YOUNTVILLE, CALIFORNIA - A U.S. official and the California Highway Patrol confirm that a gunman and three hostages have been found dead after a shooting and standoff at a veterans home in California.
Authorities are not identifying the suspect or the three women who were killed. Napa County Sheriff John Robertson told reporters Friday night that authorities were working to notify their relatives.
The bodies were discovered about 6 p.m. in a part of the veterans home that houses The Pathway Home, a privately run program that treats veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Authorities have said that the women were employees of The Pathway Home.
Authorities said earlier Friday evening that they hadn’t had contact with the gunman for nearly eight hours since he slipped into an employee going-away party at the largest veterans home in the United States.
The shootout and standoff kept the sprawling California grounds locked down for hours, authorities and family members said.
Authorities earlier said they knew who the gunman was but didn’t reveal his identity or know the motive for the attack at the state-run Veterans Home of California-Yountville, in one of Napa Valley’s most upscale towns in the heart of wine country.
A sheriff’s deputy responding to an emergency call shortly after 10 a.m. got into a shootout with the gunman, but the officer was not injured.
Larry Kamer told The Associated Press that his wife, Devereaux Smith, was at a morning staff party and told him by phone that the gunman had entered the room quietly, letting some people leave while taking others hostage.
Smith, a fundraiser for the nonprofit Pathway Home, was still inside the facility’s dining hall and was not allowed to leave, he said.
The three hostages were Pathway House employees, California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Chris Childs said.
Property evacuated, roads closed
Police evacuated the property and closed off nearby roads. An armored police vehicle, ambulances and several fire trucks were at the facility, which houses about 1,000 residents.
Army veteran and resident Bob Sloan, 73, was working at the home’s TV station when a co-worker came in and said he had heard four gunshots coming from the Pathway House. Sloan sent alerts for residents to stay put.
Except for helicopters buzzing overhead, the home was eerily quiet, Sloan said, adding that he could see police with “long-barrel assault-type weapons” crouching around the building, some taking cover behind trees.
Jan Thornton of Vallejo, California, was among hundreds of relatives worried about how their loved ones were coping with the lockdown. Thornton said her 96-year-old father, a World War II fighter pilot, was inside a hospital wing and that she had reached one of his friends who said he was safe.
Still, she worried about the stress of the lockdown, considering her father’s age and that he has PTSD and some dementia. Thornton said her “heart just bleeds for the people that are being held hostage.”
A group of about 80 students who were on the home’s grounds were safely evacuated after being locked down, the sheriff said. The teens from Justin-Siena High School were at a theater rehearsing a play.
“They were a distance away from the shooting situation,” Robertson said.
Some of the children were driven away on school buses and others in cars. Sasha Craig spotted a car carrying her 15- and 17-year-old children and ran toward it blowing kisses.
“There are my kids,” she said. Like many parents, she was texting with her children inside and said the teenagers were telling their parents to “chill.”
The state Veterans Affairs department says the home that opened in 1984 is the nation’s largest veterans home, with about 1,000 elderly and disabled residents.
Yountville is a small town that’s home to wineries such as Domaine Chandon, which is less than a half-mile from the veterans facility, and Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant The French Laundry, which is about a mile away.