December 5, 2021

Cortland native slain in California shooting

Brian Light, 59, killed trying to stop Calif. shooting

Associated Press

Police investigate the scene of a deadly shooting Tuesday at the Morgan Hill Ford Store in Morgan Hill, California. Cortland native Brian Light, a manager at the dealership, was fatally shot trying to stop the gunman, Steven Leet, who has been fired earlier in the day. Leet also killed another manager before taking his own life.

When the just-fired 60-year-old car dealership parts department employee wouldn’t leave Tuesday afternoon, nobody could understand why.

When he pulled out the gun and shot a dealership manager, it became clear. By the time Cortland native Brian Light, 59, tackled the man and struggled for the gun, it didn’t matter. Steven Leet shot him, too. Twice.

Light died, in an action police said was heroic.

“After the first shot and Xavier went down, Brian reacted and tackled the suspect down to the ground,” said Morgan Hills, California, police Sgt. Bill Norman, The Mercury News reported.

It was the sort of action that reminds his siblings of the December night he drove 100 mph to rescue tools from a burning auto garage.

Light’s siblings were also not surprised by his actions, said Sharon Wegcyn of Cortland, his older sister.

“I think all of us said at the same time, ‘That is exactly what Brian would do,’” Wegcyn said.

Contractor Doug MacGlashan said a baffled manager at the Morgan Hill Ford Store near San Jose, California, sought his advice Tuesday about former employee Steven Leet, KNTV reported.

“I just fired him, he won’t leave the premises. Should I be worried, what should we do?” MacGlashan said the supervisor asked him, according to the station.

After being fired, Leet sat in his vehicle outside for about 20 minutes, then returned to the dealership, where he spent about an hour hanging around his former workstation, the Morgan Hill Times reported.

About 6 p.m. managers Light and Xavier Souto, 38, took Leet to a back office, where they spoke briefly to him, KTVU reported. Then Leet shot Souto point-blank with a .38-caliber revolver, killing him, Then Light fought for the pistol, and Leet shot him twice, KTVU reported.

The gunfire set off a scramble, with workers and customers fleeing the dealership or hiding under desks, The Mercury News reported.

“I ran into the parking lot and dove under a truck and hid there and called my son,” said customer Mary Denicore.

“It’s just scarier than hell,” MacGlashan said, KPIX reported. “I’m not used to hearing gunshots, I’m not used to being around this type of violence. So it’s just scary.”

Morgan Hill police say Light’s actions gave employees and customers time to escape, KRON reported.

“Brian’s actions are nothing short of heroic,” said Morgan Hill Police Chief David Swing, KTVU reported. “Those actions allowed people to flee, allowed them the precious seconds they needed to flee after hearing the first shot.”

Donna Fleming, a former neighbor of Light’s, said his heroic actions Tuesday didn’t come as a surprise, KPIX reported.

Photo provided by James Light

Brian Light, a Cortland native, was killed Tuesday outside San Jose, Calif., trying to stop an ex-employee at the car dealership at which Light worked. The ex-employee shot Light, another manager, and himself.

“That would’ve been the kind of guy that Brian was, he would’ve done that,” Fleming said, according to the station. “A generous nice, caring, fun loving guy; couldn’t have asked for a better person.”

Sales manager Graham Gillis saw Leet emerge from the office after the fatal shootings, The Mercury News reported.

“He came walking out of the office with a gun in his hand, down by his side, heading out of the service area,” Gillis said, according to the publication.

Leet walked outside, sat on a curb and fatally shot himself in the head as police arrived, less than four minutes after the first reports of gunshots, The Morgan Hill Times reported.

Sherri Lebaudour-Ewing, who had been Leet’s neighbor for 15 years, described him as a quiet loner who lived by himself and never had visitors, KPIX reported.

“Steve used to complain about his job a lot because he got bullied,” Lebaudour-Ewing said, according to the station. “That’s all. I don’t know any of the details.”

Police found a dozen firearms at Leet’s home, and a second pistol on his body, but don’t believe he planned the shootings, The Morgan Hill Times reported.

“He may have just carried weapons with him all the time,” Norman said, according to the publication.

Souto, who was engaged, had two children, KTVU reported. He’d worked at the dealership since 2012.

Light, who had two sons, had come to the Morgan Hill dealership in 2018.

A GoFundMe account has been established for both families. The page had collected nearly $27,000 toward a $500,000 goal by Thursday morning.

Light, born on Christmas Eve 1959, was the fifth of six siblings who grew up on Alvena Avenue in Cortland.

His older brother, Jim, said Brian was an outgoing kid, who at age 9 fixed up an old push mower, which he then used to mow neighborhood lawns.

By age 11, he’d made enough money to buy an old Dodge Colt with a blown engine, which he had towed to his family’s backyard, and spent the next two years working on it. By age 13, he had a fully functioning car, though he wasn’t old enough to drive it.

Light spent much of his life working with cars, first as a mechanic, then as painter of luxury cars in a Pennsylvania garage, and later for the parts and services departments of car dealerships. Beside his obsession with vehicles, Light also loved spending time outdoors, his brother said.

“If it had a motor, he was into it,” Jim Light said. “If it was outdoors, he was into it.”

As a teenager and into his early 20s, Light worked as a mechanic and tow truck driver for a garage in downtown Virgil, which burned Dec. 23, 1981. When Light learned of the fire, Wegcyn said Light jumped on his motorcycle and raced at a 100 mph to the garage, which had burned to the ground before he arrived. All of Light’s tools were lost.

“That was devastating for him,” she said. “I know that broke his heart because that was everything he had.”

After the fire, Light moved west to join his brother Jim in Denver, where he got into wildcat prospecting and found a large natural gas deposit, said Jim.

Light eventually migrated to California and continued to work for car dealerships.

He would meet with a brother, David, in Tuscon from time to time, Wegcyn said.

The two had Corvettes, would rent a track and spend a day racing each other. And he would call his sister and joke as he sped wherever he was going.

“I’m sorry I won’t get those calls, anymore,” Wegcyn said.

Staff Reporter Travis Dunn and the Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.