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San Jose gunman had 2 semi-automatic handguns and 11 magazines, officials say

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Gunman’s dark past uncovered as San Jose mourns
Gunman’s dark past uncovered as San Jose mo... 04:10

The gunman who opened fire at a San Jose light rail facility, killing nine people, had two semi-automatic handguns and 11 magazines, a Santa Clara County Sheriff's spokesman confirmed to CBS News. The weapons were found near his body, CBS San Francisco reported.

The gunman fired 39 shots and appeared to target some of the victims, employees of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which operates the rail yard, Sheriff Laurie Smith told The Associated Press on Thursday. The gunman, 57-year-old VTA employee Sam Cassidy, took his own life.

The shooter arrived at the light rail facility around 6 a.m. Wednesday carrying the weapons and the high-capacity magazines in a duffel bag, Smith told the AP. She said there are no cameras inside the rail yard's two buildings, but said surveillance footage captured him moving from one location to the next. Five victims were discovered in one building and two in another, Smith said.

"It appears to us at this point that he said to one of the people there: 'I'm not going to shoot you,'" Smith told the AP. "And then he shot other people. So I imagine there was some kind of thought on who he wanted to shoot."

The sheriff said he also appeared to have set a timer or slow-burn device to set his home on fire, a blaze that was reported minutes after the first 911 calls came in from the rail facility. A motive remains unclear. Investigators are interviewing witnesses and family members, searching social media and combing through evidence at the two scenes.

The ex-wife of the gunman said he struggled with a temper. "That was one of our biggest problems. He was very quiet, keep things to himself," Cecilia Nelms told CBS News.

Authorities initially reported eight people were slain and several others wounded, but later said a ninth victim had succumbed to his injuries at a hospital. A vigil to honor the victims was scheduled to take place at San Jose City Hall on Thursday afternoon. Mayor Sam Liccardo and city council members are expected to attend.

 

Family says victim "spent his final moments trying to keep others safe"

The family of one of the victims in the San Jose light rail facility shooting, Taptejdeep Singh, released a statement Thursday saying Singh "spent his final moments trying to keep others safe."

The statement was released by the Sikh Coalition, which identified Singh as a member of the Sikh community. Singh's brother Karman Singh said the slain man "reacted quickly to get colleagues into secure offices, and was frantically calling others who would have been coming in for a shift change to warn them about the shooter." 

taptejdeepsingh.jpg
Taptejdeep Singh Singh family via Sikh Coalition

"Even in these moments of chaos, Taptejdeep was living by the values of Sikhi: living in service and protection of others. We believe that if the shooter had ever asked our brother for help, Taptejdeep would have gone above and beyond for him like he did for everyone he crossed paths with; he never harmed anyone, and no one who knew him would ever want to harm him," the statement said. "We choose to remember Taptejdeep as the hero he was, both in those final moments and throughout his life of service."

Another VTA employee, Sukhvir Singh, who is not related, said the slain man called him to warn him there was an active shooter in one of the buildings, and to hide or get out immediately.

"He told me he was with Paul, another victim, at the time. From what I've heard, he spent the last moments of his life making sure that others--in the building and elsewhere--would be able to stay safe,"  Sukhvir Singh said in a statement. "Because of him, so many people were able to go home to their families. We will never forget how he lived to the highest ideals of Sikhi in a moment of crisis, and my prayers are with his family and the families of all those who lost loved ones in this horrific attack."

Taptejdeep Singh, who was born in Punjab, India, was 36 years old and had worked as a VTA light rail operator for at least 8 years, the statement said. He is survived by his wife, his three-year-old son and his one-year-old daughter.

By Erin Donaghue
 

Light rail staff mourn slain employees

Executive leadership and employees at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority remembered the "tight knit" family bond they had with their fellow employees who were killed in Wednesday morning's shooting.

"I saw the immense pain in the faces of the families and I heard their cries when they got the news," acting general manager, CEO and general counsel of VTA Evelyn Tran, said. "It was utterly heart wrenching and I felt immensely helpless."

Light rail superintendent Naunihal Singh described 42-year-old Paul Delacruz Megi, who was killed in the shooting and worked as assistant superintendent in service management, as "kind-hearted" and "always willing to help."

 "Sometimes my demands could be unreasonable, but Paul always accepted with a smile," Singh said. 

San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez, who serves as a VTA board member, said he spent the last night with relatives and close friends of shooting victim Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40, who worked as an overhead line worker at VTA. 

"Personally, my heart is broken and honestly it's going to take a lot of time, not for me, but for all of us to be able to heal," Peralez said Thursday. 

Light rail maintenance operations manager George Sandoval said the relatively small staff at the light rail yard became "like family," over time. "It's beyond just the facility you're in," he said. "It's agency wide, it truly is a VTA family and I just want them all to know, yes, this is very difficult."

VTA services are suspended until further notice and busses will be provided in the interim, according to the light rail's public information officer Stacey Hendler Ross. She said that many employees are "incredibly traumatized" since the incident, and grief counselors have been provided at each division for them. 

A vigil will be held at San Jose City Hall on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. where San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo VTA staff and executive will attend.  

"We know there's more information to come about this incident, but today is about our employees and their families," chairperson of the VTA board Glen Hendricks said. "It is about people."

By Tori B. Powell
 

Gunman appeared to target some victims, sheriff tells AP

A gunman who killed nine people at a California rail yard fired 39 shots and appeared to target some of the victims, a sheriff told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The shooter arrived at the light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose around 6 a.m. Wednesday with a duffel bag carrying two semi-automatic handguns and 11 high-capacity magazines, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said in an interview.

"It appears to us at this point that he said to one of the people there: 'I'm not going to shoot you,'" Smith said. "And then he shot other people. So I imagine there was some kind of thought on who he wanted to shoot."

While there are no cameras inside the rail yard's two buildings, Smith said footage captured him moving from one location to the next. It took deputies six minutes from the first 911 calls to find the gunman on the third floor of one of the buildings, Smith said.

He killed himself as deputies closed in on the facility serving the county of more than 1 million people in the heart of Silicon Valley. More than 100 people were there at the time, and authorities found five victims in one building and two in another, Smith said.

Authorities do not yet know whether the gunman had worked regularly with any of the victims. Investigators were serving search warrants on his home and cellphone, seeking to determine what prompted the bloodshed, the sheriff said.  

The sheriff said he also appeared to have set a timer or slow-burn device to set his home on fire, and authorities also found explosives there. The fire was reported minutes after the first 911 calls came in from the rail facility.  

"I'm not sure we'll ever actually find the real motive, but we'll piece it together as much as we can from witnesses," the sheriff told the AP.

By Associated Press
 

Gunman's ex-wife says he struggled with his temper

The ex-wife of the gunman who opened fire at the San Jose light rail yard told CBS News he struggled with his temper.

"That was one of our biggest problems. He was very quiet, keep things to himself," Cecilia Nelms told CBS News.

Sam Cassidy, who was also an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), took his own life as authorities closed in. Nelms said that when she learned of the shooting, she was "in shock because I never thought he would do anything like that."

Gunman kills 9 and himself in San Jose 04:11

Nelms told The Associated Press that Cassidy, 57, had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago. "I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now," she told the AP.

By Erin Donaghue
 

Shooting victims identified

The nine people who were fatally shot on Wednesday have been identified. They are Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; and Alex Ward Fritch, 49.

The number of victims pronounced deceased rose from eight overnight following the confirmed death of Fritch, who was hospitalized in critical condition after the shooting.

San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez said in a Facebook post that Rudometkin was a "long time great friend" of him and his family. "There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now," he wrote. 

My dad and I were just planning another golf day reunion with Mikey, and now that will never happen again. My family and...

Posted by Raul Peralez on Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Singh's cousin, Bagga Singh, told the Associated Press that his relative had a wife, two small children and many family members. He said Singh worked as a light rail train driver for eight or nine years. 

"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.

The suspect was identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, an employee at Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose. Cassidy took his own life. Officials are working to determine a motive. 

By Tori B. Powell
 

Sheriff: VTA employees were given active shooter training

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told CBS San Francisco her department had previously conducted an active shooter training with VTA at the same facility where the shooting took place. The sheriff's department is located just a block away from the rail yard.

CBS San Francisco reports the training happened within the past year. Smith said the employees were told to run, hide, or engage with the suspect. A law enforcement source tells CBS News workers, who had gathered for a union meeting when the shooting started, were heard yelling: "Run, hide, fight."

Smith said she doesn't yet know what happened as shots rang out, but she said, "We may also have some heroes with VTA. Some of them may have also lost their lives."

Speaking about the gunman's motive, Smith said, "that's probably going to take awhile to sort out, if we can ever determine [it.]"

By Erin Donaghue
 

Investigators obtain warrant for gunman's social media

Investigators have obtained a warrant to search the gunman's social media as they try to determine a motive in Wednesday's mass shooting, reports CBS San Francisco.

Authorities are also conducting extensive witness and family interviews, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told the station.

The gunman, 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, lived in a neighborhood several miles away from the rail yard. Cassidy's home caught fire around the same time as the shooting, and authorities suspect arson, reports CBS News' Jamie Yuccas. Investigators remain at the scene searching for any evidence.

Officials say cans of gasoline and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found inside the home. Authorities described some of the items as "bomb-making materials."  

By Erin Donaghue
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