The nation was rocked once again by the news of yet another mass shooting in San Jose, California. The San Jose shooting is now being described by law enforcement officials as the actions of a disgruntled employee in an act of violence perpetrated against his coworkers. Samuel Cassidy, 57, entered his worksite, a rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority at 6:30 in the morning with a duffle bag full of semi-automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines. Cassidy shot and killed 9 people who left behind families and loved ones in the aftermath of another tragedy in what has become a devastating state of normalcy.
Because there were no surveillance cameras in the rail yard, investigators have relied on witness testimony to fill in the blanks. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told the media that the San Jose shooting had the earmarks of serious premeditation, “ It appears to us at this point that he said to one of the people there, ‘I’m not going to shoot you.’ And then he shot other people. So, I imagine there was some kind of though on who he wanted to shoot.”
Possible motives for the San Jose shooting have only begun to emerge in the days following the violence. Cecilia Nelms, Cassidy’s ex-wife, told the Associated Press that Cassidy had ideations of homicidal violence against his coworkers as far back as 2012, when she recalled him saying he wanted to kill people at work. “I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now.” Nelms went on to state that Cassidy frequently expressed frustration or anger regarding his treatment at work, complaining of “unfair assignments.” The investigation into the San Jose shooting is still ongoing as law enforcement continue to piece together the pieces that lead to this violence. All the while, the families of the nine victims are left reeling, demanding answers as to how this could have been prevented.
As instances of mass shootings in the workplace continue to grow as a trending form of violence, employers and business owners continue to seek solutions to prevent it. While bolstering a workplace or worksite’s physical security measures are certainly a great way to protect employees, it can only go so far, as seen in the case of the San Jose shooting. The Valley Transportation Authority’s railyard was outdoors, and there are limits to how many checkpoints can be monitored and secured. Though security measure provide peace of mind, they cannot mitigate the systemic problems that toxic work environments cause. No evidence has emerged that the Valley Transportation Authority was a toxic employer, but the same cannot be said of all employers that have experienced mass shootings in their workplace. Toxic corporate cultures can potentially warp an employee into the sort who would open fire on his coworkers, and that’s why employers are more interested than ever in improving that culture.
Regardless of the motive for his deplorable actions, nothing would justify the senseless taking of nine lives and losses felt by hundreds more. The victims were Alex Ward Fritch, 49; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.
There are many aspects of life that Americans miss from the pre-pandemic times. Activities we took for granted, like eating in a restaurant, watching a live sports event, or even our typical working lives. However, one of the most pervasive aspects of pre-pandemic life that was not missed is mass shooting events, like the tragic events that took place in Virginia Beach in 2019. Gun violence was so high in the United States in 2019, it might be difficult to remember just how high after a year in quarantine.
Recently, America was reminded of the tragic problem of gun violence in America with two active shooter events occuring within six days of each other. First, on March 16th, an active shooter went on a violent spree, shooting and killing eight people across three massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia. Six of the eight victims were Asian, and the shooter reportedly blamed his actions on a sex addiction. Then, not even a week later, an active shooter event took place at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado in which ten people were shot and killed, including a Boulder police officer.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were more mass shootings than days in 2019. That’s 417 mass shootings in one calendar year. The GVA defines mass shooting as an active shooter event in which “four people are shot, excluding the shooter.” Sites of these mass shootings ranged from the workplace to community festivals. It was a record-breaking year, surpassing the staggering 382 mass shootings that took place in 2016. As attempts to curb gun violence in the U.S. remain ineffective due to congressional stalls and public outcry, employers and employees alike cannot help but wonder if their workplace will be the next target of a mass shooter event.
According to the FBI, the vast majority of active shooter events take place in areas of commerce, meaning buildings that are home to businesses, typically open to pedestrian traffic. The second and third most common areas are education (as in schools), and open space areas such as parks or concert venues. This means that employers and business owners of all kinds may be anxious to find ways to prevent and protect their livelihoods and the lives of their employees from this type of workplace violence.
The approach to preventing active shooter events in the workplace has two prongs. The first step in protecting the workplace or worksite from potential active shooters is risk assessment. Leadership should opt into a full evaluation of their worksite. Security is the first step in preventing active shooters. What are the credentials needed to enter the worksite? How many points of access are there? What are the security measures in place to protect the employees? How many security cameras are there? Not every worksite needs to have a metal detector in order to enter, but part of the evaluation would include an assessment of how likely it is for an active shooter event to take place. At least in the case where an active shooter event is carried out by an employee of the business in question, there are at least one or two warning signs preceding the event. Maybe the shooter in question has had multiple disagreements with coworkers, or has recently been disciplined for some form of misconduct. While it’s difficult to anticipate who may or may not incite violence based on recent events, it may be possible to predict future behavior based on an employee’s past behavior.
The second prong of active shooter prevention is operational oversight, meaning there is due-diligence on the part of leadership to ensure they are hiring the best employees with no history of violence or menacing in any way. Often in cases of mass shooter events in the workplace, there are problems within the corporation with hiring protocol. Perhaps the company doesn’t perform exhaustive background checks on their potential hires, or maybe they have not defined enough disqualifying criteria for a candidate’s hire. While there are many companies that run background checks for corporations, not all have the diverse experience of a private investigator. Through their licensure by the state, private investigators have access to verified, comprehensive databases on par with that of law enforcement. This allows them to look at a candidate’s full criminal history, address history, litigation history, and other important factors to determine what a candidate’s propensity for violence or unpredictable behavior. Long-time private investigators have the professional experience needed to view a subject’s record and perform their own risk assessment on their history. Private investigators can also use their knowledge of the criminal element and their patterns to identify employees who pose a potential risk who are already embedded in the organization.
If you have concern that your workplace may be at risk for an active shooter event, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our risk assessment services, or our active shooter programs in which we help your organization develop an action plan should an active shooter event take place. Call 317-951-1100 or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com