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Here’s what we know about the San Jose mass shooting

A San Jose, California rail facility that serves Silicon Valley is the scene tonight of the nation's newest mass shooting investigation. Authorities say a Valley Transportation Authority employee killed 8 co-workers before killing himself. Judy Woodruff discusses details of the shooting with the Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A rail transit facility that serves Silicon Valley in Northern California is now the scene of the nation's newest mass shooting investigation.

    Authorities say an employee killed eight co-workers and then killed himself.

  • Around 6:

    30 a.m., shots erupted at a rail yard north of downtown San Jose, and sent sheriff's deputies and police scrambling. The attack is the latest in a series of mass shootings this year.

    San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called it a tragic day.

  • Sam Liccardo:

    Now is a moment for us to collect ourselves, to understand what happened, to mourn and to help those who have suffered to heal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Police said victims were employees of the Valley Transportation Authority, a public transit system in Santa Clara County.

    Authorities said the gunman took his own life. He was identified as Sam Cassidy, who also worked at VTA. Police said this morning they were searching the complex for possible explosives.

  • Russel Davis:

    Right now, public safety is assured at this point. We do have investigators on scene pretty much doing our investigation to see exactly what happened and transpired.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Federal law enforcement is assisting with the investigation. Authorities also responded to a fire at Cassidy's house.

    VTA light rail service was suspended at noon today and replaced with bus service.

  • Glenn Hendricks:

    It's just very difficult for everyone to be able to try and wrap their heads around and understand what has happened.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    California Governor Gavin Newsom visited the scene later in the day.

  • Governor Gavin Newsom, D-Calif:

    To the victims, to those who lost their lives and the families who lost their loved ones, yes, our hearts go out, but we are resolved not to make this meaningless, but to bring meaning to this tragic moment in our state and our nation's history.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Authorities have also set up a reunification center for the affected families.

    Late today, President Biden urged Congress to take action on gun violence. He said — quote — "Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation."

    Congressman Ro Khanna represents part of San Jose. And he joins me now.

    Representative Khanna, thank you so much for joining us.

    And of course, our hearts go out to everyone who's lost a family member, a loved one today. What more can you tell us about what happened?

  • Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif:

    Thank you, Judy.

    There's just deep hurt in the community, I mean, eight lives senselessly lost, a sense of deep tragedy at the VTA. These are people who go every day to keep the public transportation running. I mean, when people talk about my district, they talk about Apple and Google. They forget that there are a lot of workers who make the infrastructure and transportation work.

    And they had horrific violence, and there's anger, and there's unanswered questions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And among the unanswered questions, of course, is motive.

    We know the shooter was an employee, so he presumably knew at least some of the people who are now dead or injured. Do we know any more about that, about the shooter's house being on fire today?

  • Rep. Ro Khanna:

    Judy, we don't know his motive, but there are reports coming out that he had, reportedly, incidents of domestic violence, that his former girlfriends were concerned that he could pose a threat to others.

    And I guess the question people are asking is, how does someone like that get access to a gun that literally, in a few seconds, can kill numerous people, change a community's life, change a family's life?

    It is appalling. And I have been in Congress for five years, and we still have not passed meaningful gun legislation, and people really are frustrated. They want to see action.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, in that vein, Congressman, we looked today, and the Associated Press is reporting that this is the 15th mass killing just this year in 2021; 86 people have died in these mass events, all of them shootings. And this compares to 106 people who died in all of 2020.

    As you say, it just keeps happening. What are the American people to take away from this?

  • Rep. Ro Khanna:

    Judy, I'm hopeful that the president can break through.

    He is someone who has deep empathy. He speaks to the broad range of Americans. He served, as you know, in the Senate for over 30 years. We have passed in the House some very commonsense legislation. It simply says, have a background check. If you're a law-abiding citizen, you can use your guns, but don't put a gun in the hands of someone who has allegedly committed domestic violence.

    Don't put a gun in the hands of someone who is going to go and kill people at a workplace. I don't understand why this is so complicated; 80 percent of the American people support it. I think what's changed now is, we have a president who is capable of getting the Senate to move, and I really hope that will happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what do you know, Congressman, about the gun laws in California that might have made a difference in this incident?

  • Rep. Ro Khanna:

    Well, Judy, we have some of the strictest gun laws.

    But I think one of the unanswered questions is, why were the red flag laws not invoked in this case? And we need to get more details. Were the domestic violence charges — did they rise to the level that red flag laws should have been involved? Why was there not more intervention?

    Why was there not more intervention in terms of mental health counseling and intervention in this person's life, who clearly had issues? I mean, someone doesn't just get up one day and snap and decide to kill dozens of people or try to kill dozens of people.

    This is something that has been building up. And there was not intervention. And we have to understand why.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we — I heard Governor Gavin Newsom, who was there speaking at the news conference just an hour ago, say, we don't want this event to be just another shooting, and they just keep happening and keep happening. We want it to mean something.

    But how does that happen? Because these events just keep repeating themselves.

  • Rep. Ro Khanna:

    Well, I think we have to look at the specifics in this case and then see what California can do.

    So, are there areas we need to strengthen red flag laws, so that there could have been intervention to take this person's weapon away when there were warning signs? The second thing is, were — is there enough in terms of mental health counseling, and what resources were available to the VTA?

    And, finally, we need to honor, I think, the families at the VTA and VTA workers. In Silicon Valley, too often, they're invisible. Their contribution isn't recognized. Today, they're really grieving. And it was supposed to be a day of celebration. They finally had rides returning to normal after the pandemic.

    And now it's one of the worst days in their life. And it's — this is not politics. I have reached out to people. They're shocked. They're devastated. They're never going to forget this.

    And it's just sad this is happening in workplaces in this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Terrible and sad. And, as you say, it was supposed to be a very different kind of a day.

    Congressman Ro Khanna thank you very much again. And, again, our condolences to the entire community.

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