All 3 hostages and gunman die in armed attack on Yountville veterans home in Napa Valley

The combat veteran who killed three mental health workers at a program where he'd been a resident was an infantryman who served in Afghanistan. The victims, all women, were professionals dedicated to treating troubled veterans.|

A decorated Army veteran with a high-powered rifle returned to the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, where he had recently been kicked out of a program for treatment of combat stress, and killed three mental health workers Friday, officials said.

He and the victims were found dead about 8 hours after he exchanged gunfire with a Napa County sheriff's deputy, officials said.

The attack, just after 10 a.m., touched off a daylong lockdown at the nation's largest veterans home, which occupies a sprawling 600-acre state campus. The victims died in a building where they worked with The Pathway Home, a private organization that helps traumatized veterans transition to civilian life.

Dozens of heavily armed law enforcement officers from across the region as well as the FBI swarmed the campus by mid-morning, bracing for a siege or prolonged hostage negotiations, but that did not take place. Officers saw and heard nothing from the gunman or the three hostages over the course of about eight hours until their bodies were discovered about 6 p.m., a CHP spokesman said.

“I feel sick to my stomach. I feel sick to my heart,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who knew one of the three women killed Friday. “These were wonderful people who were killed. It's just, it's just really hard to think about it, talk about it. It's another senseless killing.”

The victims were identified as The Pathway Home's executive director, Christine Loeber, staff therapist Jen Golick and Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

At least one and possibly all of the women knew the shooter, Albert Wong, 36, who just weeks ago was a resident under treatment with the organization, Napa County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Blower said.

Shortly after 10 a.m., Wong strode into Building G, also called Madison Hall, in the middle of the campus, carrying a high-powered rifle, ammunition and at least two other firearms. He interrupted a going-away party for a staff member of The Pathway Home, officials said.

“It was clear that he was there to do some harm,” said an organization volunteer and spokesman Larry Kamer, whose wife, Devereaux Smith, was in the room when Wong came through the door.

Many escaped including Smith, but not Loeber, Golick and Gonzales.

Blower said the deputy who exchanged fire with Wong was nearby and arrived within minutes of the first 911 call. He encountered people fleeing the scene.

“He didn't stand around and wait. He went in,” Blower said.

The deputy, whose name was not released Friday, exchanged gunfire with Wong in a brief encounter inside Madison Hall, Blower said. No words were exchanged, according to the captain. Dispatch reports indicated up to 30 shots had been fired.

Law enforcement officials disclosed few other details about circumstances of the attack or the encounter with the deputy, including how the exchange of gunfire ended. Authorities did not say how Wong died.

No further contact was made with Wong or any of the victims, even as scores of law enforcement officers, SWAT teams and hostage negotiators surrounded the building, trying for hours to reach the suspect by cellphone but making no contact, said Chris Childs, assistant chief of the CHP's Golden Gate division.

Childs said they later found a cellphone in Wong's rental car, parked on campus.

Wong, who served in the infantry during his three years of active service, ending in 2013, earned four medals, including an Afghanistan campaign medal with two campaign stars, according to the Associated Press.

He was also awarded an Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle.

He had been dismissed from The Pathway Home, according to State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, whose district includes the veterans campus.

News of Wong's actions Friday devastated Cissy Sherr, who with her husband Matthew Sherr became Wong's legal guardians in San Francisco after the death of his father when he was a child. Sherr said Wong joined the Army and served in Afghanistan, and he confided with her about the difficult experiences he had while serving abroad.

“Like many of our young men (in the military), he did see some rough times,” Sherr said.

The Sherrs, who live on the San Francisco Peninsula, kept in touch with Wong on birthdays, but Sherr said she wasn't aware that Wong had joined a program helping veterans recover from the traumatic experiences of war.

“He's always been soft-spoken, honest and patriotic and loyal. It's heartbreaking,” she said late Friday.

The Veterans Home of California houses about 850 residents on the property, run by the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Spokeswoman June Iljana said approximately 300 employees work at the state-run home, the largest of its kind in the nation. The facility traces its operations back about 135 years.

Vito Imbasciani, secretary of the state department, said in a statement that he was “devastated” by the deaths.

“Three innocent souls gave their all and are no longer with us,” Dodd said. “It's a tragedy beyond anything we would have imagined. … Certainly this underscores how big of a problem we have with our veterans coming home from our conflicts in the Middle East.”

Thompson, the region's veteran congressman, and a native of the Napa Valley, had just gotten off a plane from Washington, D.C., en route to Sacramento for a town hall on gun violence prevention, when he heard about the shooting in Napa and rerouted to the veterans campus, about 20 miles south of his home.

“We need to do everything we can to put a curb on gun violence,” said Thompson, a Vietnam war veteran. “We have to make sure that my colleagues in Washington, who have to date refused to do anything, get off the dime.”

Thompson called the event “very, very sad,” particularly in light of the fact that it took place at a facility whose mission it is to help troubled people.

“There are three very dedicated individuals in a room with him who get up every morning to help veterans,” he said before the deaths were announced.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement saying that he and his wife “are deeply saddened by the horrible violence at the Yountville Veterans Home … Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones and the entire community of Yountville.”

He ordered Capitol flags to be flown at half-staff.

The Yountville campus is open to the public and includes ballfields and a theater where local students were on hand Friday before being evacuated.

The Pathway Home leases a residential facility on the grounds and serves veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who suffer problems including post-traumatic stress disorder, mild-traumatic brain injury, depression and substance abuse issues. It has helped 450 veterans over the past decade, according to its website.

Thompson called it a much-needed program that provides all manner of care and services to veterans.

“It's just absolutely troubling and upsetting that something like this would happen here,” he said.

Worried family members of residents and staff gathered outside the entrance on Highway 29 near Yountville Cross Road, which was cordoned off by law enforcement.

Fernando Juarez, 36, of Napa said his 22-year-old sister Vanessa Flores is a caregiver at the facility and was exchanging text messages with family while sheltering in place with a client.

Flores told family she could hear people yelling “Get down! Get down!” She asked her brother to ensure her 3-year-old son was taken care of if she didn't make it out alive, he said.

“I'm trying to be calm,” Juarez said.

Also at the entrance was Kay Klykun of Napa, who said she rushed to the campus after hearing about the shooting in news reports. Her 91-year-old father lives in the assisted living medical unit in Eisenhower Hall. He has lived at the Veterans Home for 10 years.

“I just want him to see a friendly face when all of this is over,” Klykun said.

Staff Writer Bill Swindell contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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