8 killed after employee opens fire at California rail yard

An employee opened fire and killed eight people Wednesday in a mass shooting at a California rail yard serving Silicon Valley, according to authorities who said the suspect was also dead.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesperson Deputy Russell Davis said the suspect was an employee of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the largest county in the Bay Area.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said it was “undetermined” how the shooter had died.

The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. local time at a light rail facility in San Jose next door to the sheriff’s department and across a freeway from the airport. The facility is a transit control centre that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.

Davis said the attack resulted in “multiple major injuries.” He did not know the type of weapon used or whether the gunfire happened indoors or outdoors. He said the victims included VTA employees. Authorities did not release any of the victims’ names.

“These folks were heroes during COVID-19, the buses never stopped running, VTA didn’t stop running,” said Santa Clara County supervisor Cindy Chavez. “They just kept at work, and now we’re really calling on them to be heroes a second time to survive such a terrible, terrible tragedy.”

Emergency responders are seen in the rail yard after Wednesday’s shooting. (Noah Berger/The Associated Press)

Bomb squads searching rail complex

Police vehicles and orange crime-scene tape blocked off the area where the shooting happened, and reporters were kept at a distance. The rail yard is in the city’s administrative neighbourhood near the sheriff’s office and city and county offices.

Bomb squads were searching the rail complex after receiving information about possible explosive devices inside the building, Davis said.

VTA trains were already out on morning runs when the shooting occurred. Light rail service was to be suspended at noon and replaced with buses, agency chairman Glenn Hendricks told a news conference.

He said it was very difficult for everyone to “try to wrap their heads around and understand what has happened.” 

Two patients were transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, according to spokesperson Joy Alexiou. One person was pronounced dead upon arrival, and the other was in critical condition.

VTA workers gather near the rail yard following the shooting. (Noah Berger/The Associated Press)

Employees call relatives

Outside the scene, Michael Hawkins told a local newspaper that he was waiting for his mother, who had called him from a co-worker’s phone to assure him that she was safe.

When the shooting started, “she got down with the rest of her coworkers” and dropped her cellphone, Hawkins told The Mercury News. He said his mother told him she hadn’t seen the shooter and wasn’t sure how close she’d been to the attacker.

The attack was the county’s second shooting in less than two years. A gunman killed three people before killing himself at a popular garlic festival in Gilroy in July 2019.

At a news conference, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo lamented the “horrific day for our city.” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a tweet that his office was “in close contact with local law enforcement and monitoring this situation closely.”

Agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the crime scene, officials said.

Read more at CBC.ca