Shooter had sought healing from Calif. veterans center
When Albert Wong returned from an Army deployment in Afghanistan in 2013, he knew it had affected him. He had trouble adjusting to regular life, couldn’t sleep at night and was hyper-vigilant about his surroundings.
But when he found a treatment program for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who suffer from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injuries, he saw it as a way to get help and readjust to civilian life, said Cissy Sherr, who was his legal guardian and raised him for years as a child. Until he was recently expelled.
On Friday, police said Wong slipped into a going-away party at the program, The Pathway Home, and took three employees hostage. After an hours-long standoff, Wong and the three female workers, one of whom was pregnant, were all found dead.
As a child, Wong had always dreamed of joining the Army, said Sherr, who began caring for him when he was 6 after his father died and his mother developed medical issues.
“He had a lot of role models in the Army,” Sherr said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Sherr and her husband raised Wong for years, enrolled him in Catholic school. Together, they traveled to Florida, Hawaii and Boston, where he experienced snow for the first time. “He was a pretty happy-go-lucky kid,” Sherr said.
When Wong became a teenager and Sherr and her husband worked full-time, they decided to put him in foster care. He stayed with a foster father in San Francisco who had other teenage boys, and he attended high school near San Francisco.
An older adopted brother, Tyrone Lampkin, recalled playing hockey and going fishing with Wong when they were kids. They also got into fights. Wong’s outbursts at times forced him to live elsewhere for stints, Lampkin told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat in a story published Sunday.
Wong served in the Army Reserve from 1998 until 2002, enlisted for active duty in May 2010 and was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2011, according to military records.
He was a decorated soldier and was awarded the Expert Marksmanship Badge. But that also meant Wong was tasked with dangerous assignments, where he saw “really horrible things” that affected his mental well-being, Sherr said.
Lampkin said Wong was never the same after getting out of the military, often becoming fixated on petty grievances.
Wong told Sherr he had found a program at the veterans home in Yountville, Calif., and had met people who helped him enroll in a treatment program. He was also receiving assistance at a veterans hospital in San Francisco, she said.
He told Sherr: “I think I’m going to get a lot of help from this program,” she said.
Officials have declined to provide additional information about why Wong was thrown out of the group.