SAN JOSE, Calif. - Before he killed eight co-workers during a morning meeting at a San Jose Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard facility Wednesday and then turned the gun on himself, 57-year-old Sam James Cassidy was a quiet, if not strange, man with no apparent major criminal record, according to co-workers and court files.
Why he stormed into work at the crack of dawn and let loose with a barrage of bullets on his colleagues has still not been publicly revealed.
But an ex-girlfriend called him abusive and at least one neighbor said he had a hot temper, so he tried to avoid him if he could.
His hatred of his job also reportedly caught the attention of border agents who detained him in 2016. The Wall Street Journal cited a Department of Homeland Security memo that said the border agents found Cassidy carried books about terrorism and another filled with disparaging notes about the VTA when he returned from visiting the Philippines.
Neighbors said they felt uncomfortable in his presence.
"I talked to him five times in five years," said Realtor Doug Suh, who lives across the street on Angmar Court. "I say ‘hi,’ and he stared at me, dirty looking all the time. So I ignore him every time I see him."
Authorities say that shortly before he killed his colleagues at the VTA light rail yard about 6:30 a.m. he also set his house on fire. Inside was filled with gasoline and ammunition, prompting the FBI and ATF to help investigate in a massive law enforcement response.
Suh witnessed the fire, and security camera footage shows Cassidy leaving his home at 5:45 a.m. The video shows he was wearing a blue jumpsuit and got into a white pickup truck with a large, black duffel bag.
Suh said he and his wife were both scared of Cassidy.
Once, Suh said he backed up into Cassidy's driveway. In response, Cassidy yelled at him to get off his property.
"'You step on my driveway, get out!" Suh recalls Cassidy saying to him. "After that, I haven't talked to him since then."
Cassidy also had run-ins with past partners.
Civil court records show his marriage fell apart more than a decade ago before he started a relationship with another woman who alleged in a restraining order that he became "mentally, physically and sexually abusive."
Records show that Cassidy lived at the home on Angmar Court with his ex-wife before they separated in 2004 and ultimately divorced in 2009.
He then lived in the same house with a girlfriend. He dated her for several months before proposing marriage. When she refused, things soured and he filed a restraining order, the woman’s attorney told KTVU.
KTVU is not naming the girlfriend.
Photo of the alleged gunman, Samuel James Cassidy, who opened fire at a VTA rail yard in San Jose.
She responded to the restraining order with her own volley of allegations.
She wrote that Cassidy "attempted to force anal sexual intercourse with me" while describing Cassidy as a manipulative man whose alcohol-fueled mood swings often turned into violent sexual and physical assaults.
The two ultimately dropped the matter, according to the woman's attorney, and Cassidy continued his employment at the VTA.
Multiple co-workers who asked to not be identified described him as a quiet loner who did not seem violent.
The mother of a VTA employee told KTVU that her son thought Cassidy was "strange."
Neighbors also described him as a loner.
Cassidy worked as an overhead line maintenance worker at the "Guadalupe" facility on the south side of the VTA grounds.
Public records showed he earned more than $100,000 a year.
Two minutes after the report of gunfire Wednesday, firefighters responded to a fire at Cassidy's house about eight miles away at 6:36 a.m.
And at 6:29 a.m., another structure fire on the 1800 block of Smith Avenue, about five miles away, burned at a plywood and lumber business, five minutes before the first call for a shooting at the VTA light-rail yard and.
For his part, Suh is left thinking about how close he had lived to such an angry man, and one who lit a fire steps away from his own family. Even though he never liked Cassidy, it had never dawned on Suh that his neighbor would be capable of such a massacre.
" I didn't know he was like that," Suh said. "I'm glad it's over. I'm still scared."
Authorities swarm the house of Sam Cassidy in San Jose after he killed eight co-workers and himself at a VTA light rail yard. May 26, 2021