Ex-sol­dier kills 3, self at Calif. re­cov­ery fa­cil­ity

Al­bert Wong had been kicked out of the pro­gram.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Eli Rosen­berg and Alex Hor­ton

Al­bert Wong had been kicked out of the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pro­gram be­fore re­turn­ing armed with at least one ri­fle dur­ing a party.

The war vet­er­ans cho­sen for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion are care­fully se­lected at the Path­way Home, some­where at the in­ter­sec­tion of sig­nif­i­cant need and a will­ing­ness to get bet­ter. The few se­lected must want to be there.

For­mer Army in­fantry­man Al­bert Wong, be­fore he killed three clin­i­cians and him­self Fri­day at the Path­way Home’s fa­cil­ity in Yountville, Calif., was not do­ing as well as his fel­low vet­er­ans seek­ing care for is­sues like post-trau­matic stress disorder.

“Ap­par­ently he was given nu­mer­ous chances,” Cal­i­for­nia state Sen. Bill Dodd said on Satur­day. Wong, 36, a vet­eran of the war in Afghanistan, was told to leave the pro­gram two weeks ago, Dodd said.

Yet Wong re­turned. He ar­rived Fri­day morn­ing armed with at least one ri­fle dur­ing a farewell party at the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, which rein­te­grates vet­er­ans into civil­ian life.

Larry Kamer told The As­so­ci­ated Press that his wife, staffer Dev­ereaux Smith, called and said Wong en­tered the room qui­etly and al­lowed some peo­ple to leave, in­clud­ing her.

A Napa Val­ley sher­iff ’s deputy ar­rived be­fore 10:30 a.m. lo­cal time and ex­changed gun­fire with Wong. “Many bul­lets were fired,” Sher­iff John Robert­son said in a brief­ing Fri­day, which au­thor­i­ties be­lieved forced Wong into a sin­gle room at the Path­way fa­cil­ity with three women: Chris­tine Loe­ber, 48; Jen­nifer Golick, 42; and Jen­nifer Gon­za­les, 29.

And then noth­ing. Teams of fed­eral, state and lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials and hostage ne­go­tia­tors from three agen­cies had been un­able to make con­tact with Wong through his cell­phone or the cap­tives’ phones at the Path­way Home, the redtiled stucco live-in res­i­dency on the sprawl­ing cam­pus of the Vet­er­ans Home of Cal­i­for­nia, the largest of its kind in the coun­try.

“There is zero knowl­edge about what was go­ing on in­side,” Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol spokesman Robert Nacke told The Post. “Ev­ery­thing was iso­lated to one room.”

A team of po­lice stormed the room at about 6 p.m. lo­cal time to find the bod­ies of the three women and the gun­man. It is un­known when they were killed. It was “far too early to say if they were cho­sen at ran­dom,” Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol As­sis­tant Chief Chris Childs said.

“We are deeply sad­dened by the tragic sit­u­a­tion in Yountville and mourn the loss of three in­cred­i­ble women who cared for our Vet­er­ans,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Satur­day.

VA Sec­re­tary David Shulkin also added con­do­lences late Fri­day night. “We are deeply sad­dened and af­fected by the tragic out­come of the hostage sit­u­a­tion at the Vet­er­ans Home of Cal­i­for­nia in Yountville and ex­tend our deep­est con­do­lences to the loved ones in­volved,” Shulkin said.

Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown or­dered flags flown at half­staff at the capi­tol in mem­ory of the vic­tims.

The episode brought ten­sion and loss back to the 3,000-strong com­mu­nity in the heart of Napa Val­ley, still reel­ing from a series of dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires in Oc­to­ber. The vet­er­ans home had been evac­u­ated dur­ing the fires.

Some 80 high school stu­dents vis­it­ing a theater on the prop­erty of the vet­er­ans home were put in a “lock­down sit­u­a­tion” be­fore be­ing evac­u­ated, Napa County Sher­iff John Robert­son told re­porters. Nearby fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a golf course, were also evac­u­ated.

Loe­ber was the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Path­way Home, and Golick was a clin­i­cal di­rec­tor there. Gon­za­les was a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist with the San Fran­cisco VA Health Care Sys­tem, a vet­er­ans hos­pi­tal that works closely with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Wong served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 as an in­fantry­man, ac­cord­ing to Army records ob­tained by The Post. He ended three years ac­tive duty in 2013 with a stan­dard set of awards for his rank as a spe­cial­ist.

His awards sum­mary is miss­ing a Good Con­duct Medal, an award au­to­mat­i­cally pre­sented to sol­diers with three years of con­tin­u­ous ser­vice with­out dis­ci­plinary in­frac­tions, in­di­cat­ing a pos­si­ble blem­ish on his per­for­mance record.

VA has cau­tioned against link­ing post-trau­matic stress among Iraq and Afghanistan vet­er­ans and vi­o­lent be­hav­ior. Those vet­er­ans are typ­i­cally male, rel­a­tively young with an av­er­age age of 34, and sus­cep­ti­ble to other risk fac­tors such as al­co­hol abuse, the agency said, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to as­sign PTSD as an in­di­ca­tor of vi­o­lence more than other is­sues.

The Path­way Home oc­cu­pies part of the mas­sive Vet­er­ans Home cam­pus, res­i­dency to 1,000 el­derly or dis­abled vet­er­ans, ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia state VA de­part­ment.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion opened in 2008 to work with male sol­diers re­turn­ing home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site says. It has helped 450 vet­er­ans since then, in small groups slightly larger than a dozen vet­er­ans faced with the resid­ual ef­fects of post-trau­matic stress disorder and trau­matic brain in­jury ham­per­ing ad­just­ment to civil­ian life.

JOSH EDELSON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A woman who de­clined to give her name cries af­ter plac­ing flow­ers at a sign at the Path­way Home’s fa­cil­ity in Yountville, Calif., on Satur­day morn­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.