YOUNTVILLE (California) • A former US serviceman opened fire at a California veterans' home where he had undergone treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, taking three employees hostage in an all-day stand-off that ended when police found him and his female captives dead.
Despite repeated efforts by police negotiators to communicate with the suspect throughout the day, the authorities said they had failed to make contact with the gunman after he exchanged gunfire with a sheriff's deputy at the outset of the confrontation.
"We credit him (the deputy) with saving the lives of others in the area by eliminating the ability of the suspect to go out and find other victims," police spokesman Chris Childs said.
The authorities later identified the gunman as 36-year-old Albert Wong, a former patient of Pathway Home, a programme housed at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, in Napa Valley.
The three victims were described by local media as employees of Pathway Home.
It was not immediately clear whether they had been targeted or were chosen at random.
They were later identified as Pathway Home executive director Christine Loeber, 48; the programme's clinical director, therapist Jen Golick, 42; and Ms Jennifer Gonzales, 29, a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
Police did not say how they died, although local media, citing unnamed sources, reported that the assailant shot the three women before turning the gun on himself.
Other hostages had been released earlier in the day.
The Yountville residence, home to 1,000 elderly or disabled veterans of wars dating back to World War II, is the largest home for veterans in the country, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST