A lone gunman and three female staff members of a Napa County veterans support program are dead after the gunman, a military veteran, stormed a building Friday at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville in a mid-morning siege, exchanging gunfire with law enforcement before holing up in a room in the building, authorities said.
Nothing was heard from the gunman or his three hostages since about 10:30 a.m. Friday while scores of law enforcement officers, SWAT teams and hostage negotiators surrounded the building, trying for hours to reach the suspect by cellphone but making no contact, law enforcement officials said.
The gunman, who hasn’t been named, had been recently kicked out of The Pathway Home, an organization that provides veterans with support in transitioning back to the civilian world after deployment, according to State Sen. Bill Dodd, whose district includes the sprawling 600-acre campus. His hostages included the program’s executive director Christine Loeber, according to an organization spokesman.
A military veteran kicked out of a program to help personnel with combat-related trauma armed himself with a high-powered rifle and returned to the organization’s site at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville Friday morning, interrupting a staff party and taking hostages in a standoff that continued more than five hours later, authorities said.
The gunman strode into a room during a going-away party for a colleague with The Pathway Home, an organization that provides veterans with support in transitioning back to the civilian world after deployment. Program volunteer Larry Kamer, who Friday was acting as a spokesman for the group, said his wife, Devereaux Smith, the Pathway Home’s director of development and communications, was in the room for the party when the gunman walked in.
“It was clear that he was there to do some harm,” Kamer said.
Scanner traffic indicated up to 30 shots had been fired and CHP officials said the suspect had exchanged gunfire with responding deputies early in the incident, first reported after 10 a.m. Law enforcement officers were swarming around Building G, also called Madison Hall in the middle of the campus, according to emergency scanner traffic.
State Sen. Bill Dodd, whose district includes the sprawling state-run Napa Valley campus for military veterans, confirmed Friday afternoon that one of the hostages is the director of the Pathway Home program for veterans, Christine Loeber, as well as two other staff members, all trained mental health professionals.
Dodd said the hostage situation is further proof “of the of the support that’s needed for our veterans and metal health issues.”
“The Pathway Home is an incredibly effective organization that has done so much for these veterans,” Dodd said.
Authorities have identified but not yet publicly named the gunman and it remained unclear as of 4 p.m. whether law enforcement had made any contact since a deputy or deputies exchanged gunfire with him shortly after the first 911 call about 10:20 a.m.
Smith, the Pathway communications and development executive, and three of her colleagues were able to get out of the room and find refuge in an adjacent building, where she told Kamer about 40 people are holed up with law enforcement standing guard. Smith said she heard gunshots, but she didn’t know how many, Kamer said.
“I think she still feels that she’s awfully close to an active situation, so I think all of us are going to feel a lot better when she and everybody else is out of there and back home,” Kamer said.