‘He Scares Me': VTA Yard Shooter Had History of Insubordination and Conflict

The records include a quote from a prescient VTA employee following a January 2020 verbal altercation between Cassidy and one of his colleagues

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Records released Thursday by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency show the employee who killed nine of his colleagues in a May shooting spree had at least one verbal altercation with a coworker, along with several dustups with management over violations of VTA policy and refusals to obey instructions.

Although VTA says it’s still combing through its records, the agency released emails and documents from Samuel Cassidy’s personnel file.

The records include a quote from a prescient VTA employee following a January 2020 verbal altercation between Cassidy and one of his colleagues.

“He scares me,” the employee told a supervisor. “If someone was to go postal, it’d be him.”

The agency highlighted these four separate incidents involving Cassidy, though NBC Bay Area’s review of the record dug up several more potential signs of trouble.

  1. July 16, 2019: Insubordination. Cassidy was sent home without pay for two days, as a result of refusing to follow company policy in signing out a two-way radio that was necessary to perform his job.
  2. Jan. 29, 2020: A verbal altercation between Cassidy and a coworker was reported to VTA Employee Relations and the VTA Office of Civil Rights. Upon questioning from a supervisor, a coworker reported that another unnamed employee stated of Cassidy “He scares me. If someone was to go postal, it’d be him.” The individual refused to name the source of that comment. Upon further investigation, there was nothing in Cassidy’s disciplinary history, or additional information to explain or support that concern. The matter was referred back to Cassidy’s department manager. VTA is continuing to research this incident to see if there is any other relevant documentation to review and release.
  3. Oct. 21, 2020: Cassidy refused to attend a mandatory CPR recertification class citing his concern about the threat of COVID. A number of reasonable accommodations were provided to the employee with no ultimate resolution.
  4. Nov. 28, 2020: Unexcused leave and improper radio communication. After having trouble clocking in for a work shift, Cassidy inappropriately used a VTA two-way radio for personal communication, rather than for operational matters, which is against VTA policy. He left work without permission instead of resolving the problem.

A review of the records by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit revealed more details about the shooter’s work issues.

NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai speaks with senior Investigative reporter Stephen Stock and workplace safety consultant Mike Leninger as they look into the recent reports of the VTA gunman’s personnel history.

When a VTA employee flagged an incomplete medical form from Cassidy’s doctor on a Family and Medical Leave Act request last July, they emailed Cassidy with a request for his doctor to include the missing information.

“I flat out refuse to do that,” Cassidy wrote back. “I am not making a trip down to see the doctor for this minor detail. I consider this harassment.”

The VTA employee, whose name was redacted, forwarded Cassidy’s response to other VTA personnel.

The documents indicate Cassidy was often disruptive. In November, as VTA indicated in its press release, Cassidy left work without permission and was reprimanded for improper radio communication.

“So I’m scheduled to work today, but I’m going home,” Cassidy reportedly stated over his VTA radio. “If VTA Can’t have a system for an employee to bade in, then I’m just going to go home. This is my normal work day. You can put me down as unexcused leave.”

But the records show this wasn’t the only time Cassidy was reprimanded for improper use of his radio. In February, a VTA official wrote that Cassidy pressed the emergency alert on VTA’s radio system because he couldn’t get someone to respond to him, a violation of policy.

“Sam was counseled on his code of conduct,” a VTA employee wrote in a February email. “Just want to remind and reiterate on our agreement/conclusion, this behavior by Sam must not be repeated again. Any similar violation will lead to disciplinary action.”

An email from Cassidy after the incident shows his frustration with VTA.

“My actions did not arise from a vacuum,” Cassidy wrote. “This was a response due to an abuse of authority by the WPS operations manager, who did not post the vacation sign-up, which led to it being canceled. Abuse grows in the dark, my intent was to bring that abuse to light by being vocal about it so others are aware of it.”
Former San Jose Police officer Michael Leininger, who now owns his own security and investigations firm, said Cassidy’s actions were troubling.

“It does concern me on a number of planes,” Leininger said. “Number one, he has a consistent record of not just unruly behavior, but angry behavior that continues all the way until February of this year. Each incident is consistent with the prior incident. Yet no one seems to take this seriously.”

After reviewing VTA’s records, Leininger wonders if VTA could have done more to intervene.

“Based on the documents that they provided, the decisions they did make were woefully inadequate and allowed Cassidy to literally continue in this manner,” Leininger said.

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