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Gunman, 3 women die in standoff at California veterans facility

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 shooter — were found dead.

The Napa County sheriff-coroner’s office identified the man as 36-year-old Albert Wong of Sacramento, Calif., who was formerly housed at the facility.

“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.

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 man. The gunman allowed some of the employees to leave and then holed 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 had 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 shooter or the hostages.

State 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 Democrat said.

Pathway Home, the facility where the incident took place, released a statement late Friday identifying 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.

“These brave women were accomplished professionals who dedicated their careers to serving our nation’s veterans,” the statement said.

California 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 gunman was a former resident at the 600-acre facility. They reported he was armed with a semiautomatic rifle “with a lot of ammo” and might be 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 through the window of the room in 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.”

The CHP’s 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 injury. A staff of 18 serves an average of 40 men 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.


© 2018 Los Angeles Times

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