VTA Employee Who Witnessed Mass Killing in San Jose Dies of Apparent Suicide

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.



  1. I don’t understand “survivors’ guilt” or whatever it is they call it (if in fact it was that). I would just be thankful they got somebody else instead of me. I certainly wouldn’t kill myself. In fact I might feel exhilaration as a result of my own narrow escape.

  2. It may not be “survivor’s guilt” but more about the trama of actually witnessing the shooting of his friends and co-workers. I’m sure that image is hard to erase from your mind and the stress and anxiety of reliving it everyday can be overwhelming and all consuming. He could’ve had nightmares and the fear of returning to work (the scene of the mass shooting) was probably more than he could cope with causing him to take his own life.

  3. My comment to you was unless you struggle with mental health don’t reply you have no clue. In fact unless you are a survivor of a shooting or murder or a killing of any kind it’s not put our place in A situation we have never been.

  4. You have obviously never seen the ravages of War, of slaughter, or any brutal killings of any loved ones close to you…

  5. thats what these people are going through, the constant playback and PTSD of a traumatic event. Nightmares, flashbacks. It takes a toll on a person.

  6. And what are your “credentials” my friend? When it comes to “rights” unless you can contribute something of substance, you should shut up and turn off your phone. Forums like this are typically of a middling intellectual level, but you can help by remaining silent.

  7. HCFOA: I do struggle with mental health. It’s called “anal retentiveness”. That’s why my wife never has to do any housework and the kids aren’t allowed to use my ancient dilapidated manual-shift car. But when it comes to applying your own high standard, you should not be commenting either!

  8. That’s right Joe. And just wait for the supervisors, or whoever has that authority, to vote multi-million dollar compensation per person courtesy of you the taxpayer!

  9. In the wake of a traumatic event a company or agency can respond in a number of ways, not one of which is guaranteed to be immune to criticism. Unfortunately, because trauma does its damage in a way similar to that done by viruses, affecting each individual according to a variety of factors, any attempt to fashion a perfect response is doomed to fail.

    Management should take a page from the medical establishment and make clear its commitment to treat each individual to the best of its ability, while acknowledging that its efforts may fall short with some. Promises about satisfying everyone, or erasing all negative effects brought about by the trauma, are to be avoided at all costs. If you promise the moon with the best of intentions, delivering anything less will get you accused of the worst of intentions.

    For those of us trying to assess the claims of labor leaders, we cannot afford to ignore their propensity to exploit management’s every vulnerability, even those caused by the horrific actions of its own union member(s). Thus, if Mr. Costa wants to add credibility to his charges he should detail what the county has done and precisely what it is they haven’t done.

  10. The Union also has responsibility to make sure their members had their mental health needs met after the tragedy. They failed him as well.

  11. The man’s pain was obviously overwhelming. I pray he has found the peace he was looking for, as well as for his family and friends he has left behind. May God bless them all.

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