The gunman who shot dead nine people at a northern California streetcar hub earlier this week hid an arsenal of weapons and ammunition at his home, which he set on fire as part of his planned rampage.
Samuel James Cassidy, 57, had several cans of gasoline, suspected Molotov cocktails, twelve firearms and around 22,000 rounds of various types of ammunition at his home, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said on Friday in a statement.
“It is clear that this was a planned event and that the suspect was prepared to use his firearms to kill as many people as possible if the sheriff’s deputies had not come in to stop his rampage,” the office said.
While officers initially found “potential explosive precursor materials” at the shooter’s residence and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, they ultimately found no explosives, the office said.
“The suspect has been described by his colleagues as being upset, and detectives are investigating his relationship with the VTA,” the bureau said.
In 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested Cassidy on a return trip from the Philippines and found that he was expressing his hatred against the yard where he worked, according to a note from the Department of homeland security shutdown obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
An officer discovered that Cassidy had “books on terrorism and fear and manifestos … as well as a black note book filled with numerous notes on how he hates the ATV,” according to the note. When asked if he was having problems with anyone at work, Cassidy replied “no,” according to the memo.
A Biden administration official said he saw the memo and confirmed its contents to The Associated Press.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the note to USA TODAY. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation into the shooting, did not respond to repeated questions about whether he was made aware of the 2016 arrest or investigated Cassidy afterwards .
A spokesperson for VTA, on Friday, responding to a question about whether Cassidy had ever said or done anything to make employees uncomfortable, said the authority was reviewing all files relating to Cassidy.
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Here’s what we know on Friday:
Witnesses say the shooter targeted specific people, was an “alien”
The content of the note matches the picture law enforcement has painted so far of a man who appears to have stoked hatred against the people he has worked with for a decade.
While Cassidy gunned down nine other employees before taking his own life, witnesses say he targeted specific people.
Sheriff Laurie Smith said Cassidy told at least one person “I’m not going to shoot you,” before shooting the others. “So I imagine there was some sort of thinking about who he wanted to shoot,” Smith said.
“They didn’t wait”: Officers rushed into the San Jose rail yard as gunshots still rang out, authorities say
Kirk Bertolet, a signal maintenance worker who worked in a unit separate from Cassidy, told The Associated Press the suspect did not injure anyone he encountered on his way to the second building, where further shots were fired.
“Sam made sure he killed everyone he wanted. He made sure they were dead,” Bertolet said. “I watched some of my colleagues take their last breath, and they were all gone. Seven of them were just gone.”
Bertolet called Cassidy a ‘stranger’, saying, “He’s never been in the band. He’s never been accepted by anyone. You look back and you’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s okay.’ “
Who were the victims?
Nine people died in the shooting, and the victims included bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and a deputy superintendent.
The victims were: Paul Delacruz Megia, 42 years old; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63 years old; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; and Alex Ward Fritch, 49, according to the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office.
VTA’s director of light rail maintenance operations George Sandoval told a press conference on Thursday that there is a close bond between many of the agency’s employees.
“A lot of these people have worked here for 20, 30 years, so yeah, we’re becoming a family,” Sandoval said. “Our staff respond to emergencies on the rail and there is a deposit.”
He tried to warn his colleagues, then he was shot:Relatives mourn victims of San Jose rail yard shooting
Victims honored during a vigil
About 1,000 people gathered on Thursday night at a vigil outside San Jose City Hall as family members tearfully remembered their loved one as heroes and role models.
Taptejdeep Singh’s brother Karman said his brother had a “lion’s heart”. As the gunman opened fire, Taptejdeep Singh rushed out of the safety of an office to help others escape, witnesses told his family.
Annette Romo, whose husband Timothy Michael is deceased, told the crowd: “Never leave the house without kissing your loved one. Because this was the last one I had.”
A spokesperson for GoFundMe said a centralized hub to identify and verify fundraisers for victims and their families has been set up at gofundme.com/san-jose-strong.
Suspect has been preparing for shooting for years, police say
Police said Cassidy, 57, had intricately plotted the shooting. He gathered weapons, read articles on terrorism, housed bomb-making equipment and rigged his house to collapse into hell as he prepared to kill nine co-workers.
Before Cassidy left her home around 5:39 a.m., he set a timer or a slow-burning appliance to set his house on fire, said Smith, the Santa Clara County Sheriff.
Authorities say they found an assortment of what appeared to be bomb-making equipment in Cassidy’s locker – forcing the area to be locked down and bomb technicians to sweep the large compound.
Sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said Cassidy had three 9mm semi-automatic handguns as well as 32 large-capacity magazines loaded with additional ammunition.
Those who knew Cassidy said he had anger and alcohol problems, threatened workplace violence, and spoke for years about his hatred of his workplace.
Cecilia Nelms, who was married to Cassidy for about 10 years before filing for divorce in 2005, told The Mercury News that he was often angry with colleagues and about his assignments at work, although she did said she hadn’t spoken to him in about over a decade.
Another woman who was dating Cassidy accused him of rape and sexual assault, according to 2009 court documents obtained by The Mercury News. The documents also contain accusations that Cassidy had severe mood swings and suffered from alcohol abuse.
Contributors: John Bacon and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press