CALIFORNIA, (Washington Insider Magazine) – The gunman who killed nine people in a Northern California rail yard fired 39 rounds and might have remotely set his home on fire to coincide with the shooting, a top law enforcement official said Thursday.
The man, Samuel Cassidy, who worked for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, had three semiautomatic handguns and 11 loaded magazines when he attacked the VTA rail yard in San Jose early Wednesday, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.
“So far, we have found three handguns,” Smith said Thursday at a news briefing. “On the surface, they appear to be legal handguns, unless they’ve been modified … but he had an additional 11 magazines, and those magazines, or high-capacity magazines, are illegal in California.”
Smith told NBC News on Thursday, “We’re estimating right now preliminarily about 39 shots fired.”
She told The Associated Press that the shooter appeared to target some of the victims, telling at least one person, “I’m not going to shoot you.”
Investigators were still struggling Thursday to explain what might have prompted him to target colleagues at 6:34 a.m. PT Wednesday.
“What in the world could possibly prompt someone to take this kind of action?” Smith asked in an interview Thursday on NBC’s “TODAY” show. “We don’t know at this point.”
She said the dead were found in two buildings, leading investigators to believe that Cassidy “went from building to building.”
The VTA hub is steps away from the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies in downtown San Jose. Despite a quick response, there was no way to completely stop Cassidy, Smith said.
“He was deliberate, very fast,” she said. “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. When they confronted the suspect, he took his own life.”
The shooting came at a particularly busy morning hour at the transit hub as overnight employees were handing off to co-workers on the early shift.
About the same time the gunfire erupted, San Jose firefighters rushed to a home about 10 miles away near 1100 Angmar Court that was engulfed by flames, officials said. The home was Cassidy’s, law enforcement sources said.
Authorities believe there was ammunition inside the home, and firefighters smelled an accelerant when they arrived, sources said.
Investigators are working on a theory that Cassidy planted an explosive in the home to go off around the same time as the shooting, Smith said Wednesday.
“He must have had some way to set it or have someone else do it,” Smith said. “What we’re operating under now is … that he set some kind of device to go off at certain time, probably to coincide with his shooting.”
The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office identified the victims Wednesday night as Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; and Alex Ward Fritch, 49.
Fritch died at a hospital late Wednesday.
“The last grim toll of yesterday’s shooting has extinguished our desperate hope that perhaps the final shooting victim might survive,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement Thursday. “Now, all we can do is what we must: support our families and coworkers in pain, and assist their journey to healing.”