One of the key questions in the investigation into the fatal shootings at a Yountville veterans home last week is why officers and deputies waited more than seven hours before moving in.
When officers finally did go into the Pathway Home on Friday, they found the three hostages and the gunman dead. They likely had been dead for hours, officials said.
The California Highway Patrol, which is leading the investigation, has provided few details on the standoff and slayings. Napa County deputies were some of the first on the scene when the reports came in of an active shooter, and one deputy exchanged fire with gunman Albert Wong in what witnesses called a flurry of gunfire.
Wong, who had recently been expelled from the home, slipped into a going-away party, let some people go and held Dr. Jennifer Golick, Dr. Jennifer Gonzales and Christine Loeber at gunpoint.
Despite repeated efforts for hours, the deputy's shootout with Wong was the last time anyone, including negotiators, had contact with the gunman.
State Sen. Bill Dodd was at the command center for most of the day, and he believes the three women were killed during or shortly after the initial exchange of gunfire.
"Of course on that day, nobody knew that those fatal shots were rung out so early," Dodd said. "Law enforcement was hoping, and their strategy was they didn’t cause something that was catastrophic for the victims."
Dodd said he was told glare on the windows of the Pathway Home made it nearly impossible to see inside. And negotiators repeatedly called Wong’s cellphone, only to discover later that he’d left it in his car.
Law enforcement sources told NBC Bay Area any strategy for dealing with a gunman holding hostages carries a risk. Rush in, and you may provoke the gunman to kill. Wait hours, and you may risk losing wounded hostages.
The CHP chose to wait, and Dodd said rushing in likely would not have changed the outcome.
"From the talk I heard in and around the camp ... the crime scene was not a pretty sight, let's just put it that way," Dodd said.
More details will emerge once the CHP releases the results of its investigation, Dodd said. The agency has not provided an estimated timeline on completing the investigation.