Victims, Gunman in Yountville Veterans Home Shooting Identified

The Veterans Home of California is seen during an active shooter turned hostage situation on March 9, 2018 in Yountville, California. A lone gunman opened fire and is holding three hostages inside the largest veterans facility in the United States founded in 1884. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Updated Saturday 4:26 p.m.

Three women who devoted their lives to helping traumatized veterans were killed by a patient who had been kicked out of their Northern California treatment program, authorities and a relative of a victim said.

A daylong siege at The Pathway Home ended Friday evening with the discovery of four bodies, including the gunman. He was identified as Albert Wong, 36, a former Army rifleman who served a year in Afghanistan in 2011-2012.

Investigators were still trying to determine when and why Wong killed two executives and a psychologist at The Pathway Home, a nonprofit post-traumatic stress disorder program at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville in the Napa Valley wine country region.

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.

Sponsored

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags flown at half-staff at the capitol in memory of the victims. They were identified as The Pathway Home Executive Director Christine Loeber, 48; Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzales, 29, a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

Twenty-nine-year-old Gonzales was seven months pregnant at the time of her death.

Family friend Vasiti Ritova said Saturday that Gonzales was married a year ago and was supposed to travel to Washington D.C. this weekend to celebrate her wedding anniversary.

Ritova, whose niece cares for Gonzales' grandmother, says she would visit her grandmother every weekend, sing to her and give her baths.

Marjorie Morrison, the founder of a nonprofit organization known as PsychArmor, says Gonzales was "brilliant" and did amazing work with veterans with PTSD.

Loeber worked at Department of Veterans Affairs clinics in San Francisco and Menlo Park before going to The Pathway Home, the setting for a 2017 fictional movie about a Marine with PTSD called "Thank You for Your Service."

Sandra Woodford, who works at the crafts center on the Yountville veterans home campus across from Pathway Home, says Loeber wanted to make sure younger vets would be welcome and treated warmly.

She says the 48-year-old Loeber was intelligent, delightful, outgoing and charming.

"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's father-in-law, Bob Golick, said in an interview she had recently expelled Wong from the program.

Wong was a specialist in the infantry deployed to Afghanistan from April 2011 to March 2012, according to his U.S. Army service record. He received nine of the Army’s awards, including a commendation medal for meritorious service, a medal for exemplary conduct and a expert marksman badge for his skill with a rifle. He also received a Afghanistan Campaign Medal indicating he’d taken part in two separate phases of the war.

He indicated in a photograph posted on Facebook that he was stationed at Forward Operating Base Blessing in late 2011. The base is located on the edge of the Pech Valley, surrounded by mountainous terrain in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

In April 2017, Wong commented on a Facebook discussion about veterans healthcare.

"I did not seek assistance for a long time. Doing much better now," Wong wrote. "VA Santa Rosa, CA has done right by me after a negative experience at another VA."

The Pathway Home is located on the sprawling campus of the veterans center, which cares for about 1,000 elderly and disabled vets.

It is the largest veterans home in the nation, according to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wong went to the campus about 53 miles north of San Francisco on Friday morning, slipping into a going-away party for some employees of The Pathway Home.

Larry Kamer told The Associated Press that his wife, Devereaux Smith, called him to say that the gunman had entered the room quietly, letting some people leave while taking others hostage.

Golick called her husband, Mark, to say that she had been taken hostage by the former soldier, her father-in-law said.

Mark Golick didn't hear from her again.

A Napa Valley sheriff's deputy exchanged gunshots with the hostage-taker at about 10:30 a.m. but after that nothing was heard from Wong or his hostages despite daylong efforts to contact him, authorities said.

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 Home. Sloan sent alerts for residents to stay put.

A group of about 80 students who were on the home's grounds were safely evacuated after being locked down, Napa County Sheriff John Robertson 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.

President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning: "We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation in Yountville and mourn the loss of three incredible women who cared for our Veterans."

The bodies of Wong and the women were found at about 6 p.m. While authorities had the building under siege for about eight hours, they didn't enter it.

Wong's rental car was later found nearby. A bomb-sniffing dog alerted authorities to something on the car but the only thing found was a cellphone, authorities said.

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.

Earlier this week, when she last visited, she asked a doctor, "What's your magic here?"

"And then 48 hours later this happens," Bennett said.

KQED's Alex Emslie contributed reporting to this story.

This post contains reporting from the Associated Press.

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
Log In ToPledge-Free Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.