Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, a psychologist, was one of the three hostages who were tragically killed by a gunman at The Pathway Home on the campus of the Veterans Home of California in Yountville. The Veterans Home was put on lockdown on Friday after there were reports of an active shooter in the facility. Police, SWAT, ATF, and the FBI all responded. Reports indicated that the gunman, 36, had been a resident of The Pathway Home before being asked to leave a couple weeks ago. Officials eventually found all three hostages and the gunman dead. Here is more information about Dr. Gonzales and a life dedicated to helping veterans.
1. Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Was a Veterans Psychologist
Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, whose life was tragically lost at the Yountville shooting, 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.
2. Gonzales Previously Worked with Sheriff Deputies and Their Families
Dr. Jennifer K. Gonzales, Psy.D., was a clinical psychologist with the Student Veteran Health Program at San Francisco VA Medical Center. She received her doctorate from the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium at Palo Alto University in 2003. After receiving her license, she joined a practice group where she worked with the Santa Clara County Sheriff Deputies, their families, and civilians. She also worked with student veterans before joining the program with The Pathway Home.
3. The Pathway Home Released the Names of the Three Hostage Victims
Law enforcement officials had not yet officially released the names of the victims, when The Pathway Home made the heartbreaking announcement. A statement released by Larry Kamer of The Pathway Home read: “It is with extreme sadness that we acknowledge the death of three members of The Pathway Home family — Christine Loeber, our Executive Director; Dr. Jen Golick, our therapist; and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. These brave women were accomplished professionals who dedicated their careers to serving our nation’s veterans, working closely with those in greatest need of attention after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of us at The Pathway Home are devastated by today’s events. We stand with the families, friends, and colleagues who share in this terrible loss.”
4. The Gunman Was a Veteran Treated for PTSD at The Pathway Home
Napa Valley Register reported that the man may have been dressed in black and wearing body armor and carrying an M4 type of weapon. State Senator Bill Dodd confirmed this NBC Bay Area that the suspect was a member of the Pathway Home program for military veterans with emotional trauma. Early reports say he was 36 and was discharged from the treatment program two weeks ago. However, Dodd later clarified that the gunman had been kicked out of the program.
The gunman took five hostages at first, but released two. Authorities said he was a 36-year-old veteran who was wearing a stash of bullets around his neck and waist, SFGate reported. He walked in with a rifle, but some people were able to escape before he started firing. Hostage negotiators from the Napa Sheriff’s Office and the FBI tried to contact the gunman during the standoff but were unable to reach him.
5. The Pathway Home Helps Post-9/11 Veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Gulf War Deployments
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. According to the Pathway Program’s website: “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.”
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 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.