San Jose shooting suspect set 'device' to ignite fire at home to 'coincide' with workplace massacre: sheriff

Motive remains a mystery in San Jose mass shooting

Fox News correspondent Claudia Cowan joins ‘Special Report’ with the latest on the workplace massacre

As new details emerge a day after the San Jose shooting that ultimately claimed the lives of nine victims, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith described Thursday morning how deputies and police officers arrived at the light rail facility within moments of the first 911 calls coming through. 

Smith said the call came out about the shots fired at the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) at 6:34 a.m. Wednesday, and a fire at the suspected gunman’s home eight miles away was reported at 6:37 a.m. so “he must have had some way to set it or someone else to do it.” 

“What we’re operating under now, and I’m not sure this isn’t going to change, is that he set some kind of device to go off at a certain time probably to coincide with his shooting,” Smith said during an appearance Thursday morning on NBC’s “Today.”

She clarified that as of right now investigators do not believe there is more than one suspect. Smith also offered an explanation as to how the gunman managed to fatally shoot nine people so quickly, as the headquarters for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is located across from the VTA facility.

“I think he was very deliberate, very fast. He knew where employees would be,” Smith said. There were deceased in two separate buildings, which “we believe he went from building to building,” she added.

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    Police secure the scene of a mass shooting at a rail yard run by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, California, on May 26, 2021.  REUTERS/Peter DaSilva( )

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    A mass shooting at a San Jose, California, rail yard left nine people dead. The suspected shooter, identified as Samuel Cassidy, worked at the facility and took his own life, authorities said. (KGO)

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“We were there just within a few minutes, but I really credit the officers from the San Jose Police Department and the sheriff’s office deputies who confronted the suspect very quickly,” Smith continued. “And when they confronted the suspect, he took his own life.”

The suspect, identified by authorities as VTA employee Sam James Cassidy, 57, had two semi-automatic handguns and 11 loaded magazines on his person at the time of the shooting, Smith said. Law enforcement dogs brought into the shooting scene alerted on what is believed to be the gunman’s locker and in it were “materials for bombs, detonator chords, the precursor to an explosive,” she said.

Investigators do not have information whether Cassidy targeted certain employees, Smith said. She said investigators are still looking into possible motives, adding, “What in world could possibly prompt someone to take this kind of action? We don’t know at this point.”

Smith said rounds of ammunition were also found at the gunman’s home. Fox 2 of the Bay Area previously reported that gasoline and ammunition were found inside the residence. Security camera footage showed Cassidy around 5:45 a.m. – less than an hour before the massacre – leaving home wearing a blue jumpsuit and tossing a black duffel bag into a white pickup truck, according to the station. 

Cassidy had worked for VTA since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pension database Transparent California, first as a mechanic from 2012 to 2014, then as someone who maintained substations.

His ex-wife said he had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago. 

“I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now,” Cecilia Nelms told the Associated Press on Wednesday. She said he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.

“He could dwell on things,” she said. The two divorced in 2005, and she hadn’t been in touch with Cassidy for about 13 years, Nelms said.

In court documents, an ex-girlfriend described Cassidy as volatile and violent, with major mood swings because of bipolar disorder that became worse when he drank heavily. Several times while he was drunk, Cassidy forced himself on her sexually despite her refusals, pinning her arms with his body weight, the woman alleged in a 2009 sworn statement filed after Cassidy had sought a restraining order against her. 

The documents were obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle.

A total of 10 people were left dead Wednesday, including the gunman. 

The Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner initially identified eight victims 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, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63. 

A ninth shooting victim died after being transported to a hospital, according to reports. That person was Alex Ward Fritch, 49, who died at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, FOX 2 of the Bay Area reported.

Singh had worked as a light rail train driver for eight or nine years and had a wife, two small children and many family members, said his cousin, Bagga Singh. “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.

San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez said Rudometkin was a close friend.

“There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family,” he wrote on Facebook. “Eight families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well.”

Fox News’ Dom Calicchio and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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