An employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority opened fire at the facility in San Jose Wednesday morning, killing eight people and wounding several others, authorities said.
The suspect was identified as Samuel Cassidy, 57, according to national media reports, and was found dead. Investigators believe he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was a maintenance worker at the VTA for eight years.
Emergency calls began coming in at 6:34 a.m. Wednesday, reporting shots fired at a Valley Transportation Authority light rail facility two miles north of central San Jose, police said.
The VTA provides light rail, bus and other transit services in Santa Clara County. The facility sits next door to the sheriff’s department and across the freeway from San Jose International airport.
Officers were also reported to be investigating any connections between the attack and a house fire that broke out in San Jose shortly beforehand. Some reports indicate the gunman set his own house on fire before driving to a union meeting at the facility and began shooting. Victims were shot in two different buildings, and at least some of the victims were VTA employees.
In addition, a bomb-sniffing dog detected explosive material at the crime scene, so officials sent in a bomb squad to investigate every room and building. As of mid-Wednesday, there were still explosive devices at the VTA facility, suspending light rail service indefinitely.
This marks the state’s largest mass shooting this year.
The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident that kills or injures at least four victims, has recorded 230 mass shootings so far in 2021.
“As I learned of this incident, I was saddened to realize that I don’t have any more words to say,” Interim Santa Barbara Police Chief Bernard Melekian told the News-Press. “This is happening so frequently now that all I can do in my role as the police chief is to make sure that we are prepared to respond if (and) when necessary.
“People will continue to argue about whether this is a gun issue or a mental health issue, but I would submit that we need to address both of these areas.”
Authorities did not offer a possible motive for the shooting, but some reports indicate it could have been work-related.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told the News-Press regarding the incident: “We are saddened that yet another tragic and senseless mass murder has occurred in California. Coming on the heels of last Sunday’s anniversary of the 2014 Isla Vista Mass Murder incident, we are reminded that these lethal crimes can occur virtually anywhere, at any time.”
The sheriff also encouraged all county residents to visit the office’s website at www.sbsheriff.org to watch an instructional video on the homepage called, “Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event.”
“Being mentally prepared, remaining calm and knowing what to do are pathways to surviving any type of disaster, including active shooter events,” Sheriff Brown added.
Gov. Gavin Newsom met with local officials and families at the scene Wednesday morning.
“What the hell is going on in the United States of America?” California’s governor said. “What the hell is wrong with us and when are we going to come to grips with this and put down our arms literally and figuratively?”