Santa Clara County Sheriff releases body cam footage from VTA shooting
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith speaks with other personnel at the Sheriff's Office in the aftermath of the May 26 shooting at a VTA light rail yard. File photo by Vicente Vera.

    The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office released edited body camera footage Tuesday from last week’s mass shooting at a VTA light rail yard in San Jose.

    “We’ll never forget those innocent victims whose lives were taken by a crazed coward,” Sheriff Laurie Smith said Tuesday, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.

    The body cam footage shows a team of officers—two from the sheriff’s office and three from San Jose Police Department—responding to the shooting. The team climbs an exterior stairwell to the third floor of a building, where a VTA employee lets them inside.

    Gunshots are heard once officers are inside the building. Soon after, officers discover the body of the shooter, 57-year-old VTA technician Samuel Cassidy.

    “There were over 100 VTA employees on site that morning and I believe the bravery of all of law enforcement personnel really prevented the loss of additional life,” Smith said.

    “We believe that shot that went through the window casing was the first of three shots, but that’s preliminary right now because the crime scene people are not totally done,” Smith said about the body cam footage. “He shot himself once under the chin. It wasn’t fatal and then in the side of the head.”

    Smith said that following the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, the department was proactive in changing tactics where law enforcement no longer waits outside until a SWAT team arrives.

    “We immediately go in, even if it’s just one deputy—we’ll go in,” she said. “In this case, we had five on the first contact team. I thought it was important to show that this protocol, I believe, saved lives. There were more than 100 people in that area and he had lots of additional ammunition and had most likely set the fire at his house before.”

    Regarding whether Cassidy knew law enforcement was coming, Smith said, “We suspect so. You saw we had the flashlights when they were clearing that room.”

    “I would believe he either heard us or saw the flashlights through the windows he had apparently shot through,” she said.

    A frame from the body-worn camera footage released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.

    Also Tuesday, the county’s medical examiner finished Cassidy’s autopsy and officially ruled his death a suicide. The examiner noted multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

    “Although rare, this can occur in suicides in which the first shot to the head was not immediately fatal,” officials said.

    Though the FBI and other federal agencies cleared the scene of last week’s mass shooting, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has yet to release a motive for Cassidy, who killed nine workers before turning the gun on himself.

    “It is clear that this was a planned event and the suspect was prepared to use his firearms to take as many lives as he possibly could had the Sheriff’s deputies not made entry to stop his rampage,” according to sheriff’s office spokesperson Deputy Russell Davis.

    The FBI’s evidence response team finished its work at the Guadalupe Light Rail Yard in downtown San Jose and surrounding area on Sunday, according to the Mercury News.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms dispatched explosives detection dogs to the scene of the shooting after employees evacuated. While the dogs alerted handlers to the presence of explosives, federal officials said that they only discovered materials used to make explosives in Cassidy’s locker.

    The sheriff’s office bomb squad also concluded no active explosives were found at the light rail yard.

    On Friday, local law enforcement executed a final search of the shooter’s home on Angmar Court in San Jose—where a fire broke out around the same time as the shooting. Police advised neighbors to vacate their homes.

    Police found a “small amount” of explosives, but they were rendered safe and law enforcement cleared the neighborhood by 2 p.m.

    “Units are now clear of Angmar Court. Residents and neighbors are welcome to return to their homes. Thank you for your patience while we processed the scene,” the San Jose Police Department said in a tweet.

    The search of the shooter’s house turned up multiple cans of gasoline, suspected molotov cocktails, 12 firearms and about 20,000 rounds of various types of ammunition. Police also found three guns and illegal high-capacity magazines at the scene of the crime.

    Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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