A Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority employee who witnessed the San Jose mass killing at the VTA light rail yard May 26 has died in an apparent suicide, authorities confirmed this week.
Henry Gonzales, a paint and body Worker at VTA's Guadalupe Light Rail Yard for 10 years, was found dead in his home at 7 a.m. Monday, according to a VTA spokesperson.
There is no suspected foul play, and his death is being investigated as a suicide by San Jose police.
“It is heartbreaking to confirm Henry Gonzales tragically took his own life as he suffered from the traumatic impacts of the May 26 shooting at the Guadalupe Light Rail Yard,” VTA said in a statement.
The statement said Gonzales’ death was “a profound shock to all of us at VTA.”
The father of four also served as an executive board member of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265.
ATU president John Costa said Gonzales' death is a devastating reminder that mental health needs to be at the forefront of all workplaces, especially the May killings.
The VTA said it has reached out daily to their employees and families to provide multiple counseling and trauma resources and reminders to seek help or lean onto other coworkers and friends in times of need.
“Those who feel they could not return are offered options that do not involve returning to the site of the shooting,” the VTA said. “Those returning to work are receiving additional, mandatory trauma recovery counseling.
Costa said these efforts don’t do enough. The VTA's response after the shooting has been “shameful,” he said, adding that the VTA has “taken no action to address the grief, the mental health, and safety of their employees who have been under unfathomable, extreme stress after this massive shooting.”
He said employees need access to the full spectrum of mental health services, including in-patient care.
“We vow to continue to do what the VTA has failed to do in memory of Brother Gonzales and our nine brothers killed that day,” Costa said.
The VTA refuted his comments, and said the health and well-being of the agency's employees has been the top priority: “Any accusation that it is anything less, is wholly unfounded.”
“We ask that our union partners respect what has been accomplished together, as difficult as each step has been, and that we continue to focus on healing, rather than finding opportunities to place blame,” VTA officials said.
Those who need help are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.
The ATU is also providing counseling and supportive services for VTA workers and their families at the ATU Local 265 Union Hall at 1590 La Pradera Drive in Campbell today until 6pm. Employees and loved ones seeking help do not need to be an ATU member to receive services.
Bay Area News contributed to this report.