On Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend, a man working a swing shift at Mann Packing in mostly low-crime Gonzales went out to his car to take his dinner break when he was set upon by another man – this one armed – and shot to death. In a press release that was light on details, Gonzales Police Chief Keith Wise says both the victim, whose age and identity hasn’t yet been released, and the alleged gunman, a 33-year-old Salinas man named Barry Sumagang, were former co-workers at the vegetable processing facility. As to the possible motive, Gonzales PD isn’t releasing one right now, although other law enforcement sources have said the men may have been rivals for a female co-worker’s attention.
Sumagang was arrested on May 30 outside a home on Fontes Lane in Salinas. Mann Packing is providing grief counselors for its employees.
On June 1, an off-duty Los Angeles County firefighter returned to his station about 45 miles north of the city of Los Angeles and shot two fellow firefighters, killing a 44-year-old fire specialist and wounding a 54-year-old fire captain. The man then went to a home about 10 miles away outside of Acton, sequestered himself on the property, set the home on fire and shot himself in the head, according to published accounts.
On May 26, at a Valley Transportation Agency light rail yard in San Jose, a VTA employee widely described as angry with the world went to his place of work early that morning and opened fire on a group of co-workers, killing nine of them before taking his own life. Body-cam footage just released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office shows officers sweeping the building as they hunted for the gunman before a final gunshot is heard; they came upon the shooter, Samuel Cassidy, slumped over in a chair. According to Cassidy’s ex-wife, Cassidy had talked of killing co-workers 10 years earlier. When law enforcement searched his home, which Cassidy had rigged to burn just as the shooting commenced, they found 12 weapons and 25,000 rounds of ammunition.
Among the victims of the VTA shootings was 49-year-old Timothy Romo, a Greenfield native whose father, Mike Romo, was police chief and mayor in that city.
Should I keep going?
On April 15 in Indianapolis, a former FedEx worker killed eight people at a company facility before taking his own life. On March 31, a man went to an office building in Orange, put cable locks on two sets of gates to keep people out and shot and killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy.
According to the independent research group Gun Violence Archive, there have been 243 mass shootings in 2021 and 15 mass murders, a term that uses a grim descriptor based on the number of those shot and killed in a single incident. The incidents span the country, from a shooting at an IHOP in Evanston, Illinois, where I went to college, to a mass slaughter at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, where the victims include Kevin Mahoney, father of KAZU news director Erika Mahoney. That’s 243 mass shootings so far and there are still six months to go in the year.
What have we become? Why is this OK?
Closer to home, friends of Timothy Romo launched a GoFundMe to benefit his wife, Annette, and five children. Pictures on the fundraiser page show Romo, a big and gregarious man, grinning into the camera and hugging his wife. “You always knew where Tim was by his big booming happy voice and his great laugh,” one donor wrote.
Before he was killed, a co-worker who survived heard Romo shouting, “Call the police!” Cassidy, according to the San Jose Mercury News, selected his victims, telling one co-worker, “I’m not going to kill you today.”
I ask again, what have we become and why is this OK?
It’s inevitable that, after I write any column involving gun violence, I’ll get an assortment of hate mail. A few years ago, a gun-loving acquaintance of my sons – not knowing they were my sons – even doxxed me on an internet platform, publishing my home address in case, I don’t know, someone wanted to knock on the door and have face to face discussion with me about my views?
This is what we have become and none of this is OK.