VTA had no prior knowledge or warning employee was planning mass shooting, investigation finds

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022
VTA had no prior knowledge employee was planning shooting
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Valley Transportation Authority had no prior knowledge or warning that the employee was planning a mass shooting, an independent investigation found.

SAN JOSE,, Calif. (KGO) -- Officials with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority held a press conference related to the mass shooting at the VTA rail yard in San Jose last year.

VTA released the results of an independent investigation on the May 26, 2021 shooting where a total of ten people died.

After months of research and interviews with 47 witnesses, the independent investigator concluded that VTA had no prior knowledge or warning that the employee, Samuel Cassidy, was planning a mass shooting, according to Jim Lawson, VTA chief of external affairs.

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"Our Board of Directors wanted to find out if there was anything we could have or should have known that might have prevented this tragedy," he said.

Samuel Cassidy, 57, set fire to his home early morning before going to the light rail yard and control center before shooting and killing nine people.

The gunman then died by suicide after law enforcement arrived to the Guadalupe rail yard.

The investigation addressed Cassidy's five documented cases of workplace misconduct.

"Another question you probably have is there were multiple examples of workplace misconduct...none of the five incidents individually or taken together were sufficient to terminate or warrant serious discipline in any of those cases," Lawson said.

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"There were those instances and people who reported that this individual was unpleasant unfriendly, may have even felt threatened by them or talking about their feelings. And he did not issue any threats. He did not say 'I'm going to do something to somebody' either writing or verbally and because of that, it's very difficult to do something," Lawson added.

He continued, "The fact that somebody thinks that somebody may do something is insufficient to get a restraining order or to take any further actions."

However, Dan Schaar, Trial Lawyers for Justice and attorney for the family of shooting victim Lars Kepler Lane, told ABC7 News:

"The Lane Family was never spoken to, and it seems that based upon this 'independent' report none of the other victim's loved ones were spoken to either. Our investigation indicates that management and supervisors at VTA were aware of direct threats of violence Cassidy made in the months before this horrific shooting. We look forward to having a fair and impartial Judge, as well as fair and impartial jurors deciding the responsibility of VTA, rather than the conclusions of an investigation that was paid for by the VTA."

Last month, the agency reached a settlement with the families of the other eight victims.

MORE: San Jose mass shooting: These are the 9 victims of the VTA attack

Late Monday, ABC7 News connected with John Courtney, president of ATU Local 265, about the report.

"Before reading it, I was thinking, I hope it's honest and truthful. Because we owe it to those folks," Courtney said.

The union represents bus drivers, train operators, maintenance workers and others at VTA. This included the shooter and victims.

Courtney said while things are moving in a good direction at VTA, with greater attention to mental health, he feels honest findings would've included what the agency could have done better.

"And everybody will understand that more than to say things like, 'We potentially disciplined someone,'" he said. "That's unacceptable. So, we are in a better place now than we were then. And to me, this is a setback."

And only weeks from the holidays, Courtney's wondering, why now?

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"It is important to question the timing of it. And it does, in a lot of ways, reveal insensitivity to me," he said. "And I don't know that there is a perfect time to release a report like this. But I do know, there's probably a better time."

"I feel good about our future. But again, I want to always recognize the reason that we're here is a horrendous reason, obviously," Courtney told ABC7 News. "And let's hope and pray that it never happens again."

The report also included the incident in 2016 when Cassidy was briefly detained by homeland security at SFO.

The report reveals that at that time he had documents that indicated unhappiness with his job, but according to the investigation, there was no information about a planned shooting at his workplace.

In November, the families of eight victims reached a financial settlement with VTA after filing wrongful death lawsuits.

You can read the full VTA independent investigation findings here.

MORE: Local resources for survivors and victims of gun violence

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