YOUNTVILLE — A military veteran receiving PTSD treatment has holed up with three hostages after getting into a brief shootout with police at the Yountville Veterans Home in Napa County, officials said.
A little after 3:30 p.m., law enforcement released a number of residents who were on lock down in a separate area of the building.
Jim Thomas, vice president of the Veterans’ Group at the Yountville Veterans Home said that he had been in a meeting when the shooting first started at 10:30 a.m.
“There should be a gate guard,” Thomas said. “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. We’ve complained for years here and the people at CalVet in Sacramento don’t seem to be willing to do any of that.”
But despite the bout of violence, no injuries have been reported in the ongoing standoff that first unfolded Friday morning at the site, which is the largest single veterans housing and treatment facility in the country.
There is “no other public safety threat” posed by the standoff, which has blocked off access to the compound located across the street from the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville on California Drive, said Chris Childs, assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol.
Family members looking to check on the status of residents at the veterans home can contact a special CHP hotline at 707-948-3331.
Larry Kamer said his wife, Devereaux Smith, was inside and came face-to-face with the shooter. Smith told Kamer that she was allowed to leave the room with three others, but heard gunshots after she left.
“All I know is she said it was all very calm. He walked in with a rifle so people had a clear understanding what was going on. There’s obviously no firemarms allowed in that building. She was face to face with him,” Kamer said.
Kamer says his wife is still inside the home’s dining hall and is not allowed to leave.
State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, said the gunman and took hostage a clinical worker, a psychiatrist and an executive director. The ginman was
“The veterans that are all living here are all safe,” Dodd said. “Everybody’s on lockdown. It’s just a matter of getting the best negotiators on this and hopefully we can find a peaceful outcome where nobody gets hurt.”
Napa County Sheriff John Robertson said at least one of his deputies responded to reports made around 10:20 a.m. of a gunman on the veterans home grounds. A responding deputy encountered the suspect, a 36-year-old man who has not been publicly identified, and they exchanged gunfire.
“There were many bullets fired,” Robertson said, but no one was hit.
The gunman, who is armed with an unspecified rifle, has been confined to one room with the three hostages. The sheriff confirmed earlier reports that the suspect entered the facility, released some people, and kept the three people he is currently holding hostage.
New information from the scene at #Yountville. Man whose wife works with Pathways PTSD program says she was 1 of 7 women at a going away party for employees when an extremely calm man armed with a rifle arrived. He let four of the women go and kept three as hostages. #abc7now
— Natasha Zouves (@natashanzouves) March 9, 2018
Robertson said “we’ve tried numerous times” to contact the gunman through both his personal cell phone and through landlines at the facility, to no avail. He added that while authorities know the suspect’s name, they won’t be immediately releasing it, and that multiple agencies have contributed personnel to the team trying to coax him out peacefully.
“We have quite a few hostage negotiators working for a peaceful resolution to this,” Robertson said.
The California Highway Patrol previously said on Twitter that it has dispatched officers, a SWAT team and air support to the site to bolster Napa County Sheriff’s deputies. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also sent personnel to the scene.
The suspect was initially described as being dressed in black and wearing body armor, and carrying an automatic weapon, according to the Napa Valley Register. The newspaper also reported that the suspect was once a member of the Pathway Home program for military veterans with emotional trauma, and that he had been discharged from the treatment program two weeks ago. Pathway Home’s program treats veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The gunman is reportedly holed up Friday in Pathway’s Madison Building, according to the Register.
A nurse at the facility who spoke to the Bay Area News Group said that residents live in dorm-style arrangements and that PTSD and other mental-health issues are common. She also said that the facility has dealt in the past with weapons being found with residents.
The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association released a statement saying that the public safety officers at the Yountville Veterans Home were not armed and blamed the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The CSLEA said the state has approximately 600 sworn peace officers that patrol large open campuses while unarmed.
“Rather than the state taking a proactive approach to adequately protect their residents, staff, and visitors, CSLEA’s fears have been, and continue to be, that it will take a tragic event to force administrators to finally act,” the press release read.
Meta Maxwell of Eugene, Oregon, praised the VA’s response, saying that she was immediately called and told her brother, 81-year-old William Hughes, was safe.
“I’m looking at the situation there and what a great job they’re doing. We should be supporting them more,” Maxwell said.