Former soldier in Yountville attacks said he ‘wanted to get back’ at veterans workers
YOUNTVILLE - Just days before Albert Wong shot and killed three mental health clinicians at a residential program for traumatized veterans in Yountville, the former Army infantryman told a family member he was angry at the staff members and wanted to get back at them after he was found with knives and told to leave.
With ammunition around his neck and waist and dressed in black, Wong, 36, strode uninvited into a Friday morning office party where Pathway Home staff and resident veterans were gathered on the second floor of their building at the Veterans Home of California campus. Wong, until two weeks ago, had lived there for about a year.
“Whatever happened out there, he didn’t say he was going to shoot anybody,” said Wong’s brother, Tyrone Lampkin. “He said he wanted to get back at them, talk to them, yell at them, not to kill them. He didn’t mention that.”
But minutes after the first 911 call about 10:20 a.m. Friday, Wong shot and killed Pathway Home executive director Christine Loeber, staff therapist Jen Golick and Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, who was 6 months pregnant, law enforcement officials said.
Other people in the building managed to flee to safety, some of them perhaps aided by a Napa County sheriff’s deputy who exchanged gunfire with Wong about 10 minutes after the initial 911 call, sheriff’s officials said. Others may have been released by Wong, authorities said.
Eight hours later, Wong was found dead, along with the three victims, leaving investigators with the difficult work of piecing together the motive and timeline of a cold-blooded attack by a decorated Army veteran who turned against the very people who had tried to help him - three women who friends and colleagues said devoted their careers to caring for combat veterans struggling with the trauma of war.
Officials on Saturday disclosed few additional details about the daytime slayings, which have drawn national attention to a normally tranquil and scenic veterans campus, a 600-acre community hub at the edge of town.
“Realize this is a really difficult day,” Yountville Mayor John Dunbar, a longtime Pathway Home board member, told reporters at a news conference Saturday. “I and members of The Pathway Home family, and the Yountville family, lost three beautiful people yesterday.
“We also lost one of our heroes, who clearly had demons that resulted in the terrible tragedy that we all experienced here,” he said.
The CHP-led inquiry into the shooting played out Saturday amid quiet and somber surroundings, with far fewer of the elderly and disabled veterans who live on campus taking walks or riding about in their motorized wheelchairs, residents said.
Though two California veterans home public safety officers were on duty at the time of the shooting, they work unarmed and are trained to a lower standard than a law enforcement officer, and are not equipped to confront the kind of situation that erupted Friday, according to state and local authorities.
Authorities have not said what role, if any, those two officers played as the violence unfolded Friday.
The Napa County Sheriff’s Office, which provides policing service under contract with the city of Yountville, conducts routine patrols of the campus and responded within minutes when the threat arose, Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Blower said.
Vito Imbasciani, secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, bristled Saturday when asked about the level of security during a news conference, though he later conceded the agency would be willing to consider input on the subject.
The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which represents the security staff, issued a statement Friday that said its members were ill-equipped to protect such sites without being armed and fully-sworn peace officers.
But Imbasciani criticized “any attempt to maybe even politicize this issue and to point fingers.”
“We frankly are in a period of mourning and solidarity,” he said, adding, “there will be a time and place to investigate all of that.”
Friday’s bloodshed unfolded after Wong, whose Army service included a year in Afghanistan, stormed Madison Hall where Pathway Home operates, interrupting the party for two outgoing staff members. He was known by most if not all of 15 people in the room.
From the first 911 call about 10:20 a.m., a dispatcher told officers of a “possible active shooter” on campus. The armed man had taken three hostages and by 10:22 a.m., the dispatcher said the suspect was possibly “Albert Wong, a 36-year-old male, former resident, has a semi-automatic with a lot of ammo.