SAN JOSE—Over a decade before Samuel Cassidy opened fire at the Bay Area light rail yard where he worked, killing at least nine people, he was accused of raping and abusing his ex-girlfriend during violent “mood swings.”
“Several times during the relationship, he became intoxicated, enraged, and forced himself on me sexually,” the ex-girlfriend, who was 45 years old at the time of their volatile relationship, said in 2009 court documents first obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. “He also played several mind games, which he seems to enjoy.”
According to the filings and the ex-girlfriend’s lawyer, Robert Gary Cummings, the couple met on Match.com. While their relationship lasted about a year, it was doomed just two months in, when Cassidy proposed to her, Cummings said.
“She said, ‘No, this is all too soon.’ And that then became a big issue for him in their relationship. And he started to gaslight her, if you will, and so he filed some nasty things about her in court,” Cummings told The Daily Beast.
The relationship got so toxic that the pair filed domestic violence restraining orders against each other, he added. In the ex’s motion, she claimed that Cassidy had major “mood swings” from what she believed to be bipolar disorder. She added that Cassidy forced himself on her repeatedly and that she also had to fight him off when he attempted to force her into anal sex.
Cassidy’s ex initially agreed to an interview, but after Cummings arranged a Zoom conference with The Daily Beast and six other news outlets, the woman—who does not want to be named—decided not to participate after speaking to a friend. Cummings confirmed everything that has been reported so far and said he believes the woman’s story is credible.
“There were definitely issues of forced sexual contact and other things to that effect, she felt that he was bipolar, that his moods ran hot and cold,” he said, adding that Cassidy and his former girlfriend agreed not to contact each other ever again as a condition of the court settlement.
When she heard about the shooting Wednesday, “she was shocked. Even with the allegations that she put in [the court filings]... she was shocked by it,” Cummings said.
In response to The Daily Beast’s question about any beefs at work Cassidy may have ever talked about, Cummings responded: “There was a female at work that he had issues with and would rant about. She doesn’t remember who that person was, she couldn’t recall at this point in time. It sounded like a kind of office politics type of upset-ness.”
On Wednesday, Cassidy reportedly set his own home ablaze, then drove to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) rail yard and began shooting during a union meeting around 6:30 a.m. PT, just as the overnight team was handing off to the morning crew. When police showed up, Cassidy turned the gun on himself.
The suspect’s father, 88-year-old James Edward Cassidy, told The Daily Beast that he was shocked by the news, as his son “seemed completely himself” in the days before the incident.
“He didn’t talk about his job or politics. I just found out he was dead and his house on fire and all that a minute ago,” he said in an interview.
Cummings said Cassidy’s ex-girlfriend never said anything about him showing signs of a fixation with firearms or anger about his job.
Doug Suh, one of Cassidy’s neighbors, told The Daily Beast that he and his wife could not recall a single positive interaction with the loner in the five years they’ve lived across the street from him.
Once, when backing out of his driveway, Cassidy yelled, “Don’t even come to my driveway!” Suh said. Another time, when Suh’s wife tried to say hello, Cassidy stared her down, he recalled. Suh said he and his wife both felt “scared” of Cassidy and tried to avoid him.
Suh’s security camera captured firefighters responding to Cassidy’s burning home at around 6:44 a.m. Wednesday, a recording he shared with The Daily Beast. Another video he shared from 5:40 a.m. showed Cassidy opening the driver’s side door of a white truck before driving away. He was wearing what appeared to be a VTA work uniform.
“He had two sides,” Cassidy’s ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, told The Mercury-News on Wednesday. “When he was in a good mood, he was a great guy. When he was mad, he was mad.”
Late Wednesday morning, authorities were still investigating multiple scenes and clearing the rail yard after receiving “information” there were still explosive devices in the building, Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis told reporters. “We activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene,” he added.
On Wednesday afternoon, Davis added that trained dogs “detected... some kind of explosives material at the crime scene itself.”
A spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Health System told The Daily Beast that at least two of the shooting victims were taken to the local hospital. One male victim was pronounced dead on arrival and another was listed in critical condition.
“This is just a horrible tragedy that has occurred,” VTA Chairman Glenn Hendricks said during a Wednesday press conference. “We’re so sorry this event happened... VTA is a family.”
VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress told The Daily Beast that the shooting occurred at the Guadalupe light rail maintenance yard and resulted in “multiple casualties” but that “the extent of the injuries is still being determined.”
“All employees were evacuated. The sheriff’s office, which is just down the street from the location, is the reunification center for employees and family members who may be looking for them,” Childress added.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told The New York Times that it appeared the suspect’s house was on fire Wednesday morning, “but that there was nobody inside.” Law enforcement officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that gasoline and ammunition were found throughout the house.
“There’s a strange connection here between arson and the shooting,” the mayor added.
Aerial footage of the shooting scene obtained by KGO showed a massive law enforcement presence and several ambulances near the rail yard. California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Wednesday that his office was in “contact with local law enforcement and monitoring this situation closely.”
President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting, and the “White House continues to monitor the situation and remains in close contact with local officials to offer any assistance as needed,” the administration said in a statement.
The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear, but the mother of a VTA employee reportedly contacted KTVU to say her son called to say he was sheltering in the auditorium of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and that the shooting occurred during a union meeting.
In the hours after the attack, at least 100 VTA workers and friends and family were seen walking through a concrete plaza into a low-slung Santa Clara County building in San Jose to a reunification center for victims.
One uniformed worker told The Mercury News, “The whole crew is gone, the whole shift is gone. It’s horrible.”
Also among the group was Keith Baldwin, a 58-year-old from Tracy, who was looking for his neighbor, Tim Romo.
Baldwin told The Daily Beast that Romo was still unaccounted for, so he went to the center to wait as his neighbor’s wife was still more than an hour’s drive away.
“I was just with him last night,” Baldwin told The Daily Beast. “He was going to go on vacation—just him and his wife were going to see his son on Sunday, and he was looking forward to doing that.”
Michael Hawkins, a San Jose resident, was also anxiously waiting at the reunification center. He told a group of reporters he arrived a few minutes after 10 a.m. to look for his wife, Rochelle, after he got a message from her that she was alive.
“I’m just here for my wife and hoping she’s OK and whoever else in there is OK,” he told reporters. “The message [she sent] said that she dropped her phone and she’s all right. She said she dropped her phone from running and she’s using a co-worker’s phone.”
The Bay Area mass shooting comes amid a spate of gun violence across the nation, including a “targeted attack” at a New Jersey birthday party last weekend that killed three people.
“There’s a sameness to this, and a numbness I think is something we’re all feeling,” Newsom said during a Wednesday news briefing. “It begs the damn question, ‘What the hell is going on in the United States of America?’”
By late morning local time on Wednesday, police, firefighters, and paramedics were blockading the environs of the suspect’s San Jose home. The neighborhood was mostly single-family homes in light shades of tan, off-white, and pink, surrounded by fences and trees, including the occasional palm reaching high into the sky. Even with the fire crews and police, children rode their bicycles and scooters on adjacent streets.
Joy Lovett, 61, a former neighbor, was in shock upon hearing the news, describing Cassidy in an interview as “normal” and recalling that he seemed to have a typical social life and frequently had friends around.
There was “nothing bizarre” about him, she told The Daily Beast. “He didn’t seem isolated... He was a happy-go-lucky guy.”
But Suh, the more recent neighbor, painted a darker picture of an isolated man, one more consistent with the account offered by Cassidy’s ex in court records, noting that he never saw him have visitors. And other neighbors seemed to be virtually unaware of him.
“They don’t even talk to him,” Suh said.
—with reporting by McCaffrey Blauner