By a Biometrica staffer
Early morning on Wednesday, May 26, a gunman — identified as Sam Cassidy by media reports — opened fire at a public transit rail yard in San Jose, California. He ended up killing at least eight of his co-workers and injuring several others in what has been identified by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) as the 232nd mass shooting incident so far this year. In comparison, there were 417 mass shooting incidents in all of 2019, according to data from the GVA, the latest year in its six-year review.
The nine victims were identified later on Wednesday by the Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner as:
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
Alex Ward Fritch, 49
Fritch was transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in critical condition and died on Wednesday evening, the coroner’s office said. The alleged gunman’s ex-girlfriend is reported to have said that she was scared of him and that he sexually assaulted her, had major mood swings exacerbated by heavy drinking and was mentally unstable.
It is yet another mass shooting that has claimed the lives of essential workers in the U.S. On April 16, which happened to be the 14th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 32 lives, eight people were killed at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis. On March 22, a gunman opened fire at a King Soopers outlet in Boulder, Colorado, killing ten people, including police officer Eric Talley, who responded to the incident.
President Joe Biden “yet again” ordered the flag over the White House to be lowered to half-staff after the San Jose mass shooting, and issued a single word plea: “Enough.” He added that Congress should immediately “heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence.”
A mass shooting incident is defined as one where four or more people are killed, excluding the shooter. The GVA documents every reported incident of gun violence in the United States, collecting this information from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily, in an effort to provide near-real time data about the results of gun violence.
The San Jose shooting took place at around 6:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, when several 911 calls reported shots fired near a Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) control center, a hub that stores light rail trains, houses a maintenance yard and employs about 2,000 workers, CNN reported. The VTA provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the most populated county in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Associated Press said in its report. The incident occurred in the rail yard as employees from the midnight shift and those from the day shift overlapped, Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff Russell Davis said. Transit authority mechanic Rochelle Hawkins said she dropped her phone when she heard shots, adding, “I was running so fast. I just ran for my life.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies and fire department personnel are said to have responded with their “active shooter protocol.” Law enforcement officers (LEOs) did not exchange fire with the suspected gunman, who took his own life once he realized LEOs were on the scene, county sheriff Laurie Smith said. Multiple guns were used in the incident, per District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
Rosen did not go into the specifics of the weapons, nor whether they were obtained legally, but did say they were not considered to be untraceable “ghost guns.” Cassidy, the suspected shooter, also reportedly set fire to his own home on Angmar Court before the incident at the rail yard, according to a report by ABC7 News. When firefighters arrived on the scene, no one was inside the home. ABC7 News obtained surveillance video that shows Cassidy leaving his home shortly before it went up in flames. “It would appear as if the fire was set as the shooter was on his way to the worksite,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.
“The victims and all the colleagues knew the shooter well,” Liccardo told CNN. Cassidy’s ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, told the Associated Press that Cassidy had a bad temper and would tell her that he wanted to kill people at work, “but I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now.” She said her ex-husband would come home wound up and mad about things that had happened at work, and would get angrier as he talked about it.
Nelms said there were times she was scared when he lost his temper, and he was someone who could physically hurt others. She said they were married for 10 years — he filed for divorce in 2005 — and had not been in contact for 13 years. She said Cassidy had been treated for depression.
His neighbor, Doug Suh, reportedly told both ABC7 News and the Associated Press that Cassidy would never respond to greetings, appeared to live alone and never seemed to have any visitors. Suh also described an incident when he was backing out of his driveway and Cassidy started yelling at him, and told both media outlets that he never spoke to Cassidy again after that.
As recently as Monday, May 24, CNN reported that there were at least 12 mass shootings that took place across the U.S. between Friday night, May 21, and Sunday, May 23. Those shootings were reported in eight states: Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Minnesota. Only two weeks before that, a man walked into a birthday party in Colorado Springs and killed six people and then himself. That was termed the deadliest mass shooting since the King Soopers incident in March.
Even while the debate over gun control continues, Biden has made it clear that gun violence is a focus of his administration. On April 8, he announced an initial set of measures to take on what he called “an epidemic” of gun violence. This came mere hours after a shooting in Rock Hill, South Carolina, claimed six lives in another senseless act of violence and a particularly bloody March, which saw several mass shootings.
On the other hand, half a dozen states have passed laws that make it easier to carry firearms in public since February. Gun control remains one of the most divisive and contentious issues in American politics. Opinions, both among lawmakers and the general public, tend to be split down party affiliation. Public opinion for stricter gun control measures has waxed and waned over recent years. Bipartisan support for more stringent regulation peaked in 2019 but has declined since then. Still, a majority of Americans continue to favor more gun control. A national poll in March found that 65% of those surveyed believed that gun laws should be stricter — 41% said they should be “a lot more strict” and 24% said they should be “somewhat more strict.”