Terra Fritch lost her husband and love of her life in the May 26 mass shooting at the VTA rail yard in San Jose. As she continues to mourn, she and other victims' families are frustrated with how the VTA has treated them in the aftermath, and she thinks we need laws to protect families after these all-too-frequent tragedies.
Alex Fritch, 49, was one of the nine men fatally shot by disgruntled coworker Samuel Cassidy on that May morning, and the only one to survive long enough to be taken to a hospital. We learned the next day that Terra, their two teenage sons, and a daughter from a previous relationship had all been able to make it to Valley Medical Center to say goodbye before Fritch died.
Now, Fritch's widow is telling her family's story to the Chronicle in the hope of getting at least one law on the books regarding the assets of mass shooters. And she says she wants to make sure that the all the families of Cassidy's victims are properly taken care of by the VTA.
Whether the VTA was negligent in addressing the many red flags Cassidy raised in the years prior to his final act will be a question left up to the courts. Terra Frich's attorney, Jeff Rickard, tells the Chronicle, "The legal process for these survivors is expected to be formally initiated very soon."
Among the multiple upsetting details Fritch shared with the paper about the bureaucratic aftermath of the shooting was a letter she received from the VTA, days after her husband's death, saying that the family's health insurance was being canceled.
"Insurance coverage for a deceased employee stops upon that person’s death," the letter read.
This turned out to be an automated letter that was sent in error, but it's a good example of the inadequacies of this large public-agency bureaucracy when it comes to dealing with a tragedy like this — and for which the agency itself may have blood on its hands. The VTA later assured Fritch that the family would remain insured for another year.
After some reportedly tense back-and-forth, Fritch and other victims' loved ones also secured full salary payments from the VTA for another year, and those just began in October. But she wants more — specifically, she thinks the VTA ought to continue paying her Alex's salary until his likely retirement date, which would have been in 12 years.
A gun owner herself, Fritch stops short of wanting to press the debate about gun control, pointing to the fact that even the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy did not considerably move the needle for the issue.
"Clearly, after Sandy Hook, our country is OK with kids getting killed," she tells the Chronicle. "If you can’t keep mass shootings from happening then, just like earthquakes, you need to prepare for when they happen."
She is taking a more pragmatic approach and seeking to address the way victims' families have to cope after such tragedies. And one issue that incensed her the most is the fact that Cassidy's own assets aren't being divvied up among families — some of whom, as is the case with hers, lost their sole breadwinner in the shooting.
Fritch said she hopes to get new legislation proposed at the state level that would make this standard — when a mass shooter commits such a crime, their assets should transfer to compensate victims' families, however small that compensation may be.
It may be the case with this shooting, though, that the families will be considerably better compensated in the long run. That could happen if the VTA is found to be criminally negligent, or at all responsible in a wrongful death suit — or if they simply decide to settle before such suits make it to trial.