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A Fire, and Then a Deadly Attack in San Jose

Good morning.

Everything was set for an ordinary day in a suburban corner of southeastern San Jose on Wednesday. Doug Suh had an early golf game scheduled. Andy and Alice Abad were preparing for a morning doctor’s appointment. And Anthony Nguyen was, as always, set for his daily 9:30 a.m. church service.

But by early afternoon, each resident of the Evergreen neighborhood discovered in their own way that something had gone very wrong.

Early on Wednesday, Abad watched from his kitchen as a funnel of smoke and flames poured from a home one block away. Suh got a call from a friend on the golf course about a man who had killed eight workers at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority rail yard. (It would later become nine.) And Nguyen got a similar call from a friend but with a more disturbing detail: “The man who did it was your neighbor,” Nguyen’s friend told him.

By noon, their neighborhood was 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 in the cul-de-sacs of what they all described as a quiet suburban neighborhood that is home largely to Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants.

Investigators on Thursday morning were still piecing together the havoc unleashed the day before.

The suspect in the shooting, Samuel James Cassidy, 57, a maintenance worker who had been with the V.T.A. for at least a decade, lived in a one-story home with white trim and a patchy lawn in the Evergreen neighborhood.

Officials said Wednesday that they believed Cassidy was responsible for both setting his home on fire and then proceeding to shoot his colleagues at his workplace, the railway yard eight miles from where he lived.

Light rail service was shut down. Bomb squads searched for explosives in the area near downtown San Jose. The authorities said they believed the gunman had killed himself. His motive remained unclear.

The medical examiner’s office in Santa Clara County identified the victims on Wednesday night as Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; and Lars Kepler Lane, 63. A ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, 49, died at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Suh, who lives across the street from Cassidy, scanned through his security camera footage when he returned home from his golf game. The camera captured Cassidy at 5:40 a.m. loading his white pickup truck with a black bag. He was wearing a uniform with reflective stripes.

Suh said the few times he had conversations with Cassidy over the past few years, he was always wary of him. He said he had a short temper.

“I was afraid of him,” Suh said. “My wife was scared of him, too.”

But nothing prepared him and his neighbors for the scale of the violence that ravaged the city on Wednesday.

Nguyen, a retired real estate broker who has lived in San Jose for the past four decades, said he was baffled by what had happened.

“Everything has been very perfect,” he said of his neighborhood. “People are nice and quiet here.”

When he saw flashing lights on the corner of his street on Wednesday, he assumed there had been a traffic accident. Then his friend called with the news about the shooting.

“What about all these families that lost sons and fathers?” Nguyen asked in his driveway. “I’m so sorry for them. It’s not right. All these broken hearts.”

Compiled by Manny Fernandez

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