Officials have named Albert Wong, 36, as the suspect in the Yountville Veterans Home of California shooting, where a gunman took three hostages after sneaking into a building on the Veterans Home grounds during a going-away party. He had previously been treated for PTSD at The Pathway Home, but had been asked to leave the program just a couple weeks ago. The facility is supposed to be a haven for veterans, with the Veterans Home helping veterans of all ages, from World War II to present day. Now, many residents are concerned that the tragedy will harm their loved one’s health, both psychologically and physically.
The gunman and the three hostages were found deceased after a nearly seven-hour standoff. It’s not yet known what his motives were or if the victims were chosen at random. SWAT, FBI, and ATF all responded to the incident, but no one was able to reach him during the standoff. The Veterans Home is one of the largest in the United States, housing at least 1,100 men and women. The Pathway Home, located on the Veterans Home grounds, is dedicated to helping post-9/11 veterans. Here is what you need to know about Albert Wong.
1. Albert Wong Was a Decorated Army Veteran & Had a Security Guard Permit
Albert Wong, 36, was named as the suspected shooter. The 36-year-old was a decorated Army infantryman from Sacramento who had been awarded four medals. KCRA and New York Daily News reported that he also had a security guard permit, a private investigator license, and firearms permits. One firearms license was valid until October 2017 and one had expired in 2010.
The Veterans Home was put on lockdown on Friday after there were reports of an active shooter in the facility. Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Johsua Kiser said in an email: “Law enforcement authorities have responded to the Yountville Veterans Home this morning following reports of gunfire near the main dining hall. The facility is on lockdown, and all residents and staff are sheltering in place. We will continue to update you as we get more information.”
Attempts to contact the suspect, Albert Wong, during the standoff were unsuccessful. After nearly seven hours, officials entered the building and found Wong and three women employees of The Pathway Home dead. The victims were Christine Loeber, Dr. Jen Golick, and Dr. Jennifer Gonzalez. It’s not known how long Wong was holding the suspects hostage before they were killed.
Authorities said it was too soon to know if the victims were chosen randomly or not, CBS San Francisco reported. Wong gained access to the facility by sneaking into a going-away party just after 10:30 a.m. Pacific, Napa County Sheriff John Robertson said in a press conference. A deputy exchanged fire with the gunman before the facility was put on lockdown. At 6 p.m. on Friday, law enforcement entered the room where the hostages were being held, and found that the hostages and the suspect were already deceased. They don’t know what time they died.
2. Albert Wong Is Suspected of Killing Three Hostages, Including One Who Might Have Ordered His Removal from a PTSD Program
Authorities have said they don’t know if the victims were chosen at random or not. But one victim’s father-in-law has his own idea of what happened. Bob Golick, Jen Golick’s father-in-law, told Oregon Live that she had ordered Wong’s removal from the Pathway program. She called her husband, Mark Golick, around 10:30 a.m. Pacific to let him know that she had been taken hostage. He never heard from her again.
Early reports indicated that as many as 15 to 30 shots were fired before Wong is suspected of taking hostages at the Veterans Home, on the second floor of The Pathway Home, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Authorities say the gunman shot at police as they surrounded the building. Everyone at the Veterans Home was told to shelter in place and lock their doors, and the entire facility was placed on lockdown for hours.
At first, the gunman took more than just three hostages, but he let at least two go. Larry Kamer’s wife was one of the early hostages that the shooter let go. She was moved to an adjacent building and said the shooter seemed very calm. Despite attempts to contact the shooter, authorities were never able to speak with him during the standoff.
California Governor Jerry Brown released the following statement late Friday night: “Anne and I are deeply saddened by the horrible violence at the Yountville Veterans Home, which tragically took the lives of three people dedicated to serving our veterans. Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones and the entire community of Yountville.”
Larry Kamer’s wife, Deveraux Smith, was face-to-face with the shooter. Her husband said that he walked in with a rifle and everyone had a clear idea of what was happening. He was very calm and allowed her to leave the room with three other people. She told her husband that as she left, she heard gunshots behind her. It’s not clear if any additional gunshots were heard beyond the shots heard shortly after the suspect entered the building and exchanged fire with a deputy. The horrific encounter was a shock to everyone. Yvette Bennet, a wound-care supply worker, said “this is the most placid, calm, serene place.”
A woman whose father is a resident at the Veterans Home said her dad was OK, but her heart breaks for the victims:
3. Wong Was a Veteran from Afghanistan Who Had an Award for Expert Marksmanship
Napa Valley Register reported that Albert Cheung Wong, 36, was a member of the Pathway Home program for military veterans with emotional trauma. He was discharged from the treatment program two weeks ago. (Note: Some sources say Wong was let go two weeks ago and others say he was let go earlier this week.) Senator Bill Dodd confirmed that he was a veteran suffering from PTSD, but said that he was kicked out of the program, not discharged. According to the LA Times, the suspect had served in Afghanistan for a year, between 2011 to 2012, as an Army infantryman. In total, he served three years of active service in the U.S. Army until August 2013. He received a number of service awards, Oregon Live reported, including an award for expert marksmanship with a rifle and an Afghanistan campaign medal with two campaign stars.
The Pathway Home program’s mission is described on its website this way: “The Pathway Home is an independent nonprofit organization offering a men’s residential recovery program dedicated to helping veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. The program is specifically focused on assisting soldiers who have returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and other Gulf War theaters. The program was started in 2008 on the grounds of Yountville’s Veterans Home and is located in the Madison Hall. Since opening the program the staff of 18 has treated almost 200 non-senior veterans averaging 40 residents at any one time. It operates solely on private donations and grants.”
4. The Gunman Was Wearing Body Armor & Arrived in a Rental Car
Napa Valley Register reported that Albert Wong is suspected of arriving dressed in black, wearing body armor, and carrying a rifle when he entered the building and began firing. Authorities later clarified that he was wearing a bulletproof vest. Later reports said that he had a stash of bullets around his neck and waist while he was holding three people hostage. The gunman took a rental car to the scene and a bomb-sniffing dog alerted at the car. However, authorities later determined that the rental car was safe and only a cell phone was found inside.
Loeber, Executive Director of The Pathway Home, was described by State Senator Bill Dodd as “a warm, wonderful human being.” She was 47 and had just been featured in a San Francisco Chronicle story in November. She told the Chronicle: “When these people are in combat, their systems are programmed to keep them alive under incredibly stressful situations. Nobody helps them understand that when they get back they have to reprogram their nervous system to operate at a different caliber so they can be successful civilians.”
Gonzales was a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. The Pathway Home had just finalized a partnership with the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s Student Veteran Health Program in May 2017. Gonzales, 29, was dividing her time between working onsite at Pathway and on the Napa Valley College campus. Pathway believed that having a psychologist on-site was a key part of meeting the needs of student veterans who struggled with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
Golick was a therapist with The Pathway Home and is listed on their website as the Clinical Director. According to her LinkedIn bio, she is a licensed marriage family therapist with over 16 years of practice who specializes in cognitive therapy. She dedicated her life to helping others. She was previously the clinical director of Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services until September 2017, so it appears that she only recently moved to The Pathway Home. Just three weeks ago, Golick had posted on LinkedIn about a job opening at The Pathway Home. She wrote, “Are you interested in working with veterans? Want to be a part of a growing start-up? Want to work in close proximity to Bouchon Bakery in beautiful Yountville? I’ve got a FT, benefitted case management position available at The Pathway Home.”
5. The Pathway Home Is Dedicated to Helping Post-9/11 Veterans
The Pathway Home, where the shooting took place, is on the Veterans Home grounds, and is dedicated to helping post-9/11 veterans. The Pathway Home is a residential program working with post-9/11 veterans “affected by deployment-related stress.” Many members of the program have seen multiple combat deployments and are dealing with issues that impede their re-entry into civilian life, according to the website. The San Francisco Chronicle covered The Pathway Home in-depth in November 2017. Pathway is an independent non-profit that serves Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. (It is believed the gunman was a veteran from Afghanistan.) The program is supported by donations and grants and requires a minimum stay of four months. It was originally started by a private $5.6 million grant that was made 10 years ago. Fred Gusman, a social worker, founded Pathway and it was originally open to all veterans. In 2016, the program narrowed its focus to post 9/11 veterans from California who are transitioning to higher education at nearby colleges. It has an annual budget of $1 million and does not require VA records for admission. The Pathway Home had always been open just to men, but Loeber had plans to open it to women too and house them on a different wing from the men. Pathway was home to 14 men, but was expected to rise to 34 residents once women were added.
The Veterans Home in Yountville is one of the largest in the United States. It houses 1,100 men and women of all ages, from World War II era to present-day. The Veterans Home dates back to 1884 and is a 600-acre campus. Residents and employees are sheltering in place. The Veterans Home is located off Highway 29 and California Drive in Yountville, at 260 California Dr. Entry to the Veterans Home has been blocked off to the public, and golfers have been cleared from the nearby Vintners golf course. Try to avoid the area if you can.
This is a developing story.