SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — An employee opened fire Wednesday at a rail yard in San Jose, California killing eight people before ending his own life, authorities said.
The shooting took place at around 6:30 a.m. at the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides bus, light rail and other transit services in Silicon Valley.
Sources identified the suspect as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, a VTA worker.
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis said he did not know the type of weapon used.
Davis said the attack also resulted in “multiple major injuries” and the victims included VTA employees. Authorities did not release any of the victims’ names.
Two patients were transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, according to spokesperson Joy Alexiou. One person was pronounced dead upon arrival, and the other was in critical condition.
The rail yard is located next door to the sheriff’s department and across a freeway from the airport. The facility is a transit control center that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.
It was not clear exactly where the shooting happened. VTA Chairman Glenn Hendricks said it took place in the rail yard but not in operations control center. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said it was his understanding the shooting happened inside the VTA building during a morning meeting.
Victims’ grief-stricken families sat huddled together, holding hands and crying, after learning they had lost a loved one, Rosen told reporters, describing the scene inside a county building.
“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.
Police vehicles and orange crime-scene tape blocked off the area, 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.
“Our hearts are pained for the families of those we have lost in this horrific shooting,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said on Twitter.
“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.
A reunification center for employees and families was set up nearby.
Mayor Liccardo said a suspicious house fire in San Jose that broke out just before the shooting happened may be connected.
Public records show Cassidy owned a two-story home where firefighters responded Wednesday morning. Fire crews found a fast-moving blaze after being notified by a passer-by. A neighboring house also caught fire, authorities said.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said there were explosive devices inside the house that was on fire on Angmar Ct. Special agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the crime scene, officials said.
Cassidy had worked for the VTA since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pension database known as Transparent California. His position from 2012 to 2014 was listed as a mechanic. After that, he was a substation maintainer, the records said.
Outside the scene, Michael Hawkins told The Mercury News that he was waiting for his mother, Rochelle Hawkins, who had called him from a co-worker’s phone to assure him that she was safe.
When the shooting started, “she got down with the rest of her coworkers” and dropped her cellphone, Michael Hawkins told the newspaper. Rochelle Hawkins did not see the shooter, and she was not sure how close she had been to the attacker, her son said.
VTA trains were already out on morning runs when the shooting occurred. Light rail service was to be suspended at noon and replaced with bus bridges, accordign to Hendricks.
“It’s just very difficult for everyone to be able try to wrap their heads around and understand what has happened,” Hendricks said.
VTA officials said all light rail service will be shut down starting today at noon until further notice.
The bloodshed comes in a year that has seen a sharp increase in mass killings as the nation emerges from pandemic restrictions that closed many public places and kept people confined to their homes.
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.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.