Ten are confirmed dead after a gunman opened fire at a San Jose rail yard on Wednesday. The gunman, a longtime employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), attacked and killed nine of his colleagues, with an unknown number wounded, before taking his own life.
The first reports of a shooting came in around 6:30 a.m., according to Sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis. According to the New York Times, the shooting began during the VTA’s Wednesday morning shift, as “panic erupted as word spread of gunfire in two buildings.” Within minutes, law enforcement were at the VTA, with Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith praising the efforts of officers responding to the rampage: “They took their life [sic] in their hands.”
Firefighters responded at the same time yesterday morning to reports of a suspected arson at the shooter’s empty home in San Jose, determined later to have been started before the shooting. Local authorities, including Smith, confirmed that the shooter took his own life after realizing that law enforcement officers were inside the building. The shooter was armed with two semi-automatic handguns and 11 magazines, all legally obtained; police reportedly never engaged the gunman.
Witness Kirk Bertolet described the shooter as having “a specific agenda … targeting certain people, he walked by people, let other people live as he gunned down others.” The shooter’s former girlfriend told ABC7 News that he was “not mentally stable” and that “I was lucky he didn’t kill me” in connection with “issues” between the two. Officials say the shooter’s motive is still under investigation.
Among the dead are Taptejdeep Singh, a VTA light rail operator credited with heroically helping his coworkers escape to safety before being gunned down in a stairwell. Also confirmed dead was Lars Lane, a husband and grandfather.
The Wednesday shooting is one of the deadliest in the Bay Area’s history and the fifth mass shooting in the region in 10 years. In addition to the shooting, explosive detection canines alerted law enforcement to the presence of elements of explosive devices on VTA’s property. The intended purpose of these is unknown.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “There’s numbness I imagine some of us are feeling about this because there’s a sameness to this.… It just feels like this happens over and over and over again.” Visibly frustrated and emotional, the governor lamented the tragedy: “What the hell is going on in the United States of America?”
Newsom continued, hinting at potential upcoming political initiatives for his state: “[W]hen are we going to put down our arms, literally and figuratively?” He added that it’s time to deal with gun violence “and take a little damn responsibility to do a little better this time. We are resolved to not make this meaningless.”
In a tweet Wednesday, President Biden expressed sympathy for victims, saying, “There are at least eight families who will never be whole again. Every life taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation.”
The victims will be honored in a vigil at the San Jose City Hall at 6 p.m. Pacific Time Thursday.