With the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, a stone throws away from the VTA maintenance yard on West Younger Avenue, some thought throngs of deputies arrived at once.
But in an interview with Sheriff Laurie Smith Thursday, NBC Bay Area learned in those first minutes, it was a different story.
A single deputy with a few, possibly one to four San Jose police officers were first to arrive at the scene, Sheriff Smith said. Back-up was nearby, but that group didn’t wait. They entered the building where the shooter was still firing rounds at his co-workers.
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“It was a grisly scene. [The officers] still had to do what they did,” she said. “Our active shooter protocol says ideally it’s three [deputies] but if there’s one, they’ll go in. All of the agencies in Santa Clara County will do the same thing.”
Historically, that immediate response wasn’t always the case. Law enforcement started re-evaluating how deputies and officers responded to mass shootings after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
“What would happen in the past would be officers would get there and potentially wait for SWAT team or greater resources before they went in,” Smith said.
That’s not what happened Wednesday. Smith said deputies and officers didn’t hesitate to enter the active scene where Samuel Cassidy was firing at his co-workers, ultimately killing nine.
Cassidy turned his gun on himself after coming face-to-face with the deputy and officers, she said.
“They went in there with great risk, risking their lives because they know what their job is,” Smith said.