The gunman who killed three people who work for a California program that treats veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder was kicked out of the program, a relative of one victim said on Friday.
Albert Wong, 36, was identified as the man who went to The Pathway House therapy center on the sprawling campus of the largest veterans’ home in the country and took a psychologist and two executives hostage, authorities said.
Gunshots were fired at about 10:30am, after Wong arrived at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville, but nothing more was heard from him or the women until their bodies were found at about 6pm, authorities said.
Wong slipped into a going-away party for two employees of The Pathway Home, authorities said.
Killed were program executive director Christine Loeber, 48; clinical director Jennifer Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzalez, 29, a clinical 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, working closely with those in the greatest need of attention after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Pathway Home said in a statement.
Golick was the top psychologist at the Pathway Home, a nonprofit organization that treats combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was “far too early to say if they were chosen at random” because investigators had not yet determined a motive, California Highway Patrol assistant chief Chris Childs said.
However, Golick’s father-in-law said she had recently ordered Wong removed from the program.
Golick called her husband, Mark, at about 10:30am to say that she had been taken hostage by the former soldier, Bob Golick said.
“Mark did not hear from her again,” Bob Golick said.
Wong had been an army infantryman who served one year in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. He held a number of service awards, including one for expert marksmanship with a rifle.
Yountville, about 85km north of San Francisco, is one of the Napa Valley’s most upscale towns, located in the heart of wine country.
A sheriff’s deputy responding to an emergency call on Friday morning got into a shootout with the gunman, but was not injured.
Highway Patrol Sargent Robert Nacke said negotiators were unable to make contact with the gunman throughout the day.
Larry Kamer told reporters that his wife, Devereaux Smith, was at a morning staff party and told him by telephone that the gunman had entered the room quietly, letting some people leave while taking others hostage.
Smith, a fundraiser for the home, was still inside the facility’s dining hall and was not allowed to leave, he said.
Police evacuated the property and closed off nearby roads to the veterans complex, which houses about 1,000 residents.
Army veteran and resident Bob Sloan, 73, was working at the home’s TV station when a coworker came in and said he had heard four gunshots coming from the home.
Sloan sent alerts for residents to stay put.
The California Department of Veterans Affairs said that the home, which opened in 1884, is the nation’s largest veterans’ home and cares for elderly and disabled residents.
Yvette Bennett, a wound-care supply worker who supplies the veterans center, was turned back when she tried to deliver what she called urgently needed medical supplies for two patients inside.
Of all the medical institutions she has worked with, “this is the most placid, calm, serene place,” she said.
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