SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — A former Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) employee who made threats of gun violence against his coworkers in June has been offered early retirement to avoid termination, according to documents shared with KRON4.
On Friday, June 17, Douglas Lofstrom was arrested by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Transit Deputies after he made threats of gun violence. Lofstrom’s arrest due to threats of violence was eerily similar to the VTA yard shooting that took place in May 2021, when a VTA employee took the lives of nine people.
John Courtney, the President of Amalgamated Transit Union local 265, told KRON4 that he believed Lofstrom made the threats due to a vaccine mandate that had been handed down by VTA. Lofstrom was facing termination if he refused to get vaccinated.
Courtney says that Lofstrom’s mental health could not take the pressure, “The culture of VTA played into what happened. Nothing has changed in a year … we’ve been telling them it’s not a vaccination crisis now, it’s a mental health crisis,” Courtney told KRON4.
The documents provided by VTA also give a clearer view into the incident that took place on June 17. One employee statement reads, “[Redacted Name] stated Operator Lofstrom came to the dispatch window told [redacted pronoun], ‘When I got to River Oaks today, if I get fired, then I’m going to be shooting something up.'” The statement goes on to say that a short time later Operator Lofstrom made a similar comment to another employee.
KRON On is streaming now
On July 6, VTA opened an investigation into the events on June 17, “In order to determine the appropriate course of action,” regarding Lofstrom’s employment. A video conference interview was scheduled with Lofstrom and VTA representatives on July 11.
A member of VTA who remains anonymous due to document redaction shared concerns about Lofstrom being allowed to return to the workplace after the events.
I wanted to take a moment to reiterate my concern. I am in agreement with [redacted] to not return Doug to work. I believe Doug should be issued a notice of proposed termination and either settle to retire him out or actually go through with the termination. I believe this case will set precedence on how VTA handles work place violence and threats. The safety and security of our employees comes before all else and should Doug return this can have an adverse effect on morale and a feeling of safety in the divisions.Anonymous VTA employee
A “Notice of Proposed Termination” was shared with Lofstrom on July 12. On the same day he was offered a settlement agreement which stated that in lieu of termination the VTA would be offering him an opportunity to retire effective August 1, 2022. The settlement also included a period of unpaid administrative leave from VTA from July 15 through July 31.
Union President Courtney signed the retirement agreement on July 15, Lofstrom’s signature was dated a few days later on July 18. Courtney says that Lofstrom’s offer for retirement was not a surprise, as he was eligible, “No special circumstances here, it was standard, boiler-plate language,” he told KRON4.
Lofstrom isn’t the first to retire early in connection to his vaccination status, according to Courtney, “Because of this vaccination policy and the unwillingness of VTA to negotiate, folks have retired before they wanted to, and we’ve lost some folks because of that and it didn’t have to go this way,” he said.
Looking forward, Courtney hopes that more mental health resources will be provided to and used by VTA employees, “There should be no stigma attached to an admission of suffering, anxiety, or depression. Every single time you open that door as a VTA employee you can be faced with various traumas,” Courtney said.
Though Lofstrom may have had a choice when it came to termination or retirement from VTA, he is still facing legal troubles. According to the Office of the District Attorney for Santa Clara, Lofstrom has been charged with making misdemeanor criminal threats. He was arraigned on June 21 and pleaded not guilty to the charges. A public defender has been appointed to represent him and his next court date is August 29.
The Santa Clarita Valley Transportation Authority provided the following statement regarding the situation with Douglas Lofstrom:
“There is no reason for anyone making threats of this nature no matter what the excuse. As we announced, VTA has over 98% compliance on the Vaccination Mandate. Our employees take seriously their responsibility to the public and this includes being vaccinated against a deadly virus.”