YOUNTVILLE, Calif. — The man who killed three women after a daylong siege at a Northern California veterans home had trouble adjusting to regular life after he returned from the Afghanistan war and had been kicked out of the treatment program designed to help him.
As family and friends of the victims tried to make sense of the tragedy, authorities offered little information Saturday about why Albert Wong, 36, attacked The Pathway Home and whether he targeted his victims. Those who knew the women said they had dedicated their lives to helping those suffering like Wong, and they would’ve been in a good position to assist him had Friday’s hostage situation ended differently.
“We lost three beautiful people yesterday,” Yountville Mayor John Dubar said. “We also lost one of our heroes who clearly had demons that resulted in the terrible tragedy that we all experienced here.”
Authorities said Wong, a former Army rifleman who served a year in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and returned highly decorated, went to the campus about 50 miles north of San Francisco on Friday morning, slipping into a going-away party for some employees of The Pathway Home. He let some people leave, but kept the three.
Police said a Napa Valley sheriff’s deputy exchanged gunshots with Wong about 10:30 a.m. but after that nothing was heard from him. From a vet-center crafts building across the street from the PTSD center, witness Sandra Woodford said she saw lawmen with guns trained outside, but said the only shots she heard were inside Pathway early Friday. “This rapid live-fire of rounds going on, at least 12,” Woodford said.
Hours later, authorities found four bodies, including Wong’s.
His victims were identified as The Pathway Home Executive Director Christine Loeber, 48; Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, 32, a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. A family friend told The Associated Press that Gonzales Shushereba was seven months pregnant.
“These brave women were accomplished professionals who dedicated their careers to serving our nation’s veterans, working closely with those in the greatest need of attention after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” The Pathway Home said in a statement.
Wong was “calm and soft-spoken” but had a hard time re-adjusting after he returned from Afghanistan in 2013 and couldn’t sleep at night, Cissy Sherr, who was Wong’s legal guardian when he was a child, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sherr and her husband became Wong’s guardians after his father died and his mother developed health problems, she said. He moved back in with them for about a month when he returned from his deployment and kept in touch online.
Wong wanted to go back to school to study computers and business and thought the Pathway House program would help him, she said.
Dunbar, a member of The Pathway Home’s board of directors, said the program has served over 450 veterans in more than a decade. Six members are currently in the nonprofit men’s residential recovery program for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who suffer from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries, he said.
The program is housed at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville in the Napa Valley wine country region. The largest veterans home in the nation cares for about 1,000 elderly and disabled vets.
Golick’s father-in-law, Mike Golick, said in an interview she had recently expelled Wong from the program. After Wong entered the building, Golick called her husband to say she had been taken hostage by the former soldier, her father-in-law said.
He didn’t hear from his wife again.
Marjorie Morrison, the founder of a nonprofit organization known as PsychArmor, recalled Gonzales Shushereba as a “brilliant” talent who did amazing work with veterans with PTSD, and also focused on helping college campuses successfully reintegrate veterans when they return to school.
Gonzales Shushereba, a mother-to-be, had planned to travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to celebrate her wedding anniversary, family friend Vasiti Ritova said.
Loeber, who had taken over The Pathway Home 18 months ago, was known by all as dedicated and caring.
“She would sleep in her office more often than not because she had to be there to fill a shift, that’s the kind of personal dedication she showed all of us,” Dunbar said.
Family friend Tom Turner said Loeber would be helping others understand and deal with the tragedy if she were still alive.
Dunbar said all three of the women were excellent at what they did, and will be sorely missed. He added that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come home with “a lot of need for special care.”
Dunbar did not answer questions about why Wong was removed from the program.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation in Yountville and mourn the loss of three incredible women who cared for our Veterans.”
California Secretary of Veterans Affairs Vito Imbasciani said some veterans and employees at the home were traumatized and Gov. Jerry Brown had offered the state’s employee assistance program, which had already sent counselors to the campus.
If you do one thing: The Magic Valley Gem Club will hold its annual show with displays of rocks and gems along with activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds on U.S. 30 in Filer. Admission is $2.
TWIN FALLS — Students across the country are participating in a national walkout Wednesday to push for better school safety including some in the Magic Valley.
As part of the National School Walkout, students nationwide are leaving class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — one minute for each person killed in February during a mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. The purpose is to protest gun violence and urge Congressional lawmakers to take action.
Here in south-central Idaho, walkouts are planned at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls and Wood River High School in Hailey. Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls will give students a 15-minute break from classes, giving them the option to gather if they choose.
“Districtwide with events that are being planned, we want to make sure they remain non-political and are an outlet for students to express their feelings,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said Friday.
A handful of other schools are considering alternate activities — such as assemblies or acts of kindness — in lieu of a walkout. At Xavier Charter School in Twin Falls, student leaders worked with school administrators to plan a student safety awareness assembly for later this month.
In Twin Falls, “we have not heard a lot of desire from our student population about participating” in a walkout, Craner wrote in a statement. If students decide to walk out of class, they’ll be excused if their parents contact their school — preferably, in advance. Otherwise, it will be counted as an unexcused absence.
School officials in Cassia County, Buhl, Murtaugh and Valley (Hazelton) say they’re not aware of any plans for a walkout at their schools. Other schools didn’t respond to inquires Friday from the Times-News.
Here are details about what’s planned across south-central Idaho:
CSI’s Student Senate is planning a “Walk for Change” at the Twin Falls college campus. Students who want to participate will meet at a grassy area north of the Taylor Building.
“We will have 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims,” CSI student body president Lance Teske wrote in a letter to students. That will be followed by a “brief inspiring address,” he said, and student leaders will lead a march along the perimeter of campus, with posters provided.
“This is not to push any political agenda,” Teske wrote in the letter. “We are coming together in unity to make a statement; in memory of the tragedies, and to start a discussion for change, because students are still dying.”
During a CSI board of trustees meeting Feb. 26, trustees heard information about student leaders considering a walkout. At the time, a decision hadn’t been made yet.
At the meeting, board chairman Bob Keegan said board members’ hearts go out to the victims of the Florida school shooting. If CSI students organize a walkout, he said, “I think you’ll have the full support of the board.”
Students at Wood River High School in Hailey are planning a walkout. They received approval from school principal John Pearce, and it will happen during an advisory class period.
Students can choose to participate or stay in their advisory class, the Blaine County School District said in a statement Tuesday.
“Students have stated that their goal is to have an opportunity for all students to express their points of view on school safety,” according to the statement. “The gathering is not about gun rights. It is about school safety and student voice as students grapple with their role in world and their ability to impact their surroundings. We are proud of our students who want to learn how to exercise their First Amendment rights and express their points of view, regardless of what viewpoint they have.”
Hailey police will stop anyone trying to enter the area, such as for CSI classes, to the Blaine County Recreation District or the region IV music competition, the school district said. They’ll be allowed to enter once they explain the purpose of their visit.
Classes will continue as normal Wednesday and any absences will follow the school’s normal attendance policies, administrator Gary Moon wrote in a Thursday letter to parents. That “may appropriately include consequences such as Saturday School or suspension if there have been past truancy issues.”
Students who want to participate in a walkout in a different manner can be excused and checked out of school, but aren’t allowed to stay on campus.
School administrators and student leaders worked to create an alternative event to the walkout — a student safety awareness assembly for seventh through 12th graders at 10 a.m. March 21. Parents are invited to attend.
Student leaders are also planning a “Share Your Light Week” to encourage acts of kindness.
In Wendell, school leaders have considered how to plan for the possibility of school walkouts.
“We have decided that the best approach is to be proactive with our students to plan engaging activities that are meaningful,” Superintendent Greg Lowe wrote in an email to the Times-News. “By doing so, we feel that attendance will not be a major issue.”
He sent information to school principals with guidance about planning an event that takes the ages of students into consideration, allows for alternate ways for student expression without disrupting learning, something non-partisan and non-religious, involves students in planning and is communicated to parents.
Lowe didn’t have details Friday about what schools are planning.
WASHINGTON — Things had been going along so nicely.
Over the past year, the major regions of the world finally shed the scars of a global financial crisis and grew in unison for the first time in a decade. Worldwide growth is expected to hit 3.9 percent this year — the best pace since 2011 — and the International Monetary Fund says most countries are sharing in the prosperity.
But President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday that the United States would impose heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminum — with some countries potentially exempted — suddenly raised a fear that few had anticipated: That U.S. tariffs could trigger a chain of tit-for-tat retaliation by America’s trading partners that could erupt into a full-blown trade war and possibly threaten the global economy.
Given how far many countries have come since the painful years of debt crises and a crushing recession, the threat posed by the tariffs struck many as an ill-considered risk.
“Tariffs threaten to strangle the global golden goose,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The global economy is on the same page for the first time in over a decade. This threatens to derail it.”
It remains far from clear how, exactly, the Trump administration’s tariffs will be applied, which countries will be subject to them or how economically damaging the retaliation from the affected nations might prove. The president announced 25 percent tariffs on foreign steel and 10 percent tariffs on foreign aluminum. But he gave Canada and Mexico a reprieve: He exempted them from the tax temporarily — provided that they agree to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to Trump’s liking.
The president has also invited other countries to try to negotiate their way out of the tariffs, though his administration has yet to explain how the appeals process will work. The lack of details about when or how individual countries could apply for waivers has only compounded the uncertainty surrounding the economic impact of the tariffs.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted anew his position that the U.S. has been abused economically by the EU: “The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the U.S. very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum. If they drop their horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products going in, we will likewise drop ours. Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!”
European nations, though, are already threatening to retaliate with tariffs of their own against such iconic American products as motorcycles, blue jeans and bourbon, among others.
Across the world, China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, is also sending ominous signals. Beijing said it was ready to counterpunch if the U.S. tariffs hurt Chinese companies, though in a statement Friday it made no specific retaliation threat.
China’s Commerce Ministry criticized Trump for acting unilaterally rather than working through the World Trade Organization. In a statement, Wang Hejun, a ministry official, warned that the tariffs “will surely have a serious impact on the normal international order.”
Any trade war would upset an international economic order that has achieved stability and relative health. From Brussels to Beijing to Buenos Aires, pockets of the world had long suffered from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis but have been recovering steadily. Europe and Japan, both laggards for years, are at last showing steady growth.
Developing countries, too, have mostly recovered from a 2014-2015 crash in commodities prices. And the United States is enjoying a job market boom, fueled in part by the stronger global economy, rising business and consumer confidence and the sweeping tax cuts that Trump pushed through Congress.
Globally, stock markets have also posted strong gains over the past year. And inflation has remained in check.
But economists at Barclays Bank warn that this “Goldilocks scenario — solid, steady economic expansion, but not so fast as to ignite inflation — could reverse in the aftermath of Trump’s tariff announcement. The tariffs themselves aren’t the main problem. S&P Global Ratings notes that the United States last year imported $29 billion worth of steel and $17 billion of aluminum — a trifle given that U.S. goods imports totaled $2.4 trillion last year.
Rather, the worry is that a widening trade war with layers of retaliatory tariffs would depress global trade, which grew 4.2 percent last year, the most since 2011, on the fuel of the global economy.
The United States has much to lose from any deterioration in the economic environment. The nation’s unemployment rate has remained for months at a 17-year low 4.1 percent. And employers in February added a robust 313,000 jobs — the most in any month in a year and a half.
The tariffs, economists at Northern Trust say, mark “a break from the market-friendly actions taken by President Donald Trump in his first year in office.” Trump has cut taxes and reduced some regulations on businesses — policies that tend to boost company profits and bolster business confidence.