facility and day shift employees arriving, according to Davis.

More than 40 employees were at the facility at the time, said San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata. One shooting victim was in critical condition at a local hospital in addition to the eight victims confirmed dead as of Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to the FBI and ATF, local law enforcement in Santa Clara County, the California Highway Patrol, the state's Office of Emergency Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security assisted during the initial active shooter response.

Davis and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith argued that the death toll could have been even higher if law enforcement officers hadn't responded as quickly as they did.

"The deputy sheriffs from the Sheriff's Office, the officers from San Jose Police Department ran into the building while shots were being fired and I know that it saved many lives," Smith said at the briefing.

Davis noted that sheriff's deputies did not exchange gunfire with Cassidy and investigators are working under the assumption that he died by suicide.

Davis did not confirm whether a house fire at what is believed to have been Cassidy's home was connected to the shooting.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said it is "a horrific day for our city, and it's a tragic day for the VTA family ... our hearts pain for the families and the co-workers because we know that so many are feeling deeply this loss."

VTA board of directors chair and Sunnyvale Vice Mayor Glenn Hendricks described the Guadalupe facility as a maintenance yard where light-rail vehicles are dispatched.

"VTA is a family, people in the organization know everyone," Hendricks said. "This is a terrible tragedy."

The VTA was getting grief counselors in place for its employees, Hendricks said.

"My prayers are with the families and my gratitude goes to all the first responders," Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a tweet.

Some elected officials called for more effective gun control measures.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, said he will continue to push for "common sense gun control measures."

"While much still remains to be confirmed at this time, one thing is abundantly clear: the gun violence epidemic will continue to rage unless we take concrete action to protect our country. It was our community today, but it will be someone else's tomorrow," Khanna said in an emailed statement.

Khanna said more than 80% of Americans favor measures like waiting periods, "red flag" laws and background checks.

"When I head back to Washington, I will continue to push for this urgently needed legislation," Khanna said.

Caltrain and SamTrans officials shared their condolences in a joint statement.

"This is a dark day for the VTA and the City of San Jose," Caltrain board chair Dev Davis said. "We don't yet have all the details regarding this horrible act, but we stand with our member agency as they continue to serve the public amidst this tragedy."

"We are deeply saddened by the terrible shooting this morning," said SamTrans board chair Charles Stone. "Our hearts go out to everyone at VTA; especially the women and men who work to keep it running."

The city of San Jose was scheduled to hold a vigil for the victims of the shooting Thursday at 6 p.m. at San Jose City Hall, located at 200 E. Santa Clara St.

The San Jose-based community organization Working Partnerships USA and the South Bay Labor Council set up a fund to support families of the shooting victims. Donations can be made at bit.ly/vtasolidarity.

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