Grief-stricken families sat huddled together, holding hands and crying, after a gunman opened fire at a San Jose rail yard and killed eight people.
Some learned learned they had lost a loved one, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said told reporters. He described the scene inside a county building.
“They’re just sitting and holding hands and crying,” Rosen said. “It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s raw. People are learning they lost their husband, their son, their brother.” He said about 100 people were inside the family reunification center.
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Rosen said it was his understanding the shooting happened during a meeting.
The gunman, identified as an employee, also died.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom recalled the horror of previous mass shootings in California Wednesday when he spoke near the site of the latest tragedy.
"There's a numbness I'd imagine some of us are feeling about this because there's a sameness to this," Newsom said. "Anywhere, USA. Feels like this happens over and over and over again. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
"Pick a state, and here we are. We're experiencing something that's not experienced anywhere else in the world. That numbness is something we all feel."
Newsom spoke emotionally in front of a county office where flags flew at half-staff. He said victims’ relatives were “waiting to hear from the coroner, waiting to hear from any of us, just desperate to find out if their brother their son, their dad, their mom is still alive.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis said the attack also resulted in “multiple major injuries.” He did not know the type of weapon used.
Authorities did not identify any of the victims, who included VTA employees.
“These folks were heroes during COVID-19. The buses never stopped running. VTA didn’t stop running. 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,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
Police vehicles and orange crime-scene tape blocked off the area, and reporters were kept at a distance The rail yard is in the city’s administrative neighborhood, near the sheriff’s office and city and county offices.
Bomb squads were searching the rail complex after receiving information about possible explosive devices, 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 bus bridges, Hendricks told a news conference.
“It’s just very difficult for everyone to be able try to wrap their heads around and understand what has happened,” Hendricks said.
Outside the scene, 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 coworkers” 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.
The bloodshed comes in a year that has seen a sharp increase in mass killings as the nation emerges from pandemic restrictions that closed many public places and kept people confined to their homes.
A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks every mass killing over the last 15 years shows that the San Jose attack is the 15th mass killing so far in 2021, all of them shootings.
Eighty-six people have died in the shootings, compared with 106 for all of 2020. It is the sixth mass killing in a public place in 2021. The database defines mass killings as four people dead, not including the shooter, meaning the overall toll of gun violence is much higher when adding in smaller incidents.
At the White House, President Joe Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and urged Congress to act on legislation to curb gun violence.
“Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more,” Biden said in a statement.
San Jose, the 10th-largest city in the U.S. with more than a million people, is about 50 miles south of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley.
In the city itself, the most recent mass shooting occurred in 2019 at a private home, according to The Mercury News. Police said it was a quadruple murder and suicide precipitated by family conflict.
Wednesday’s 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.