United States: Coroner says former patient killed self and three hostages at California veterans center

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Pathway Home has its offices at the Veterans Home of California Yountville complex.
Image: CHHSA.

In the United States, autopsy results were released on Thursday by the Napa County Sheriff's Office, which show that Albert Wong killed himself after shooting his three hostages at The Pathway Home veterans' psychiatric center in Yountville, California last Friday. The hostages died instantly from rifle shots to the head, and Wong shot himself in the head with a shotgun. Officials said there was no indication any of the four was killed by a sheriff's deputy who exchanged shots with Wong.

The Sheriff of Napa County also acts as the county coroner. According to the official report, the three hostages "all suffered immediately fatal head wounds caused by a high velocity projectile consistent with the rifle that the shooter, Albert Wong, used in this incident". Wong's fatal head wound was self-inflicted. Sheriff's Captain Steven Blower clarified that neither Wong nor the hostages was shot by the deputy.

According to authorities, Wong, a former Pathway resident, drove a rented car to the center Friday, March 9, and shortly after 10 AM local time (UTC-8), dressed in black and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, took five of the people at a leaving party hostage. The first call to the emergency 9-1-1 number was made at about 10:20. About ten minutes later, shots were heard, and a sheriff's deputy and Wong exchanged fire. Wong then shut himself in a room with three of the hostages. The campus was evacuated, but there was no further contact with Wong. A little before 6 PM, a video feed from a remote-controlled robot showed the four people in the room were probably dead.

The three victims were all women. Christine Loeber, 48, was the executive director of the home. Jen Golick, 42, was its clinical director. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, 36, was a psychologist on the staff of the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and also worked with PsychArmor, a nonprofit group, to create a toolkit for college campuses to assist students with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She was entering her last trimester of pregnancy.

Wong, 36, was a decorated veteran who served in the infantry in Afghanistan for a year in 2011–2012. He had been in treatment at the center for about a year but had been expelled two weeks before the hostage-taking because knives were found in his possession. His brother Tyrone Lampkin told The Press Democrat, Wong had been angry and said he "wanted to get back at them", but what he had mentioned was to "talk to them, yell at them, not to kill them".

The Board of Directors of The Pathway Home announced on Wednesday that it would suspend operations "indefinitely". It is a ten-year-old non-profit in-patient center treating veterans with PTSD, brain injuries, depression and addictions on the campus of the Veterans Home of California Yountville. Yountville is a small town in the wine country a little more than 50 miles north of San Francisco. Founded as a last-resort center for intensive treatment of veterans who had not been helped by other approaches, it transitioned in 2015 to providing care to those not yet in crisis, including veterans studying at Napa Community College. The Veterans Home is the largest in the United States, with more than 900 residents.


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