Gunman holed up at California veterans home with three hostages

YOUNTVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) - A gunman who once served in the U.S. military opened fire on Friday inside a California home for disabled and aging war veterans, where he took three hostages and was holding police at bay as negotiators sought to make contact with him for several hours, authorities said.

No injuries were reported at the sprawling facility in Yountville, a picturesque town located in the heart of Napa Valley's wine country about 60 miles north of San Francisco. But the building, its staff and approximately 1,000 residents were placed under a security lockdown.

State Senator Bill Dodd, who represents the area, told reporters that the gunman was a member of the Pathway Home, a program for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

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Shots fired at Yountville Veterans' Home in California
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Shots fired at Yountville Veterans' Home in California
YOUNTVILLE, CA - MARCH 09: Vanessa Flores (R) embraces another woman after she leaves the locked down Veterans Home of California during an active shooter turned hostage situation on March 9, 2018 in Yountville, California. A lone gunman opened fire and is holding three hostages inside the largest veterans facility in the United States founded in 1884. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
YOUNTVILLE, CA - MARCH 09: Chris Childs, assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol, speaks at a press conference after an active shooter turned hostage situation at the Veterans Home of California on March 9, 2018 in Yountville, California. A gunman armed with a rifle and three hostages were found dead at the largest veterans facility in the United States founded in 1884. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
YOUNTVILLE, CA - MARCH 09: A Napa County Sheriff's helicopter is seen at a golf course during an active shooter situation at the Veterans Home of California on March 9, 2018 in Yountville, California. A lone gunman opened fire and is holding three hostages inside the largest veterans facility in the United States founded in 1884. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
YOUNTVILLE, CA - MARCH 09: Law enforcement personnel are seen at a building entrance after an active shooter turned hostage situation at the Veterans Home of California on March 9, 2018 in Yountville, California. A military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and three hostages were found dead at the largest veterans facility in the United States founded in 1884. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
YOUNTVILLE, CA - MARCH 09: A woman peeks out of a school bus leaving the Veterans Home of California during an active shooter situation on March 9, 2018 in Yountville, California. A lone gunman opened fire and is holding three hostages inside the largest veterans facility in the United States founded in 1884. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

The Veteran's Home is situated past vineyards and the Vintner's Golf Club in Yountville, California, U.S., on Saturday, March 1, 2008. Napa Valley's Yountville, once home to blue-collar workers, military veterans and dive bars, is becoming a haven for business leaders, celebrities and the expensive hotels and restaurants that draw them. Yountville, about 60 miles north of San Francisco, boasts restaurants with more Michelin stars per capita than any city in the U.S.

(Photo by Chip Chipman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Yountville Veterans Home Update ⬇️ https://t.co/Y4Wt0dK9kZ
Man with automatic weapon reported at Veterans Home https://t.co/8UXXQ7Gthc
Viewers saw police racing to Veterans Home of California-Yountville, the largest veterans’ home in the United State… https://t.co/w4jMicJN3r
California veterans home on lockdown amid reports of active shooter https://t.co/3RkzLMsKK0
DEVELOPING: Gunman has taken hostages at veterans' home in California, Napa County fire official says… https://t.co/ZsiHQdV3we
California officials report hostages taken in 'active shooter situation' at veterans' home https://t.co/UvbWFnjSBf https://t.co/UQE6wItX7t
#BREAKING UPDATE: Active shooter reported at veterans home in Yountville. Shots reportedly fired near main dining h… https://t.co/lhLk96IWcW
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The hostages were believed to be employees at the facility, the largest of its kind in the nation, who worked with the suspect in the Pathway program, he said.

A woman who encountered the gunman when he entered the facility talked to her husband, Larry Kamer, by phone. "She’s quite shaken up. She’s in a locked down building,” Kamer said, adding she was staying calm.

According to his wife's account, the gunman "walked in with a rifle. She was face to face with him when he walked in,” he said.

Hostage negotiators from three different agencies were trying to make contact with the suspect, the California Highway Patrol said.

"Gunfire was exchanged. It's not known at this time how many rounds were exchanged, but I am happy to report that at this moment there have been no injuries," CHP spokesman Chris Childs told reporters.

The standoff comes less than a month after a former student with an assault-style rifle killed 17 people at a Florida high school. The massacre touched off a student-led drive for new restrictions on gun ownership to prevent the kind of mass shootings that have become epidemic in the United States.

A Napa County sheriff's deputy arrived at the scene within four minutes of the first reports of gunfire and exchanged shots with the suspect, Sheriff John Robertson said. Authorities know the gunman's identity, he said, but were not disclosing his name publicly.

A resident of the home, identified as Rod Allen by the local CBS television affiliate KPIX, said the gunman took the hostages after allowing some people at a party to leave. He fired about 30 shots, the resident said.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs could not be reached immediately for comment but in a Facebook post said it was following reports of gunfire at the home.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in New York; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay and Keith CoffmanWriting by Frank McGurty; Editing by Leslie Adler, Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman)

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