Former US soldier storms California veterans′ home, killing three and himself | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 10.03.2018
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Former US soldier storms California veterans' home, killing three and himself

A former US serviceman held hostages and opened fire at a veterans' home where he had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Police found him and his three captives dead after the standoff.

An all-day standoff at a Californian veterans' home ended in tragedy late on Friday, as former US serviceman Albert Wong killed two executives and a psychologist at the facility before taking his own life.

A relative of one of the victims later said that the 36-year-old gunman was a former patient at the facility's therapy center, known as The Pathway Home, who had been kicked out of the program.

Read more: War’s hidden legacy: PTSD

The complex in Yountville, north of San Francisco, specializes in looking after  elderly and disabled US military veterans. It is the largest center of its kind in the US.

Military outside the veterans' home in Yountville, California in the US

US military personnel were called in to help end the stand-off with gunman Albert Wong

All-day standoff

Shots were first heard at around 10:30 a.m. local time (1830 UTC) on Friday morning when Wong arrived at the campus and exchanged gunfire with a sheriff's deputy.

According to police, Wong then forced his way into the center and mixed in among a crowd of people who had gathered for a going-away party for two employees. Despite authorities' repeated efforts throughout the day to make contact with the gunman, nothing more was heard from him.

Emergency services evacuated the veterans' complex, which houses some 1,000 people, and closed off nearby roads during the standoff.

Police said they then discovered the bodies of the gunman and his three victims at around 6 p.m. Friday.

The victims were identified as Executive Director Christine Loeber, Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, and Jennifer Gonzalez, a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

Chris Childs, assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol

California Highway Patrol Assistant Chris Childs delivered a solemn press conference after the victims' bodies were discovered

"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.

Read more: Opinion: Mass shootings in US show a government's failure to protect its people

A former patient

California Highway Patrol Assistant Chris Childs said it was too early to say whether the victims had been chosen at random because investigators had yet to determine the gunman's motive.

However, Golick's father-in-law told the Associated Press news agency that she had recently expelled Wong, a former US infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan, from her post-traumatic stress disorder treatment program. He added that Golick had called her husband Mark at around 10:30 a.m. to say that she had been taken hostage by the former solider.

The siege comes less than a month after a former student with an assault rifle killed 17 people at his old high school in Florida.

The massacre has started a student-led drive to impose restrictions on gun sales as part of an effort to quell the frightening frequency of mass shootings in the US.

dm/jlw (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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