Albert Wong was troubled by what he experienced while deployed in Afghanistan, but he was angry long before experiencing combat as an Army infantryman overseas, a family member said.
Wong spent most of his adolescence in the San Francisco home of a caring foster father and a half-dozen foster brothers. They played hockey, basketball and went fishing together, said his older adopted brother, Tyrone Lampkin of Minneapolis.
They also got into fights. Wong’s outbursts at points forced him to live elsewhere for stints, including the time as a teenager he pushed another brother down the stairs, breaking his leg, according to Lampkin.
He endured a tough childhood, his father dying when he was about 8 years old, Lampkin said. He was eventually adopted into a San Francisco family who on late Friday were startled to learn that their former soldier had invaded a veterans home where he had been until recently under care for combat stress and shot to death three female staff members.
“Albert was a good person, he really was a good person,” said Lampkin, who kept in touch with Wong by phone but hadn’t seen him for years. “I heard he stopped taking his meds and started drinking a lot ... He never told me, he never told me.”
Lampkin shared in a interview on Saturday that Wong confided to their other brother that he was angry at the veterans program staff after he’d been dismissed from The Pathway Home for possessing knives.
Wong was deployed to Afghanistan from April 2011 through March 2012, and was otherwise stationed in Hawaii during his Army service from May 2010 through August 2013, according to family and military records.
After he returned from Afghanistan, Lampkin said Wong seemed fixated on conflicts with family and friends — someone owing him money or not pulling their weight.
“He went into the military and when he came back he was never the same,” he said.
The son of a frame shop owner from San Francisco’s Chinatown, Wong bounced between family friends and foster homes after his father’s death. His mother, Lena Wong, who died about a year ago, was disabled and, according to Lampkin, may have had problems with drug abuse.
A friend of his family, Cissy Sherr, said she raised Wong for four years, enrolling him in youth sports and a Catholic elementary school in San Bruno.
He attended high school in Daly City, and then served in the Army reserves from October 1998 through December 2002.
Wong lived in Las Vegas, San Francisco and on the Peninsula, as well as in Napa with grandparents and with his mother in Redwood City.
In 2008 he acquired a license to work as a security guard and had a corresponding permit to carry a 9mm firearm, which was canceled in October. State records don’t indicate a reason for the cancellation.
Authorities have yet to elaborate on the type of weapons he used or possessed during Friday’s attack and whether those weapons were legally obtained.
Lampkin said he called Wong three or four days before the shooting, and Wong responded in a string of text messages, telling him to call their adopted father.