On May 26, 2021, San Jose, California became the site of the San Francisco Bay area’s deadliest shooting.
At 6:34 a.m. Pacific Time, authorities began receiving calls about shots being fired at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). The gunman, Sam Cassidy, was a long-time employee of VTA. Through the course of the attack, Cassidy fired 39 rounds at his co-workers before committing suicide without exchanging gunfire with law enforcement.
In the end, 9 men were shot and killed. All of the victims were employees at VTA:
- Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63
- Adrian Balleza, 29
- Alex Ward Fritch, 49
- Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35
- Lars Kepler Lane, 63
- Paul Delacruz Megia, 42
- Timothy Michael Romo, 49
- Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40
- Taptejdeep Singh, 36
This tragic event occurred at the VTA rail yard—where the buses and light rail trains that make up VTA are dispatched and maintained—within 2 buildings.
Fortunately, there is a sheriff’s office located near the rail yard. This allowed deputies and other police officers to reach the scene within 2 minutes from the first shot and to confront Cassidy as he approached a third building (where the attack ended) within 6 minutes of the first shots fired call.
Witness testimony suggested that Cassidy may have targeted the victims. Fellow VTA employee Kirk Bertolet saw Cassidy clearly let individuals pass him during the attack without opening fire. There are also reports that Cassidy told a local union official who doesn’t work for VTA that he wasn’t going to shoot them.
Investigators, with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs, also found bomb-making equipment in Cassidy’s locker. This suggests that the incident could have been much worse.
Cassidy had a history of displeasure with his employment at VTA. US Customs and Border Protection officers discovered a book discussing his hatred of VTA during a routine search when Cassidy returned home from the Philippines in 2016. Cassidy also reportedly had books on terrorism and fear, as well as manifestos.
Furthermore, Cassidy’s ex-wife corroborates the knowledge of his resentment toward his employer. During an interview, she reported that Cassidy often had negative things to say about his bosses and coworkers.
While searching Cassidy’s home, authorities found:
- A dozen guns
- 22,000-plus rounds of ammunition
- Possible Molotov cocktails
- Numerous cans of gasoline
The types of weapons and quantities suggest to investigators that Cassidy not only planned the event but also prepared to achieve a large body count. Thanks to the quick actions of the police, Cassidy’s rampage was stopped quickly.
In addition to the VTA shooting, Cassidy is believed to have set fire to his own home by filling a pot with ammunition, placing it on a running stove and surrounding the stove with accelerants. Authorities believe the 2 events were coordinated.
Workplace violence and workers’ compensation
Although your chances of being involved in a mass shooting at work are statistically slim, instances of workplace violence are, in general, much higher than one might expect. Each year, roughly 2 million workers are injured in some way due to workplace violence. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists workplace violence as the third-highest cause of workplace fatalities.
In the case of Arizona, 17% of workplace fatalities are caused by workplace violence.
Depending on the specific circumstances, workers’ compensation should cover your medical bills and any wages lost if you’re a victim of workplace violence.
The emotional impact of workplace violence
Experiencing violence in the workplace will impact people in many different ways—and not just physically. Some may be able to adjust quickly and get back to their normal lives while others will have difficulty processing the tragedy. Those who suffer may experience anxiety, depression, or even PTSD. Symptoms of ongoing emotional struggles may present as anger, fear, flashbacks, or even suicide.
Common types of workplace violence and who’s most at risk?
While anyone can experience violence in the workplace, there are some industries that more frequently experience violence at work. These employees include:
- Bank tellers and cashiers
- Healthcare workers
- Law enforcement officers
- Public service employees
- Mail carriers and delivery drivers
- Retail workers
- School admin and teachers
Common types of workplace violence include:
- Active shootings
- Angry customers
- Armed robbery
- Domestic violence
Given that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, as long as the employee isn’t found to have illegal drugs or alcohol in their system or found to have purposely harmed themselves, workers’ comp generally covers any injury received while on the job.
Additionally, if the workplace violence arose out of a personal dispute that occurred outside the workplace—such as an angry spouse or friend who shows up at a person’s place of work to commit violence—then the employee’s injuries may not be covered by workers’ compensation.
That said, employees hurt from workplace violence must be able to prove that they were hurt while performing their job. One of the most common reasons why a workers’ comp claim is denied is that there isn’t a solid connection between a person’s injuries and their job.
Regardless of how you’ve been injured while on the job, we recommend having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side. Workers’ comp is a complex system that can be overwhelming, especially if you’re worried about how you’re going to cover your bills while trying to recover from an injury.