A public transit employee opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard Wednesday, killing more than a half-dozen people before taking his own life, authorities said.
Calls of shots fired came about 6:34 a.m. PT near 100 W. Younger Ave. in downtown San Jose, drawing a large law enforcement response, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.
The shooter was identified as Samuel Cassidy, an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), law enforcement sources said. He shot and killed himself at the scene, according to sources.
At least eight people were killed, not including the shooter, sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said.
“This is a horrific day for our city and it is a tragic day for the VTA family, and our heart pains for the families and the co-workers because we know so many are feeling deeply this loss of their loved ones and their friends,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told reporters at the scene.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said her deputies and San Jose police officers arrived quickly after the initial 911 calls.
“When the shots were still being fired, our teams, with San Jose PD, are entering the building while shots were still going off. We attempted rescues,” Smith said. “We have some very brave officers and deputies.”
Citing an “active shooter,” deputies told the public at 7:12 a.m. PT to steer clear of the neighborhood, about 50 miles south of downtown San Francisco.
Even hours after the shooter died, a bomb squad was clearing the area in case he left explosives behind.
“We received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building,” Davis told reporters at the scene. “ We’re trying to clear out every room, every crevice of that building.”
The dead suspect is believed to be the only shooter involved, according to officials.
“Public safety is assured at this point,” Davis said.
At about the same time gunfire erupted at the VTA yard, San Jose firefighters rushed to a home about 10 miles away that was engulfed by flames, officials said.
That home, near 1100 Angmar Ct., is the suspect’s, law enforcement sources said. Investigators believe there was ammunition inside the home and firefighters smelled an accelerant when they arrived, sources said.
“We’re trying to figure out, exactly, if there’s a connection” between the fire and shooting, Davis said.
The Younger Avenue address is a light rail yard of the VTA, which provides bus, rail and various shuttle services to the booming Bay Area suburb and technology hub.
Davis called the shooting scene a VTA “control center” which is a “hub that stores multiple VTA trains and a maintenance yard as well.”
The shooting happened “on the VTA light rail yard but it did not happen in the operations control center,” VTA Board Chairman Glenn Hendricks said.
Hendricks added he was proud of transit workers who stayed on the job and kept moving commuters even in the face of Wednesday’s mass shooting.
“A horrible tragedy has happened today,” Hendricks said. “I could not be more proud of the VTA organization. As I drove here, I saw VTA buses out on the road.”
The suspect was described as a “substation maintainer,” law enforcement sources said. And state public employee records showed a VTA employee named Samuel Cassidy, with that same position, who made $114,426.17 in 2019 wages, the last data available.
The shooting scene is at the center of regional law enforcement operations, as the rail yard is within a half-mile of the San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney headquarters.
The shooting comes amid a yearlong rise in nationwide gun violence and record firearm sales.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the federal government is keeping in close contact with law enforcement in San Jose.
“We will continue to stay in close contact with them and offer any assistance as needed,” she said. “We still don’t know all of the details … but what’s clear, as the president has said, is that we are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence in this country, both in mass shootings and in the lives that are being taken in daily gun violence that doesn’t make national headlines.”
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Matthew Mulligan, Jonathan Dienst and Emma Thorne contributed.