Mental health policy proposals aim to prevent gun violence in San Jose
SAN JOSE, Calif. - In San Jose, a City Council member is proposing a sweeping policy measure to address some of the root causes of gun violence in an effort to prevent tragedies like the mass shooting at a VTA railyard that ended with nine employees dead.
San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez wants the city to make changes to help workers and community members deal with mental health issues, substance abuse, domestic violence and thoughts or attempts at suicide.
"We do not have to accept this level of violence as the new normal," said Gloria Rudometkin whose husband, Michael, was shot and killed by a fellow VTA employee. "We need to push for improving violence prevention and infrastructure, community safety plans and crisis support for victims' families."
Rudometkin's husband and Peralez had been life-long friends when he was murdered in May at the Guadalupe Railyard by a disgruntled employee who after the shooting took his own life.
"I'm here to say to those who are suffering whether out loud or quietly, you are being seen and you are being heard," Peralez said.
By pushing wellness in the workplace and changing the culture, Peralez said he believes gun violence will decrease.
"We must work together to destigmatize mental wellness," Peralez said. "And work to ensure that we get help to our colleagues and community members who most need it so they remain safe to themselves and others."
While Santa Clara County has seen several mass shootings in recent years, including one at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019, and at a Morgan Hill car dealership in 2019 involving a disgruntled employee, nationally mass killings only account for less than 1% of firearm-related deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of gun-related killings are suicide and 37% are homicide. The other 2% are unintentional or undetermined.
Police have not determined a motive in the VTA railyard massacre, but the gunman did have a history of violent tendencies and mood swings, according to his ex-wife.
"Futures were stolen and lives that were once filled with smiles and laughter are now weighed down by grief," Rudometkin said. "I spent half my life with my husband knowing he died in such a horrific manner brings tears to my eyes."
The widow said what made matters worse was having to wait 12 hours to get the news that her husband was killed. She said it happened room by room for the victims families.
"Those screams and those cries will forever haunt my nightmares and every silence in between," Rudometkin said. "There are no words to articulate the trauma of the treatment of that day."
Those who were responsible at the unification center were not prepared to support the families.
Peralez said he wants to make sure that never happens again by proposing the development of a countywide trauma recover center.
It would provide resources to care for the community should another mass shooting or major tragedy occur.
San Jose City Council did enact stronger gun control measures following the VTA mass shooting including requiring gun owners carry liability insurance and pay an annual fee to fund emergency services.
But nothing specific has been done related to expanding mental health programs and wellness.
"Regardless of what side of the gun debate you are on, one thing we can all agree on is that no one wants to see more violence," he said.
Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU