VTA employee, member of Sikh community, recovering after being pierced by an arrow

A VTA employee was struck in the back by an arrow in San Jose on Tuesday, sheriff's department officials said.

A Valley Transportation Authority bus driver is recovering from a near-brush with death. While at work recently in San Jose, he was shot in the back with an arrow.

"He’s doing a little bit better by the day. Just a little bit shocked that this could happen to him, or anybody," said John Courtney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265, which represents 1,500 VTA bus drivers, mechanics, and light rail operators.

Courtney said around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, the unnamed bus driver was walking with a coworker while on a break, near Sierra Grande Way and North Capitol Expressway, in the Alum Rock section of San Jose. The 36-year-old man, who’s a five-year employee, was hit with an arrow that narrowly missed vital organs.

"It did penetrate through his skin. I would say fortunately this situation could have been a lot worse," said Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Russell Davis. "...[it] was pretty close to hitting some vital organs from what I understand."

Sheriff’s investigators say had the victim been facing the opposite direction, the wound he suffered could have been fatal.

Union reps say this isn’t the first time one of their members has been assaulted near the Alum Rock Transit Center. They said in 2019, a female bus driver was shot in the head with a pellet gun.

"She’s as tough as they come. And it took her a little while, but she’s back, back at work," said Courtney.

Transit authority officials say the sheriff’s department has law enforcement jurisdiction over their transit hubs. Additionally, the authority contracts with Allied Universal Security to provide additional officers. But they serve as a visible deterrent to crime, and most are unarmed.

Union officials say the victim and his coworker are both members of the Sikh community, and fear this attack could be a hate crime.

"We face all types of assaults. Verbally our operators hear just about everything. So this certainly puts this in the narrative of some of the things that we’ve heard, that this could possibly be a hate crime," said Courtney.

ATU Local 265, VTA, and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Advisory Board are each offering $1,000 rewards for information leading to an arrest in this case. For information, go to the ATU’s website: atulocal265.org