New details have emerged about Wednesday’s mass shooting at a VTA light rail yard that left 10 people dead, including the shooter who turned the gun on himself.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith appeared on NBC News’ “Today” show this morning to talk about the latest developments.
“We know the suspect entered the facility and began shooting,” Smith said. “And there were deceased in two separate buildings, which we believe he went from building to building.”
Violence broke out shortly after a union meeting at the Guadalupe Light Rail Yard at 100 West Younger Avenue in downtown San Jose Wednesday morning. The shooter, identified as 57-year-old VTA technician Samuel Cassidy, killed nine people before turning the gun on himself.
One victim transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in critical condition died late Wednesday. County officials identified all nine victims earlier in the day.
The investigation is still active and local officials are receiving assistance from the San Francisco branch of the FBI.
On the “Today” show, Smith told hosts that the shooter carried two semi-automatic handguns, as well as 11 loaded magazines. It’s unclear if Cassidy reloaded at the scene of the shooting, but Smith did say that reloading a semi-automatic handgun can be quick.
Russell Davis, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, later clarified that the shooter actually had three semi-automatic handguns.
Though bomb-sniffing dogs alerted law enforcement to potential explosives at the rail yard, police found no devices during their day-long search. Smith said the dogs probably alerted officers to what was in Cassidy’s locker: materials for bombs and detonator cords.
Smith couldn’t speak to the shooter’s motive or if his attack was targeted.
“I think that will come up in the investigation, but not certain right now,” she said.
The Santa Clara County sheriff also addressed reports of a fire at Cassidy’s house in East San Jose that occurred around the same time as the shooting. Reports of shots fired at the VTA light rail yard came in at about 6:34 a.m.; the fire was reported at 6:37 a.m.
“So he must have had some way to set it or have someone else do it,” Smith said, later clarifying that the investigation is operating under the assumption that Cassidy set some kind of device to go off at a certain time, “probably to coincide with the shooting.”
While Smith said the shooter was deliberate, fast and knew where employees would be, she praised law enforcement’s quick response. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is across the street from the rail yard where the shooting occurred.
“I really credit the officers from San Jose Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office deputies who confronted the suspect very quickly and when they confronted the suspect, he took his own life,” the sheriff said.
The full transcript can be found below:
Q: I’m sure it has been a difficult night and one in which you and your detectives have been working very hard. Can you share with us what you have been able to piece together about what happened yesterday?
A: We know that the suspect entered the facility and began shooting. And there were deceased in two separate buildings which we believe he went from building to building.
Q: The suspect was an employee of the Valley Transit Authority, the VTA. At this point do you have any information that he particularly targeted those employees or was this just an indiscriminate act of violence?
A: We don’t know specifically whether he targeted. I think that will come up in the investigation, but not certain right now.
Q: Have witnesses described any interaction with the gunman as this unfolded? Did he say anything? Indicate anything?
A: Not that I’m aware of. He went through the building shooting. It was a short period of time before our deputies were able to confront the suspect.
Q: Do you know what kind of weapon or weapons he was using?
A: On him at the time were two semi-automatic handguns and he also had 11 loaded magazines.
Q: And do you have any indication now from the crime scene whether he reloaded? How many shots he seemed to get off?
A: I don’t have that information right now, and we still are processing the scene. But I know to be able to reload a semi-automatic handgun is very quick.
Q: Do you have any information that sheds light on what motivated this? Do you have any information about the gunman that would help you understand what may have prompted this awful massacre?
A: We don’t have that information now. Obviously we’re looking into that. But what in the world could possibly prompt someone to take this kind of action? We don’t know at this point.
Q: There was a fire at the suspect’s house. What have you learned about that? And have officers found any explosives either at that scene at the suspect’s house or at the scene of the shooting?
A: Yes, the call came out with the shots fired at 6:34 in the morning and then the fire was reported at 6:37. So he must have had some way to set it or have someone else do it. Found in the scene of the shooting, our dogs alerted on probably what is his locker. And in it was materials for bombs, detonator cords, the precursors to an explosive. And I think they also found at least rounds at the house too.
Q: You just said that the fire was set subsequent to his having gone to the site of the shooting rampage, did I catch that correctly? Do you have any reason to believe that there is someone else involved here?
A: You know, we don’t right now. What we’re operating under now, but I’m not sure that this isn’t going to change, is that he set some kind of a device to go off at a certain time, probably to coincide with the shooting.
Q: And just really quickly, your office, the sheriff’s office, the police officers are essentially right across from this maintenance yard and they got there in a matter of moments and yet in a matter of moments nine people were killed. What do you make of that?
A: Yes. Well, I think he was very deliberate, very fast. He knew where employees would be. We were there just within a few minutes. But I really credit the officers from San Jose Police Department and the sheriff’s office deputies who confronted the suspect very quickly and when they confronted the suspect, he took his own life.
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Contact Nick Preciado at [email protected]