YOUNTVILLE — The gunman suspected of killing three veterans’ workers and himself Friday had served a year in Afghanistan and had been awarded for his combat service, an Army spokeswoman said Saturday.
Described as, “one of our heroes who clearly had demons,” Albert Cheung Wong was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Yountville Veterans Home in Napa County, where he took the three victims hostage and shot them to death Friday.
He was reportedly kicked out of the facility’s Pathway Home program by one of the victims, a clinical director, just a few days before the shooting, according to the Associated Press.
But it remains unclear what set him off, and officials at a news conference Saturday declined to give any details about the shooter that may have pointed to a motive.
“I and the members of the Pathway Home family lost three beautiful people yesterday,” said Yountville Mayor John Dunbar during brief remarks. “We also lost one of our heroes who clearly had demons that resulted in the terrible tragedy that we all experienced here.”
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Rob Nacke of the Golden Gate division said investigators are processing, “large amounts of evidence that was recovered at the scene” and that the investigation is ongoing.
According to an Army spokeswoman, Wong served in the Army as an infantryman with one tour in Afghanistan from 2011-2012. The spokeswoman said he was the recipient of several awards, including a good conduct medal and an Army Commendation Medal. Wong was also awarded two medals for his service overseas.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation in Yountville and mourn the loss of three incredible women who cared for our Veterans,” President Donald Trump tweeted early Saturday.
Records show that Wong, of Sacramento, was a 36-year-old resident of Yountville and an Army veteran who had previously been stationed at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Up until about a year ago, Wong lived in an olive-green house on Darling Street in Napa. His next-door neighbor, Nathan Wilkens, said Wong shared the home with an elderly woman, who he thinks was a family member, and stayed there for about two years. He kept to himself and was often seen smoking cigarettes in the front yard, Wilkens said Saturday.
“No weird behavior,” Wilkens said. “We figured he was a caretaker.”
Three candles were placed at the entrance sign to the Veterans Home of California Saturday, a day after the shooting. The U.S., California and Prisoner of War flags flew at half-mast.
Christine Loeber, 48; Jennifer Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzales, 32, were killed. Loeber was the executive director of The Pathway Home, a nonprofit that reintegrates post 9/11 veterans with civilian life. Golick was a clinical director and Gonzales a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
The three women were described by officials as having “dedicated their lives to helping our veterans.”
“Each of them brought energy, vitality and personality to their jobs,” said Dunbar, qualities that were particularly critical in working with veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
Bob Golick said in a Friday afternoon interview with The Associated Press that his daughter-in-law, Jennifer Golick, had kicked Wong out of the program a few days ago. She called his son around 10:30 a.m. Friday to say she had been taken hostage in the building where she worked. The son, Marc Golick, is Jennifer Golick’s husband.
Golick joined Pathways in September, according to her Facebook page. She graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1998 and received a masters degree in counseling psychology at Sonoma State in 2000. She loved the San Francisco Giants. Photos on her Facebook page show a beaming Golick running marathons, wading through mud in the infamously difficult “Tough Mudder” obstacle races and at a Giants baseball game.
Family gathered at Golick’s St. Helena home declined to speak with reporters Saturday.
After receiving her doctoral degree, Gonzales, a newlywed who was reportedly seven months pregnant, worked for a private counseling service provider offering individual and family counseling to deputies with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, according to Sgt. Richard Glennon.
“She was not an employee of the Sheriff’s office but worked with many of our staff members,” Glennon said in a statement. “The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office sends our deepest condolences and prayers to the families and friends of all the victims of this terrible tragedy in Yountville. For any of our deputies and their family members who had the pleasure of working with Dr. Jennifer Gonzales it is especially personal and heartbreaking.”
Loeber was a social worker and executive director at Pathway since September 2016. She’s seen in a photo she posted on her Facebook page, smiling with a group holding a large-sized check from the Rotary Club of Napa to Pathway Home. Some commented on the photo, sending condolences.
Larry Kamer, who’s wife works at Pathways, said the six veterans currently housed by the program have been placed in temporary housing because the building is still considered a crime scene. Law enforcement officers were seen carrying several personal items — such as a fish tank and a computer — out of the building Saturday.
Meanwhile, Dunbar, a Pathway board member, said the board of directors met Saturday to determine next steps for the program. Since its inception after 9/11, the group has helped 450 veterans cope with the effects of their deployments.
The Washington Post and staff writer Angela Ruggiero contributed.