WASHINGTON — Gunfire shattered the bucolic peace at a veterans retirement home in California’s Napa Valley Friday morning when a veteran armed with a rifle and reportedly wearing body armor burst into a building at the sprawling facility, fired several shots at a sheriff’s deputy then took several people hostage, police said.
The gunman at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville is described as a 36-year-old veteran with post traumatic stress disorder who was recently asked to leave the Pathway Home Project, a program for veterans suffering from the disorder,according to law enforcement. Officials have not released his name to the media. nor have they disclosed if he lives at the home or was participating in the program as an outpatient.
Napa County Sheriff John Robertson said one of his deputies who first responded to reports of a gunman on the campus shortly before 10:30 a.m. PST encountered the suspect. Robertson said the deputy and the suspect exchanged gunfire, with “many shots” being fired. After taking several people hostage, the suspect let most of them go but kept three.
State Sen. Bill Todd (D-Napa) told NBC Bay Area that the three remaining hostages are the executive director and two clinical workers of the PTSD program.
Earlier, the California Highway Patrol said it had dispatched a SWAT team to the home, which is about an hour north of San Francisco. The agency also has “officers and aerial resources on scene working with Napa County Sheriff’s deputies and others to bring the situation to a safe conclusion,” CHP said on Twitter.
The facility is on lockdown and law enforcement is urging people to avoid the area.
“We have activated our emergency response protocol and are cooperating with law enforcement,” the California Department of Veterans said in a statement.
The sheriff said hostage negotiators from various agencies, including the FBI, have been trying to contact the suspect by cellphone and landlines since this morning without success. Authorities have no information about the condition of the hostages, who are being detained in one room.
Law enforcement said a hotline has been established for residents’ families to get information.
The Yountville facility is home to about 1,000 male and female residents according to its website. Older or disabled veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom lives at the home, which opened in 1984.
Last October scores of the residents were evacuated due to threatening wildfires in the area. However, after winds shifted the evacuation was called off and most of the residents who had left were allowed to return.
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