San Jose Mercury News:
Report: Federal agents detained gunman in 2016 over notes expressing hatred of VTA
The VTA maintenance worker who fatally shot nine co-workers and then himself at a light rail yard Wednesday morning was a “highly disgruntled” employee who came to the facility armed with 32 illegal high-capacity magazines, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.
The gunman in the Bay Area’s deadliest mass shooting, identified as 57-year-old Samuel James Cassidy of San Jose, opened fire upon co-workers in two buildings at about 6:34 a.m. Wednesday, and took his own life as law enforcement officers closed in, authorities said. A fire erupted at his San Jose home around the same time.
The gunman fired 39 times, apparently selecting his targets, Sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said, telling at least one person at the rail yard, “I’m not going to shoot you,” during his rampage.
The Sheriff’s Office wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon that its investigators are still determining Cassidy’s motive for the shooting, but have so far confirmed that he was “a highly disgruntled VTA employee for many years, which may have contributed to why he targeted VTA employees.”
A VTA spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday morning when asked whether Cassidy had a disciplinary history, or if any employees had reported feeling threatened by him.
The three handguns Cassidy used in the shooting were all legally obtained, FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair said in an interview Thursday.
But the magazines he carried with him and used violated California law.
The Sheriff’s Office previously said the gunman had 11 pistol magazines that held 12 rounds each, making them illegal high-capacity magazines in California, which mandates 10-round limits under a state law that is being challenged in court. On Thursday afternoon, they updated that total to 32 high-capacity magazines.
Fair said investigators also found expended 15-round magazines at the shooting scene, which is made up of five separate locations within the Guadalupe Yard complex where Cassidy traveled.
Cassidy also “had numerous other firearms legally registered to him, including shotguns and long rifles,” Fair said, though only the three handguns were found at the scene.
Motive still under investigation
According to a Wall Street Journal report Thursday, a Department of Homeland Security memorandum indicated that Customs and Border Protection agents detained Cassidy in 2016 as he was returning to the U.S. from the Philippines and found he harbored a hatred for his workplace.
The memo, which the Journal said was distributed at DHS after the shooting Wednesday, said Cassidy was found to possess “books about terrorism and fear and manifestos … as well as a black memo book filled with lots of notes about how he hates the VTA,” when Customs and Border Protection detained him. “When asked if he had problems with anybody at work, he stated, ‘no.’”
It was unclear whether that information was shared at the time with VTA and local authorities. DHS officials were not immediately available to comment. Fair said he could not speak to the Customs and Border Protection incident, but said Cassidy had never been investigated before by the FBI.
The fire Wednesday morning at Cassidy’s home on Angmar Court, which he appeared to set to coincide with his rampage, has made the investigation into his motive more difficult, Fair said.
Ammunition inside the home exploded during the fire, Fair said, and its second floor collapsed, forcing investigators to search through the rubble “for additional firearms, explosives, ammunitions, any evidence he may have left behind that may suggest motivation or ideology.”
“At this point, we do not know conclusively what drove him to this,” Fair added.
It also remains unclear what has been recovered at Cassidy’s home aside from what sources said were weapons and ammunition. Davis said a search warrant was set to be served at the home Thursday, continuing a lengthy police presence that included San Jose police, the sheriff’s office, the FBI and the ATF.
A neighbor’s security video showed Cassidy leaving his home at 5:39 a.m. dressed for work and loading a large black duffel bag into his white Ford pickup truck.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said the fire at Cassidy’s house was reported at 6:37 a.m., about an hour later.
“What we’re operating under now — but I’m not sure that this isn’t going to change — is that he set some kind of a device to go off at a certain time, probably to coincide with the shooting,” Smith said in an interview on NBC’s “Today Show” on Thursday morning.