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VTA Workers Slam Agency's So-Called "Independent" Investigation into Tragic May 2021 Mass Shooting as Sham, Insufficient, and Unacceptable

ATU offers real recommendations to change culture, improve safety, and mental health support at the VTA

Silver Spring, MD – Calling the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)'s independent investigation into the tragic 2021 mass shooting unacceptable, insufficient, and designed to get the agency “off the hook,” the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is slamming the report and offering real solutions to prevent future violence.

In a letter sent by ATU International President John Costa and President/Business Agent of Local 265-San Jose, CA, John Courtney, to the VTA Board of Directors among others, the ATU outlines numerous reasons the independent investigative report was a transparent effort by the agency to avoid any accountability or culpability for the tragic shooting that took the lives of ten VTA workers. Click here to read the full letter.

"The VTA should be ashamed of this 'so-called' independent investigation with a completely false narrative that lets the agency off scot-free in the face of ongoing litigation. Not only does the report fail to provide a full analysis of the circumstances and employee discontent that led to this preventable tragedy, but it is also silent on any serious recommendations for preventing such tragedies in the future," said Courtney. "While our Union has worked to ensure much-needed funding for mental health resources and to address the shortfalls in VTA's employee assistance, safety, and violence prevention programs, the VTA workplace is still far from perfect, and our members are still not fully protected."

In December 2022, the VTA touted what they called an "independent investigation" into the tragic events of May 26, 2021, claiming the VTA had no prior knowledge or warning that employee Samuel Cassidy was planning a mass shooting

The ATU points to the narrow scope of the VTA's report with no "root cause" analysis, criminal liability evaluation, or recommendations for preventing such events in the future. It also points out the report’s failure to meet even the minimal requirements for an "investigation" as defined by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which looks at "determining the causal and contributing factors of an accident, incident, or hazard for the purpose of preventing recurrence and mitigating risk."

The letter goes on to outline the missed signals or behavioral "red flags" the shooter exhibited, including signs of discontent, distrust, and "hatred" for the VTA and certain employees over a long period of time and repeated complaints by his co-workers that the employee "could go postal." In fact, critical witnesses were not even contacted for the report. Instead, co-workers' concerns about potential violence were discounted, and Cassidy's immediate supervisors took limited or no action to address the shooter's increasingly erratic behavior.

"This report was a sham and an insult to the families of the victims and our brothers and sisters at Local 265 whose lives will never be the same after this tragedy," said Costa. "As the epidemic of violence against transit workers continues unabated, we call on the VTA, the FTA, and indeed, all transit agencies to incorporate comprehensive 'Violence Prevention Programs' into their Public Agency Transit Safety Plans, which our Union helped to secure under the landmark bipartisan Infrastructure law. We owe it to those whose lives were lost in San Jose and to all the heroes serving our nation's transit systems every day."

The ATU is also demanding that the FTA issue a set of specific standard requirements for effective Violence Prevention Plans and that the federal agency make additional funding available to the agencies to provide for effective and lasting implementation of these vital measures.