San Jose shooting: at least nine people dead at California rail yard, police say

Police reported multiple fatalities and injuries after gunfire erupted early on Wednesday morning at a light rail maintenance yard in San Jose, California.

A Santa Clara county sheriff’s spokesperson, Deputy Russell Davis, said eight people were killed in addition to the gunman. Several people have been injured.

The victims included employees of the local light rail facility run by Valley Transportation Authority, Davis said. The shooter was an employee of the authority as well.

The shooting was first reported at around 6.30am in a light rail maintenance facility that stores trains and serves as a transit control center. The facility is located next door to the Santa Clara county sheriff’s department.

Police and investigators at the scene of a shooting at the San Jose Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard. Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA

San Jose police officers and sheriff deputies entered the facility while shots were still being fired, according to authorities. The Santa Clara county sheriff, Laurie Smith, added that at least one explosive device had been found, and that bomb-sniffing dogs were searching the building.

The motive for the shooting is under investigation, Davis said. “We’re trying to figure out whether there’s a connection” to a fire, he said. “This is still an active investigation.”

Smith said it was “undetermined” how the suspect had died.

Glenn Hendricks, the board president of the VTA, said the shooting occurred in the facility’s train maintenance yard. “A horrible tragedy has happened today,” Hendricks said. “Our thoughts go out to the VTA families for what they have been through.”

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.

Outside the facility Michael Hawkins told the Mercury News that he was waiting for his mother, Rochelle Hawkins, 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 co-workers” and dropped her cellphone, Michael Hawkins told the newspaper. Rochelle Hawkins did not see the shooter, and she was not sure how close she had been to the attacker, her son said.

VTA workers cross West Hedding Street near the scene of a mass shooting in San Jose.
VTA workers cross West Hedding Street near the scene of a mass shooting in San Jose. Photograph: Randy Vazquez/AP

Other family members of employees at the facility took to social media to find news about their loved ones.

“I can’t get in contact with my uncle that works there … do I go to 70 West Heading? Who can I call?” wrote one Twitter user.

The county has opened a “reunification center” in San Jose for families and friends looking for loved ones.

Oakland television station KTVU aired an interview with an unidentified man who said his mother hid from the assailant in a room with her co-workers. Another TV report suggested that the shooting might have a occurred during a union meeting.

“This is a horrific day for our city and a tragic day for the VTA,” said the San Jose mayor, Sam Licardo. “Now is a moment for us to collect ourselves to mourn and help those who have lost loved ones. Then we will need to turn our attention to making sure this never happens again in our city.”

The California governor, Gavin Newsom, said in a tweet that his office was “in close contact with local law enforcement and monitoring this situation closely”.

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

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