Was there a chance to intervene?
SAN JOSE – Last week’s massacre at the Valley Transportation Authority could have been avoided, the county’s top law enforcement official said on Thursday if federal agents had told local officials what they knew about Samuel Cassidy.
The federal government has never disclosed that customs officials found terrorist literature and notes detailing hatred for the transit agency in Cassidy’s possession five years ago, the Santa Clara County prosecutor said. , Jeff Rosen. The 57-year-old LRT engineer was virtually unknown to local law enforcement until he opened fire on his colleagues last Wednesday, killing nine people in the deadliest mass shooting in history from the bay area.
“If this information had been shared with local law enforcement, there would have been an intervention with Mr. Cassidy,” Rosen said in an interview with this news agency. “After speaking with Mr. Cassidy, there may at that time be enough evidence for a gun violence restraining order, there may have been information for them to direct Mr. Cassidy to. mental health services or another therapeutic alternative. “
Under California “red flag” law, such a restraining order allows law enforcement to seize a person’s firearms if they can raise reasonable grounds that that person poses a significant danger. .
Rosen added: “Could this intervention have put Mr. Cassidy on a different path so that he did not murder his colleagues?” We will never know because we did not receive this information.
Rosen said her office continued to ask the Department of Homeland Security for details about what federal customs officials learned when they arrested Cassidy upon returning from a trip to the Philippines in 2016. According to a DHS memo aired after the shooting last Wednesday and obtained by in the Wall Street Journal, agents found Cassidy with “books on terrorism and fear and manifestos … and a black memo filled with numerous notes on how he hates the VTA ”.
San Jose Police and Rosen’s office confirmed they were never made aware of the incident. DHS has not responded to repeated requests for comment over the past few days.
“We are now figuring out why they arrested him and what they found,” Rosen said. “I want to know why the information was not shared with local law enforcement. And will customs and border protection act differently in the future? I am trying to get answers to these questions.
Had San Jose Police been alerted to the circumstances of Cassidy’s detention, police said, investigators would have performed a threat assessment, including a criminal background check, an assessment of any threatening social media post. and an inventory of all registered firearms in Cassidy’s possession. as any specific skill indicating mastery of weapons, explosives, or both.
Following the shooting at the San Jose streetcar yard, investigators discovered that Cassidy had amassed a large cache of weapons – including three handguns and 32 high capacity magazines that he was carrying with him when he was he carried out the massacre, as well as a dozen firearms including rifles, shotguns and handguns, improvised explosives and more than 25,000 cartridges found in his home. Firearms were legal, but high capacity magazines were not.
Use of the red flag law has increased steadily, with 1,110 requests to remove a person’s firearms filed in 2019, according to the state Department of Justice. In some cases, the law allows citizens to file such requests, which must be approved by a judge. In Santa Clara County, that jump increased from seven in 2016 to 122 in 2019. San Jose is the largest applicant for orders in Santa Clara County, in part because it is home to most of the population of the region.
Local authorities credited the law with disrupting potential threats, including several people who hinted at workplace shootings, and in some cases their weapons were returned after a judge ruled they did not constitute a permanent danger.
Although current federal officials have been silent on their meeting with Cassidy, John Sandweg, a former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told this news agency that there are no specific procedures for what customs officials are supposed to do when they detain a U.S. citizen with intent potentially fatal.
Sandweg said that in general, unless there is an imminent threat, customs and border patrol officers would simply record the details of the encounter in the treasury enforcement’s communications system, a database accessible to federal agencies. Agents can also report to the FBI, but usually not local or state authorities.
“There just isn’t as much coordination or interaction between customs officials… and local law enforcement,” he said. “An American citizen presenting such a threat is just very unusual. “
Depending on the materials Cassidy was detained with, it is possible that they were reported as affiliated with terrorism but still did not deserve a warning to the FBI, according to agency spokesperson Prentice Danner.
“If it was just literature and it wasn’t a specific threat that wouldn’t necessarily be brought to our attention,” he said.
But the nature of what CBP agents found on Cassidy – including her comments about her hatred of the VTA in interviews with agents – should have been enough to warrant advice to local law enforcement, said Rosen.
“It might not be a crime to have books on terrorism and to have notes on how you hate your coworkers, not per se,” Rosen said. “However, that certainly justifies the intervention of law enforcement to determine whether he was planning a mass shooting.”