A Bay Area man who was fatally shot by a gunman at a Morgan Hill auto dealership Tuesday is being mourned in the Mother Lode and the Jamestown area, where he stayed weekends in recent years and volunteered with the Inner Sanctum Cellars wine club and for local Meals on Wheels fundraisers.
Brian Light, 59, was fatally shot by an employee he’d just fired Tuesday at Morgan Hill Ford, struggled with the gunman before he died, and allowed other employees to escape safely, Morgan Hill Police Chief David Swing said.
Light lived in the Bay Area and he’d been coming to the Jamestown area six or seven years. Light was at Inner Sanctum’s winery last Friday. People at Inner Sanctum and other Jamestown locals who knew Light are heartbroken.
“He was our dear friend,” Karen Mariano-Luckhardt, owner and president of Inner Sanctum Cellars on Main Street in Jamestown said Thursday in a phone interview. “He shared a second home on Jacksonville Road with a friend. He loved being up here.”
Light and his friend, Bill Andrews, came to Jamestown pretty much every weekend, Mariano-Luckhardt said. They were wine club members and Light volunteered to pour wine at all of Inner Sanctum’s parties and gatherings. They boated on Don Pedro Reservoir and they ate at numerous restaurants in downtown Jamestown.
Light was so well-known at Jamestown eateries that Denise Brown, a waitress at Woods Creek Cafe, said Thursday during a busy lunch shift that Light was also her dear friend.
“He loved being able to relax up here,” Mariano-Luckhardt said. “He loved the people. He made friends fast because he was so friendly. It’s not surprising he tackled the gunman to save other people. I want to honor him in any way I can. We want to make sure people knew what a hero he was.”
Light was originally from Cortland, New York, south of Syracuse, Mariano-Luckhardt said.
Morgan Hill police said Light had been working at the Morgan Hill Ford dealership since 2018. He was the parts and service director.
Morgan Hill is south of San Jose in Santa Clara County, about 120 southwest of Sonora. Morgan Hill police said the gunman, identified as Steven Leet, 60, was fired about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday and just after 6 p.m. Leet was in a back office with Light and parts manager Xavier Souto, 38, when he pulled a gun and fatally shot both Light and Suoto.
Light was shot multiple times and tried to take the gun away from the shooter, police said. Both Light and Suoto were declared dead at the scene.
According to witnesses and law enforcement, Leet calmly walked outside and fatally shot himself. Police arriving at the shooting scene found Leet on the ground with a self -inflicted gunshot wound and a handgun by his side. Leet had worked at Morgan Hill Ford about eight years.
Swing, the Morgan Hill police chief, said that until Tuesday, Leet was an employee in the Morgan Hill Ford parts department and both Light and Souto were his supervisors. A SWAT team with a search warrant raided Leet’s home in San Jose early Wednesday and found no evidence of pre-planning or motive “or anything else that would lead us to why this incident occurred,” Swing told reporters at a press conference.
Leet shot Souto at point-blank range, killing him instantly. Light reacted selflessly.
“Brian then engaged the suspect and tried to disarm him,” Swing told reporters. “The suspect shot Brian multiple times in the struggle for the gun. know the actions of Mr. Light allowed the customers and employees of that business time to get out. Without that, he would have been right on top of a lot of people.”
At first it looked like Leet planned the shooting, Swing said. Police learned from other Morgan Hill Ford employees that Leet carried weapons all the time. He had no criminal history and he possessed 12 registered firearms. Two firearms were recovered at the shooting scene.
Morgan Hill Ford has started a GoFundMe page for Suoto and Light and as of Thursday afternoon it had raised more than $40,000 toward a goal of $500,000. Suoto was married with children and he was the main provider for his family.
“Brian Light was a loved father of two boys and mentor to Xavier,” the Morgan Hill GoFundMe page states. “Brian has worked in the car business for over 30 years and brought a smile to anyone’s face that he would meet.”
A candlelight vigil for Light and Suoto was planned at 8 p.m. Thursday in downtown Morgan Hill.
As more about Light’s death and the way he died continued to emerge Thursday, Light’s outgoing personality and warmth were remembered in Jamestown and elsewhere in the Mother Lode.
Mariano-Luckhardt said in a social media post Thursday, “There are just no words! Brian was a stand up guy, he was selfless. Brian and wine club members from the Bay Area even volunteered for our Meals on Wheels Fundraiser for the last couple of years. He gave up his weekends to do this in a county he didn’t even live in. If you asked him to do something, he just did it, no questions asked.”
Mariano-Luckhardt said Light’s survivors include his sons, Andrew Light, 23, and Zachary Light, 21.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.