By Peter DaSilva and Jonathan Allen
SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) -A transit employee shot eight co-workers to death and was himself killed at a commuter rail yard in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, authorities said, in the latest burst of deadly mass gun violence to grip the United States.
Authorities did not immediately offer many details or a possible motive for the shooting, which unfolded about 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time (1330 GMT) at a light-rail yard of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).
A bomb squad was searching the yard after at least one explosive device was found, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said at a news conference.
Davis did not say how the assailant died or whether police officers called to the scene had fired their weapons.
San Jose’s mayor, Sam Liccardo, said authorities also had responded to a fire at the home of the suspect, though no one was found inside.
The gunman and all eight victims were employees of the transit agency situated near the city’s airport, officials said. Authorities did not give the gunman’s name or age.
The San Jose Mercury News and other media outlets identified him as Samuel Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker at the yard.
Cassidy had worked for the transit authority since at least 2012, when he was listed as an “electro-mechanic,” and was promoted to “substation maintainer” in 2015, according to records posted by the nonprofit website Transportation California.
Last year, he earned a salary of $102,000, plus benefits and $20,000 in overtime, the records showed.
Local television station KTVU-TV reported that Cassidy had been married for 10 years and divorced in 2019, citing an interview with his ex-wife, who reportedly told the station she had little contact with him over the past decade.
“A horrible tragedy has happened today and our thoughts and love go out to the VTA family,” Glenn Hendricks, chairman of the VTA board, said at the news conference.
He said the shooting took place in a section of the rail yard where workers perform maintenance on vehicles, and was not in the facility’s operations and control center.
San Jose, a city of about 1 million residents, lies at the heart of Silicon Valley, a global technology hub and home to some of America’s biggest high-tech companies.
“These are, and were, essential workers,” Liccardo said of the victims.
“These VTA employees helped us get through this horrific pandemic. They were showing up everyday to operate light rail and buses to ensure people could still go about their lives in the middle of the challenge of the pandemic. And they were taking risks with their own lives in doing so,” the mayor said.
He said he was aware of news reports of a fire at the house of the man the authorities believed to be the shooter.
“That is certainly the information that I have, is that there was a fire at the shooter’s home, there was nobody found inside the home, thank God,” Liccardo told CNN affiliate KGO in an interview. “This is every mayor’s worst nightmare.”
Multiple fire department, police and bomb squad vehicles were still parked outside the suspect’s house, along a cul-de-sac in southeastern San Jose, hours after the shooting.
An explosives-detecting robot sat in the street near the home while two bomb squad technicians entered the ranch-style house. Arson investigators along with agents of the FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also present.
U.S. President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, and his staff continued to monitor the situation while keeping in close contact with local officials to offer any assistance needed, the White House said.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
Mass gun violence, commonplace in a country with one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world, has escalated considerably following a year-long lull as the United States emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.
Wednesday’s incident was the latest of at least eight deadly U.S. mass shootings in the past three months, including a string of attacks at Atlanta-area day spas in mid-March and a rampage days later that left 10 people dead at a Colorado supermarket. Last month, a former employee of an Indianapolis FedEx center shot eight workers to death and then took his own life.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely, Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani in New York; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Barbara Goldberg and Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Howard Goller and Sonya Hepinstall)