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 6:30 a.m. attack at a light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told TODAY that investigators don’t yet know whether the shooter specifically targeted his victims, but she said victims were found in two separate buildings at the facility.
“He was very deliberate, very fast. He knew where employees would be,” Smith said. “When our deputies went through the door, initially he was still firing rounds. When our deputy saw him, he took his life.”
The sheriff’s office is next door to the rail yard, which serves the county of more than 1 million people in the heart of the 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 the suspect 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, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
At the White House, President 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.
Gov. 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 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 victims, many of them longtime employees of the transit agency, were identified by the Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner Wednesday night 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; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; and Alex Ward Fritch, 49.
The ninth victim, Fritch, died late Wednesday after he was transported to the hospital in critical condition, the medical examiner’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 choose him because he has nothing to do with him,” he said.
San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez said Rudometkin was a close friend.
“There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family,” he wrote on Facebook.
The shooter had two semi-automatic handguns and 11 loaded magazines, Smith told TODAY.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had obtained the guns legally.
The sheriff told TODAY that bomb-making materials were found in what investigators say was the suspect’s locker at the rail facility.
“Found in the scene of the shooting, our dogs alerted on probably what was his locker and in it was materials for bombs — detonator cords, precursors to an explosive,” Smith said.
In court documents, an ex-girlfriend described the suspect 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, he 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 he 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.
The suspected gunman 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 also were investigating a house fire that broke out shortly after the shooting, Sheriff Smith said. Public records show the suspect 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 Wednesday.
“The call came out with shots fired at 6:34 (a.m. PT), and then the fire was reported at 6:37, so he must have had some way to set it or had someone else do it,” Smith said. She said police currently believe that “he set some kind of device to go off at a certain time, probably to coincide with this shooting,” but they are still investigating.
Doug Suh, who lives across the street from the suspected gunman’s home, told NBC Bay Area that the suspect seemed “strange.”
“I saw him and talked to him five times to say ‘hi’ but he never talked to me,” Suh said. “He’d just look at me without saying anything.”
Suh told The Mercury News in San Jose that once, the suspect yelled at him to stay away as he was backing up his car. “After that, I never talked to him again.”
Neighbors who spoke to NBC Bay Area also described the suspect as quiet, “mean” and said he never talked to anyone.
Mass Shootings in the U.S. Since 1982
Source: Mother Jones, NBC reporting
Last updated: Dec. 10, 2019
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.
Associated Press video journalist Terry Chea in San Jose and writers Janie Har in San Francisco, John Antczak and Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, and Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
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Source: NBC Bay Area