Gunman, 3 Hostages Found Dead at Yountville Veterans Home
Vanessa Flores (R) embraces another woman after she leaves the locked down Veterans Home of California during an active shooter turned hostage situation on March 9, 2018 in Yountville. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
Update, 8 p.m. Friday:
The California Highway Patrol confirmed a gunman and three women were found dead hours after he took them hostage inside the Veterans Home of California-Yountville.
Assistant Chief Chris Childs said officers entered the room where the hostages were being held around 6:00 p.m. Friday.
“Shortly before 6 p.m. this evening, law enforcement personnel made entry... and unfortunately made the discovery of three deceased females and one deceased male suspect,” Childs said.
Childs expressed thanks to “the initial response of a Napa County sheriff’s deputy that put himself in jeopardy... that exchanged initial gunfire with the suspect. We credit him with saving other lives in the area."
Napa County Sheriff John Robertson said the deputy who confronted the suspect was uninjured. He said he didn’t know if the suspect was hit in the exchange of gunfire.
Law enforcement officials declined to comment on the suspect’s weapons, but Napa County Sheriff’s dispatchers repeatedly relayed a description of a man with both a scoped assault rifle and a shotgun.
Childs said a bomb-sniffing dog had alerted on the suspect's car, but no bombs were found in the vehicle. He said there is "no threat to public safety."
Officials have not yet released the names of the suspect or the victims.
Update, 6:10 p.m., Friday:
Authorities have not had contact with the gunman holding three people hostage for nearly eight hours and police tactical teams are forming plans on how to deal with the ongoing situation at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville.
California Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Robert Nacke told reporters that "there has not been any confirmed communication with the gunman since 10:30 in the morning."
Nacke called the situation at the veterans home "dynamic and active" and said he had no information about the hostages or their conditions.
He says tactical teams are "deciding which way to move forward."
A gunman slipped into an employee going-away party at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville and took at least three people hostage around 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, leading to an evacuation and lockdown of the sprawling grounds, said authorities and family members.
Napa County Sheriff John Robertson told reporters that "many bullets" were fired when officers exchanged gunfire with the gunman, but that the deputies weren't injured. Robertson said the gunman released some hostages and kept the three.
Robertson says authorities have been trying to reach the gunman on his cellphone and other nearby phones. Officials know who the gunman is but aren't releasing his name and don't know what his motive is. They also have not identified the hostages publicly.
The gunman is believed to be confined to one concrete room, and hostage negotiators are standing by.
With such a prolonged situation, some residents remain stuck in lockdown and officers say they are attempting to reach the gunman on his cellphone first to resolve the situation.
California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Chris Childs says those still being held are employees of the Pathway Home, a privately run program on the grounds of the veterans home. The program treats veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Childs says the gun is a rifle, but he's not sure of the type.
Larry Kamer says his wife, Devereaux Smith, is a fundraiser for Pathway Home. He says she was at a small going-away party and staff meeting Friday morning when a gunman quietly came in and let some leave, while keeping others hostage.
Kamer says his wife is now inside the home's dining hall and is not allowed to leave. He spoke to her by phone.
He does not know if the shooter was a veteran receiving treatment from the home and does not know why the shooter let his wife and some colleagues leave.
CHP officials have asked friends and family members trying to find out information about loved ones on the campus to call a hotline set up for that purpose: 707-948-3331.
Bob Sloan, a retired police officer, says he was working at the California facility's resident-run TV station when a co-worker came in Friday morning and said he had just heard four gunshots. Sloan says he sent out alerts for residents to stay in place, though many are getting concerned now because the situation has been going on so long. Sloan says he sent out a red banner on in-house TV that read, "Emergency notice. This is an active situation, ongoing."
He says he can see officers with "long-barrel assault-type weapons" crouching around the building and some taking cover behind trees.
The California Highway Patrol, as well as county sheriff's officers, established a secure perimeter around the facility, which is home to about 1,000 residents. An armored police vehicle, ambulances and several firetrucks are at the scene. Hostage negotiators are also standing by.
Elizabeth Naylor, who was working about 10 miles north of the veterans home, says she heard waves of emergency sirens. She has lived in Yountville since 1995 and said she's rattled about a shooting so close to home.
"I don't know the world we live in today, I really don't," she said. "This is a little community and we all know each other. Napa Valley is a wonderful, beautiful place and to know this is in your background, it's unsettling."
The Napa County Sheriff's Department issued an alert to residents at 10:30 a.m. warning them to avoid the area. Schools nearby were originally also on lockdown, but those orders have since been lifted. About 80 Justin-Siena High School students who were on the campus rehearsing a play were also evacuated earlier this afternoon.
Yountville has a population of 2,933, according to the 2010 census, with nearly one-third of those residents living at the veterans home.
The state Veterans Affairs department says the home opened in 1884 and offers accommodations with recreational, social, and therapeutic activities for elderly and disabled residents. It also houses a 1,200-seat theater, a nine-hole golf course, a baseball stadium, bowling lanes, a swimming pool, and a military base exchange branch store — much of which are used by community members.
This post has been updated and will be updated as more information becomes available.