Annette Brooks never got along with the Caltrans senior worker who killed her a dozen years after he joined her crew.
She and Terry Hayse repeatedly feuded. They filed formal complaints against each other, Hayse’s widow said, but neither moved on to a different state job or out of their small community in southern Humboldt County
Their long dispute ended tragically on the morning of April 24, when Hayse shot Brooks to death at the maintenance yard where they’d worked together for years.
He reloaded, and killed himself, according to a police report.
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“This was something that could have been resolved,” said Hayse’s widow, Terri Lee Hayse. “They failed him. They failed both of them.”
Brooks’ death prompted a wave of workplace violence training events at Caltrans’ offices in Northern California. The department is conducting security assessments of its buildings, and it plans to sponsor active-shooter training at its Humboldt County offices, according to Caltrans.
But department officials are not willing to say what they’ve learned from their own reviews of the shooting. They’re waiting for more information from the California Highway Patrol and the Attorney General’s Office.
“This was an unspeakable tragedy that continues to weigh heavily on the victims’ families and on the Caltrans family,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in a statement. “A thorough review of this incident is being conducted to ensure that we have a safe workplace for our valued employees. Due to confidentiality and out of respect for the families, we cannot disclose details involving this incident at this time.”
So far, a California Highway Patrol spokesman in April confirmed to reporters that Brooks, 61, and Hayse, 57, had well-known workplace conflicts, but the department has declined to elaborate on its findings since then.
“But nothing to this extreme,” CHP Sgt. Mike Campbell told The Times-Standard in Eureka earlier this year. “Nobody could foresee this as occurring, including family members.”
The Sacramento Bee requested the CHP investigation through the California Public Records Act. The CHP heavily redacted its report. It disclosed three paragraphs out of what appeared to be a 31-page investigation.
Caltrans uses the Rio Dell site to maintain 28 bridges in Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
Brooks moved to Rio Dell after working in the Bay Area, rising up the ranks over a 36-year state career. She was well-liked among longtime colleagues, as well as friends in Humboldt County. Friends mourning her online called her quick-witted and kind.
Hayse, too, moved to remote Humboldt County from another part of the state so he could earn a promotion to lead structural steel painter. He and Terri had planned to spend a few more years on the North Coast before returning to Southern California.
“It was just a couple more years and he was out,” Terri Lee Hayse said.
The information police disclosed in the redacted report describes a horrifying morning at the yard in which several Caltrans workers tried to rescue Brooks from Hayse as a physical fight escalated.
The CHP report says Hayse began beating Brooks before 7 a.m. that day. As co-workers tried to separate them. Hayse flashed a knife and tried to stab Brooks.
One colleague ushered Brooks to a Caltrans vehicle and placed her in its passenger seat, intending to drive away.
But before they could leave, Hayse returned with a gun he’d kept in his office.
He shot her in the Caltrans truck until he ran out of bullets.
He reloaded, walked to his office, and killed himself.
Terri Lee Hayse said her husband had planned to ask for a few days off that morning. He had felt escalating tension, and wanted time to cool off.
Instead, she said, he was called into the yard by another supervisor. Brooks gave Hayse paperwork showing that she’d initiated a complaint against him, Terri Lee Hayse said. She said she was told this by his former co-workers.
Brooks’ slaying happened to occur during the week of Caltrans’ annual memorial at the Capitol for employees who are killed on the job. Three of Brooks’ former co-workers brought an oversized portrait of her to the ceremony. They described her as a lively friend who kept in touch with them long after her career took her away from the Bay Area and on to the North Coast.
“I’m still in shock,” Donna Gregory, a Caltrans safety officer who had known Brooks for 30 years, said at the ceremony.
Terri Lee Hayse followed the mourning from her home in Humboldt County. She wanted people to know, “my husband was not a monster. He was a good man, he was a caring man. He loved his job, his trade.”
“Why (Caltrans) never separated them, I don’t know, because there was a problem and they were aware,” she said.