The deputy who was first on the scene during the March 9 shooting at the Veterans Home of California at Yountville acted in a legally justified manner, Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley said late Tuesday.
Napa County Sheriff's Deputy Steven Lombardi, a 26-year veteran of the department, responded within four minutes to the Veterans Home after Napa officials received a report of an active shooter, according to a report released Tuesday night by the District Attorney's Office. The shooting left three workers and an unborn baby dead. The gunman killed himself.
Albert Wong, an ex-client and Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, traded gunfire with Lombardi inside the building after taking the women hostage. Lombardi fired through the door where he last saw Wong after moving to a position of safety, according to the release. He did not hit anyone inside the room.
"(Lombardi's) actions were legally justified and criminal charges against him are neither warranted nor supported by the evidence," the DA wrote in the report.
Lombardi fired 13 shots toward Wong, who fired back 22 times, according to the report by the DA's office.
The incident occurred eight months ago, after Wong had been dismissed from nonprofit The Pathway Home's program for veterans with PTSD, on leased facilities at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville. He refused to comply with program policies and his treatment plan, according to the report.
Wong, 36, wrote an apology letter to his landlord, implying that he would not be back, according to the report. He drove to the facility in a rental car, armed with a loaded .308 caliber semi-automatic rifle and a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun. Wong carried three more 20-round magazines for that rifle, plus 12 shotgun shells in a belt around his waist, according to the report. He protected his eyes and ears, both with earplugs and over-the-ear protection.
It was clear that he came to kill, the District Attorney concluded.
He arrived in an upstairs meeting room at 10:19 a.m., where 10 people, including staff and three veterans, were attending a goodbye party for two staff members. Wong took three key members of clinical operations hostage at 10:20 a.m., and told partygoers to leave the room one by one, according to the report. Staff and veterans who were allowed to leave called 911.
"[W]e have an active shooter," the first caller said to Napa Dispatch at 10:21 a.m., two minutes after Wong entered the room.
All Napa County Sheriff Deputies were dispatched, but Lombardi, the only one on duty in Yountville, was the first to arrive. He responded to the call within six seconds and arrived within four minutes at 10:25 a.m.
Lombardi had served as the Sheriff's Department range instructor, working with firearms, for nearly a decade. He had a .223 caliber rifle, a Kimber .45 caliber handgun and a Smith & Wesson .38 handgun, according to the report.
An employee on site directed Lombardi to the second-floor room where others were being held hostage. He went upstairs alone, fearing for the employee's safety, according to the report.
Lombardi saw Wong holding a rifle, backed up and moved to the hallway. He heard Wong rack the rifle and a woman scream.
"I didn't want her to die," Lombardi later told investigators.
So at 10:31 a.m., Lombardi moved from his safe spot and fired his rifle at the last position where he saw Wong, according to the report.
Wong fired back. They traded a total of 35 shots for about 10 seconds. Lombardi was not injured.
Lombardi backed up while continuing to fire at Wong, then reloaded his rifle with a full magazine and waited in the hallway, expecting Wong to step out.
Evidence suggests that he killed the women and himself soon after. They immediately died from their injuries, according to the report.
The report did not elaborate on how investigators determined the timing of their deaths. A message sent to District Attorney Allison Haley Tuesday night was not returned.
More officers arrived on scene six minutes after the shots were fired and nobody else engaged with Wong, according to the report.
An all-day standoff ensued, with the Napa County Sheriff's SWAT team, FBI negotiators and others arriving on scene in attempt to diffuse the crisis.
At 6 p.m., Executive Director Christine Loeber, 48, Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, 42, psychologist Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, who was 32 years old and six months pregnant, and Wong were found dead by gunshot.
Officials said they never made contact during the standoff with the gunman, who didn't answer his phone, or other phones in the building. According to the DA's report, Wong killed the women and then himself within 12 minutes of entering the building.
Haley Rekdahl was among the party attendees who were ushered out of the room by Wong.
"I immediately noticed he was armed and had a lot of gear on," including a large gun, ear coverings, a hat and glasses, she said after the incident. "When he first walked in, he just looked at us and he had this look in his eye."
Jim Thomas, vice president of the Veterans’ Group, later told the East Bay Times that the group had long complained to CalVet, which oversaw the program, that the property needed better security.
“Anybody can walk into this property with an AR-15 or some other weapons and go to our dining hall, kill 300 people in one meal,” he said.
Six men lived at The Pathway Home at the time of the shooting. In the wake of the shootings, the program announced it would not reopen.
California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Amir Tabarsi led the investigation, as the agency has jurisdiction over incidents on state-owned properties, according to the report. Tabarsi presented his report to the District Attorney on Aug. 30.
State law allows anyone to use deadly force to defend themselves or others, as long as that person genuinely and reasonably believes there is threat of serious injury or death, according to the report. California law also protects officers who kill someone if the person was actively resisting and there is fear of death or serious injury.
“These encounters often become wildly unpredictable and rapidly evolving, requiring officers to make split second decisions while in fear for their own lives, the lives of their fellow officers and the citizenry they have sworn to protect,” the District Attorney wrote in her report.
Sheriff John Robertson said in a Tuesday night statement that he offered his condolences and prayers to family and friends of Loeber, Golick and Gonzales Shushereba, who dedicated their lives to helping others.