Bodycam video reveals final moments of Calif. rail yard shooting
The video shows officers bursting through a set of double doors, where they find the shooter
By Fiona Kelliher and Maggie Angst
The Mercury News
SAN JOSE, Calif. — New body camera footage released Tuesday reveals the final eerie minutes of last week’s mass shooting at a light rail yard, showing law enforcement swarmed a building where a disgruntled employee of Valley Transportation Authority opened fire on his colleagues before killing himself.
The footage — released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department six days after Samuel James Cassidy, 57, shot and killed nine coworkers — comprises the first inside look at the deadliest rampage in Bay Area history, including the moment the team of first responders encountered the shooter, holding the gun he had shot himself with.
“I see the gun in his hand. I see the gun in his hand,” one law enforcement agent shouts.
“I got it — I got the subject,” another replies.
The four-minute video starts around 6:37 a.m., as five agents prepared to head up the back staircase of the three-story office building where the shooter ended his rampage after killing several colleagues in a conference room across the VTA yard. Just two minutes had passed since the first call came in, according to Lieutenant Aaron Simonson.
When the footage begins, what appears to be gun shots are heard as the agents — including three San Jose Police Department officers, one sheriff’s deputy and one sergeant — cross the rail yard to approach the building.
As the team heads up the staircase, a VTA supervisor escapes the building at the top of the stairs, handing over his key card to the agents to allow them access. “Come behind me, come behind me,” a deputy tells him. The team enters through a break room, passing by a refrigerator and a first aid kit mounted to the wall before swinging into the main office area.
Shining flashlights around the darkened office, they quickly begin to clear the room, briefly illuminating empty cubicles and computer screens that appeared to have been abandoned mid-task.
Moments later, the sound of three more shots puncture the air.
The video then shows the team of agents quickly bursting through a set of double doors, where they find the shooter sunken over an office chair in his signature blue jacket. The jacket he wore wasn’t part of his uniform but instead, a distinctive Carhartt safety coat that co-workers said had been his signature.
As two agents swarm over Cassidy, grabbing his gun, the camera pans to the left, revealing a window that agents believe he had shot through just moments before.
“I got the subject,” an agent calls out. Minutes later, Cassidy’s body would be placed on the roof of a police patrol car.
In a press conference Tuesday — the first since the day of the shooting — Sheriff Laurie Smith said that she believes that Cassidy knew the team was closing in, prompting him to shoot himself twice, once in the chin and then in the side of the head, an account confirmed by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office.
“The autopsy concluded that the manner of death was suicide, and the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds of the head,” the office said in a statement late Tuesday. “Although rare, this can occur in suicides in which the first shot to the head was not immediately fatal.”
At the press conference, Sheriff’s Office deputies described the contents of the video but largely sidestepped questions about Cassidy’s possible motive and red flags that could have alerted VTA or authorities to the threat earlier. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has handed the scene over to the Sheriff’s Office, which remains in charge of the investigation and has yet to return the site to VTA.
Authorities have revealed little about the gunman’s possible motivations. VTA has yet to share any personnel records publicly, although the agency last week said that it would investigate any previous complaints about Cassidy, who apparently harbored longtime anger for the agency.
Cassidy’s ex-wife said he spoke about killing coworkers, while an ex-girlfriend accused him of alcohol-fueled mood swings. In 2016, Customs and Border Patrol reportedly detained Cassidy on his way back from a trip to the Philippines, finding that he possessed books about terrorism and a memo book full of anti-VTA writing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Workers have described him as a misfit and “odd.”
“Everybody thought he was just a little bit odd,” one worker told this news organization last week. “I had no idea he was dangerous but I’m not surprised either. There was something wrong with his wiring is the way I would describe it.”
When asked directly whether the Sheriff’s Office had been alerted to the earlier federal detainment or any other information, Smith demurred Tuesday, saying “I don’t know” the nature of the threat that CBP identified.
Instead, the sheriff focused her praise on the five first responders, saying she believes their implementation of the department’s active shooting protocol saved lives.
“It was put into action by the sheriff’s office and San Jose police officers who hardly spoke a word to each other, they knew what their job was, they did their job and then confronted the suspect,” she said.
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