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Illustration by Security Management

Motive Unknown for Workplace Shooting in San Jose, California

On Wednesday, a shooting occurred in San Jose, California, taking the lives of nine victims and the assailant.  

According to authorities, on the morning of 26 May, Samuel James Cassidy, an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), a regional transit agency for Silicon Valley, started a fire in his two-story home in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose. Cassidy, who had worked with the transit agency for at least 10 years and was currently employed as a maintenance worker, then drove to his job site and entered the rail maintenance yard, opening fire in two of the buildings there at around 6:30 a.m. local time. The facility, which is where VTA vehicles are maintained and dispatched, is near the sheriff’s office, police department, and the city’s international airport.  

After shooting at least nine people, Cassidy killed himself at the site of the shootings.  

The victims included VTA employees, such as bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen, and assistant superintendent. Michael Rudometkin, 40; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; and Lars Kepler Lane, 63, were all reported dead at the scene. The ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, 49, is reported to have died at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. 

According to interviews with his coworkers, former girlfriend, and ex-wife, Cassidy was described as someone with mental health concerns and had been treated for depression. He lived alone.  

Authorities have not announced a motive for the shootings. However, one witness to the shooting said that Cassidy ignored some people while appearing to intentionally target certain people to shoot. “He let other people live as he gunned down other people,” Kirk Bertolet, a worker at the Santa Clara VTA, told a CNN affiliate Wednesday night. 

Because of the shooting, light rail service was suspended and replaced with bus bridges, and bomb squads were dispatched to search for explosives in the surrounding areas. 

While California boasts some of the strictest gun laws in the countryincluding background check requirements and “red flag” bans that permit family members and the police to remove firearms from persons who are likely to commit violence—the state has seen several mass shootings. According to The New York Times, the San Jose shooting was the deadliest in the Bay Area since an incident in 1993, when eight people died.  

Californians increasingly bought guns in 2020. Previously, the state reported roughly 100,000 background checks every month. According to The Sacramento Bee, bMarch 2020, that number increased to 164,000. 

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was renewing its efforts to combat recent increases in major violent crimes.  

“The Deputy Attorney General is issuing a comprehensive strategy to deploy our federal resources in the most effective way, disrupting the most dangerous threats and supporting the ground-level efforts of local law enforcement,” Garland said in a statement 

The three-pronged strategy would first establish a set of four principles that would apply to the entire DOJ as a guide on reducing violent crime. The principles include building trust and earning legitimacy between law enforcement and communities; investing in prevention and intervention programs; targeting enforcement efforts and priorities; and measuring results. 

The second step would be to enhance the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, updating the programs to align with the DOJ’s efforts on community engagement and other partnerships. 

Lastly, the U.S. Attorney’s office is directed to work with state, local, federal, tribal, and community partners, working together to create a plan to address increases in violent crimes.