SAN JOSE, Calif. — A municipal transit worker opened fire as the Wednesday morning shift was gathering for work at a San Jose rail yard, killing eight people in the latest of the mass shootings that have plagued the United States this year.
Senior California law enforcement officials identified the gunman as Samuel James Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker who had been with the Silicon Valley’s regional transit agency for at least a decade. His body was found at the scene, and the authorities said he killed himself.
It was unclear how many people were wounded, but at least one person was in critical condition at a hospital, officials said.
The gunman was an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which oversees bus, rail and paratransit service for commuters, said Sgt. Russell Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. He did not identify the victims or offer a motive.
At the rail yard, workers said, panic erupted as word spread of the gunfire. Buildings were evacuated as officers rushed to the scene, responding to reports from two buildings, Sheriff Laurie Smith of Santa Clara County said. Bomb squads searched for explosives, and rail service was suspended.
Survivors were led to a separate building where they were reunited with family members. James Kostmayer, a local government employee, said the scene was “heartbreaking.”
“You could hear the screams and cries of the families” from the elevator, he said, adding that he heard “a mother screaming, ‘My son, my son.’”
Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose said those who had known the gunman as a coworker for years “expressed generalized concerns about his mental health.”
Wednesday’s violence was the latest in a scourge of shootings as the coronavirus pandemic has waned in the United States, including attacks at spas in the Atlanta area, a massacre at a Boulder, Colo., supermarket and a shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis. A shooting on Monday claimed the lives of four people near Columbus, Ohio.
President Biden summed up his reaction in one word: “Enough.”
In a statement released by the White House, in which the president called out the other recent shootings, he said: “Once again, I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America. Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more.”
California has some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, with more than 100 restrictions including background check requirements, constraints on buyers and dealers, and “red flag” bans that let family members and the police go to court to take firearms away from owners who are considered at risk of committing violence.
However, with a population of nearly 40 million, California also has endured many mass shootings. Wednesday’s was the deadliest in the Bay Area since 1993, when eight people and a gunman died in a high-rise in San Francisco. It also evoked memories of the 2019 shooting at a garlic festival in nearby Gilroy, in which a gunman killed three people and wounded more than a dozen others before killing himself.
“It just seems like this happens over and over and over again — rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who canceled a news conference to meet with the families of the San Jose workers.
“There’s a sameness to this and a numbness,” the governor said. “All the right emotions and perhaps the right words, but it begs the damned question: What the hell is going on in the United States of America?”
Mayor Liccardo called it “a horrific day for our city” and vowed to “do everything possible to make sure this never happens again.”
The shooting was first reported at 6:34 a.m. in the 100 block of W. Younger Avenue and San Pedro Street, in downtown San Jose, a city of about one million people and the third largest in California. The Valley Transportation Authority rail yard, used to store and dispatch transit vehicles, is part of both a large government complex and a hub for the authority’s work force of some 2,100 employees.
The Santa Clara County district attorney, speaking at a news conference, said the shooting took place after a union meeting, and John A. Costa, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said in a statement that the organization’s “hearts and prayers are with our sisters, brothers, and their families” at Local 265 in San Jose.
Glenn Hendricks, the chairman of the authority’s board, said the V.T.A. workers were close-knit, with bonds that had been reinforced during the pandemic, when many had risked their health keeping the public transportation system running for much of Silicon Valley.
“V.T.A. is a family,” Mr. Hendricks said, his voice shaking. “Everyone in the organization knows everyone.”
As multiple 911 calls came in, officers were dispatched from the San Jose Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which is headquartered next door. Local fire crews were to a blaze at Mr. Cassidy’s home eight miles away in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose, a quiet suburban enclave populated largely by Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants. Mayor Liccardo said they found no one inside.
Andy and Alice Abad said they called 911 when they saw a funnel of smoke pouring out of Mr. Cassidy’s home, a one-story gray house with white trim and a patchy lawn. “The flames were above the rooftop,” Mr. Abad said.
He took a picture on his cellphone and left with his wife to a doctor’s appointment. When he returned home at noon, the cul-de-sacs were swarming with multiple fire and police vehicles, federal agents and a boxy blue truck from the San Jose bomb squad. Men with gas masks and oxygen tanks stood amid the flashing lights of emergency vehicles.
Sheriff Smith credited recent active shooter training, in part, with the swift response by law enforcement. She initially said the cause of the suspect’s death was undetermined, but then added that “when he knew that law enforcement was there, he took his own life.”
Outside the American Red Cross center in San Jose, where survivors and their families were later dispatched for counseling, Christina Gonzalez choked back tears as she waited for news of her cousin Michael Rudometkin. She said she heard from her family members that Mr. Rudometkin, who lives in Santa Cruz, was among the people who had been shot.
“I’m just waiting and praying and hoping he’s OK,” said Ms. Gonzalez, who rushed to the Red Cross from work when her brother called with the bad news.
Ms. Gonzalez did not know what condition her cousin was in or where he was, but said he had been at a union meeting that morning.
He “loved his job and just always stood up for everyone’s rights,” she said. “He is just a very good person so we’re really hoping this isn’t the place to tell us the bad news.”
Reporting was contributed by Kellen Browning, Frances Robles, Patricia Mazzei, Nicole Perlroth, Neil Vigdor, Christine Hauser and Will Wright. Kitty Bennett and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.