A gunman and three hostages were found dead Friday evening at a Northern California veterans home, concluding a standoff that lasted for about eight hours, officials said.
Shortly before 6 p.m., officers entered the room at the Yountville Veterans Home where the gunman had been holding the hostages. According to the California Highway Patrol, three women and a man — believed to be the gunman — were found dead.
“This is a tragic piece of news, one that we were really hoping we wouldn’t have to come before the public to give,” said Chris Childs, assistant chief of the CHP’s Golden Gate Division.
The Napa County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office identified the shooter as 36-year-old Albert Wong of Sacramento, who formerly was housed at the Pathway Home, a residential program within the Yountville facility. Wong served in the Army and was deployed in Afghanistan from April 2011 to March 2012, military officials said.
Authorities first responded to reports of shots fired about 10:20 Friday morning at the nation’s largest veterans care facility. A man with a rifle had walked into the Pathway Home building and taken several employees hostage, officials said.
The first Napa County sheriff’s deputy to arrive exchanged gunfire with the gunman, who allowed some of the employees to leave before holing up in a room with three hostages. Childs said authorities credited the responding deputy for saving lives “by eliminating the ability of the suspect to go out and find other victims.”
The deputy was not injured.
Childs said authorities tried throughout the day to reach the gunman on his cellphone to no avail. Three hostage negotiators were at the scene, but the standoff dragged on throughout the day with no contact with the gunman or the hostages.
California Sen. Bill Dodd told ABC7 that the gunman was a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who had served in the Middle East. He had been asked to leave the facility earlier in the week, the Press Democrat said.
Authorities identified the victims as the home’s executive director, Christine Loeber, 48; therapist Jen Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzales, 29, a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
Golick’s father-in-law, Bob Golick, told the Associated Press that she had recently expelled Wong from the program.
“These brave women were accomplished professionals who dedicated their careers to serving our nation’s veterans,” a representative of the Pathway Home said in a statement.
Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement Friday evening expressing his condolences, along with his wife’s.
“Anne and I are deeply saddened by the horrible violence at the Yountville Veterans Home, which tragically took the lives of three people dedicated to serving our veterans,” he said. “Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones and the entire community of Yountville.”
According to scanner traffic, dispatchers told responding deputies that the suspect was wearing all black and was a former resident at the 600-acre facility. They reported he was armed with a semi-automatic rifle “with a lot of ammo” and possibly wearing body armor.
Deputies were told over the scanner that the gunman was with the hostages on the second floor of a building, where the nonprofit Pathway Home serves veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Deputies reported seeing movement out of the window of the room late afternoon.
“He’s in Madison Hall, Building G, the Pathway house,” the dispatcher said. “Units, be advised he does have a stash of bullets around his neck.”
Childs said a rental car driven by the gunman, parked near the building, drew a reaction from a bomb-sniffing dog. A SWAT team and an explosives unit cleared the car, and it was not believed to be a threat, he said.
According to the facility’s Master Plan, the Pathway Home is a men’s residential recovery program for veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. A staff of 18 serves an average of 40 veterans at the home, which operates on private donations and grants.
According to a spokesman, about 840 veterans live on the grounds of the Yountville Veterans Home. The facility is just north of Napa, a destination for wine and tourism.