Hate Mail: A Mailman's Revenge Shows Workers Still "Go Postal"

image
Illustration by Taylor Callery

On the morning of May 1, 2010, Tian Yu Lu awoke before dawn. Taking care not to disturb his wife, Lu left his home in San Francisco's Parkside district and climbed into a Ford pickup truck. With him he had night-vision goggles, flashlights, and an extra set of clothes. He was on his way to a dearly desired, and meticulously planned, act of revenge.

As day began to break, he drove across the Bay Bridge and turned north, up the I-80 freeway. Eventually Lu turned onto a quiet block of Pierce Street, on the outskirts of Albany. He parked up the road from the home of Alfredo Bustamante, his former supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service. Lu had been fired from his job as a letter carrier at a downtown San Francisco post office six months earlier.

Lu says he snapped this photo of his supervisor, Alfredo Bustamante, sleeping in his car while on the job. Lu claims he was fired as retaliation.
Courtesy of the Law Offices of Eric M. Safire
Lu says he snapped this photo of his supervisor, Alfredo Bustamante, sleeping in his car while on the job. Lu claims he was fired as retaliation.
Bustamante’s Acura was damaged 
when Lu drove a pickup truck into the parked vehicle, pinning Bustamante against the car.
Courtesy of the Law Offices of Eric M. Safire
Bustamante’s Acura was damaged when Lu drove a pickup truck into the parked vehicle, pinning Bustamante against the car.

When Bustamante emerged from his house and approached his 1999 Acura, Lu gunned the gas and rammed his truck into the car. His former boss was caught behind the driver's side door of the vehicle at the moment of the collision. Bustamante's right arm, sandwiched between the door and its frame, was broken in three places.

Bustamante looked across the hood of the truck and saw Lu, his former employee. "I thought I was having a dream," Bustamante would later say.

Staring at Lu through the windshield, he said, "Why are you doing this to me?"

Lu simply stared back. He then threw the truck in reverse, rammed into the Acura once again — missing Bustamante this time — and drove away. Bustamante stumbled to the house of a neighbor, who called 911.

Lu was arrested by police about half a mile away from Bustamante's house, where he had parked his truck. He was charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

His motive for the attack was Bustamante's alleged mistreatment of him at the post office.

The term "going postal" entered America's social lexicon in the 1990s, when an inexplicable series of mass murders was committed by USPS employees. In 1986, postal worker Patrick Sherrill shot and killed 14 co-workers in Edmond, Okla. In 1991, Thomas McIlvane killed five people with a rifle at the post office in Royal Oak, Mich. That same year, a postal supervisor was murdered with a samurai sword by a former employee in Ridgewood, N.J.

The shootings, which were linked to workers' office resentments, stoked sensational headlines and led to congressional hearings. Postal employees actually have a low rate of workplace homicides compared to other professions, but the string of high-profile, job-related massacres at one federal agency prompted lots of attention. Postal Service leaders and the unions representing postal employees would eventually produce a joint statement of their intent to foster better working conditions.

The problem, as Lu's case suggests, is that they haven't been too successful.

Crimes on the scale of those that created the "going postal" paradigm haven't been frequent over the past decade. But they still occur. In 2006, an ex-postal worker in the California town of Goleta murdered seven employees at a mail-processing center. The same year, San Francisco postal worker Julius Tart shot and killed his supervisor, Genevieve Paez, and then himself.

The particulars of the Lu incident were disputed during his eventual trial. Lu's San Francisco defense attorney, Eric Safire, maintains that his client only intended to vandalize Bustamante's Acura, not exact revenge through a direct physical attack. "At the end of the day, you've got a nice guy who did a bad thing," Safire says — an argument to which jurors would ultimately pay some attention.

But the bizarre nature of Lu's plot inevitably leads to questions about the working conditions in which it was spawned. Some postal employees and experts on workplace mass murder say little has been done to change the organizational culture that has fostered so many deadly attacks since 1986.

Critics say that postal managers are still not held accountable for needlessly abusive treatment of employees, despite the grisly lessons of the past few decades. The problems might even be growing more acute in an era when the Postal Service is suffering from a lack of revenue and cutting jobs and service as a result. Late last month, the agency announced a plan to cut more than 5 percent of its workforce and end Saturday mail service.

"You would think after all the hubbub that was made after Royal Oak, things would change. But it hasn't changed in a lot of the country," says Charlie Withers, a letter carrier who was present at the Royal Oak killings and later wrote a book, The Tainted Eagle, on troubled working conditions in the Postal Service. "The post office has never learned their lesson."


Lu's trial took place in January. A telling piece of testimony came from Carl Bryant, a retired letter carrier and union steward who had also worked under Bustamante.

Bryant, a U.S. Navy veteran who had been employed by USPS for almost 30 years, was subjected at one point to a sequence of leading questions by Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Danny Lau. The prosecutor appeared to be seeking to establish that while Bustamante might have had other dissatisfied employees, none of them had chosen to drive a truck into him. Bryant acknowledged on the stand that he considered Bustamante "despicable, dishonest, and not trustworthy."

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24 comments
fascination67
fascination67

Consider the source of this article, SFWeekly..."Weakly" is right, lol, very weakly...

weakly written, weakly researched, publishing a photo that had nothing at all to do with

Alfredo firing that worthless idiot Lu.  San Francisco, is full of loons...I advise most people with any semblance of sanity to move.

fascination67
fascination67

I know Alfredo personally.  I'm very familiar with this case and I can state the following.

1. Lu should have gotten the maximum sentence under a much harsher conviction, which was attempted murder, premeditated. 

The political correctness of the Bay Area, the fools that work for the Post Office, I would know I have a family member who works for them, the lies from Bryant and other co-workers.

That's what got Lu his light sentence...LU, DON'T DROP THE SOAP, THAT'S MY ADVICE TO THAT CRAZY PIG.

 Alfredo did nothing to do deserve this.

I never, ever, in the many years I've known Alfredo to ever him raise his voice, to anyone or disparage anyone, for any reason. 

 Having been around any # of incompetent people in the private and gov't sector, I can tell you, for a fact, that Alfredo would not have fired this idiot if Lu was not totally incompetent. 

  **********************************************************

In the final analysis, LU IS GOING TO STATE PRISON, THAT'S HARD TIME MY FRIENDS.

I can guarantee you, that Mexican prison gangs, who I'm sure will read about this story, will enact A LITTLE PAY-BACK TO MR. LU for his "mistake" on Alfredo.

  BTW, Alfredo is going to get a huge settlement from dickhead's insurance co, and he can personally sue that worthless piece of refuse ----

  Alfredo suffered a great deal as a result of that totally unprovoked attack by Lu, not just the broken arm, he had a huge gash on his fore arm, not cut, BUT A GASH, OPENED UP IN THAT ATTACK.

Plus, he suffered mentally as well.  LU DESERVED AT LEAST 10 YEARS HARD TIME.

 I'm glad the Judge at least handed down the stiffest sentence under the circumstances.

 Alfredo, if you read this, get at your boy, J in the Big T. 

God Speed!

 

 

EatmyP
EatmyP

My boss (10 years younger than myself) was promoted with The Peter Principle philosophy, and wasn't in the position even a year before he found himself being investigated for Medicare fraud and other malfeasance.

Although he had already run me off the job, before I was escorted to my car carrying my belongings in a box, I made copies of everything: all his phony receipts, the emails, the paper trails for the Superbowl tickets, the boondoggles and fishing trips and hunting expeditions and perks of all kinds paid-for by vendors and contractors, the money that had been siphoned-off and found its way to the pocket lining of those who stood to benefit the most from such shenanigans.

I got a better job, AND a ring-side seat to the Greatest Show in Town: The firing of my boss.

There are better ways to take your revenge on someone than going to jail for assaulting them. Don't put the hurt on 'em with your own hands - let someone else do it for you: namely, the feds, or higher management.

Trust me - it's just as satisfying as running them over with your car, and infinitely safer for your own future well-being.

EatmyP
EatmyP

Typical "supervisor" comment: "Why are you doing this to me?"

fascination67
fascination67

EatmyP: "You are a colossal effing idiot".  EAT MY SHORTS, YOU WORTHLESS NOBODY.

Christine Leep
Christine Leep

At our post office a lady carrier was mocked by supervision when she turned in a customer that was harassing her. He left notes on her LV, would be at the door naked when she delivered mail, followed her on her route. They didn't take the situation seriously and he was later arrested for internet child pornography. When the police searched his house, they found detailed notes on how he planned to abduct and kill his letter carrier. He had a map of her route. Nothing posted about postal management shocks me.

the devil
the devil

Better change your way before the guy you harass on the job sticks a few inches of convincing through your ribs to end it. Just don't attract violence if you want respect returned to you.

the devil
the devil

I am not surprized about this at all. When will people learn that, even though you scratch your way into a supervisory position, you still have no right to abuse people? They seem to pick the most abusive personalities to manage and after these little hitlers push another person over the edge people pretend that it just can't happen. You can go to any bar and find someone like Liu who is under the gun and marginalized, emotionally stumped and dehumanized, then fired. That is just as destructive to a person as you can get without burning them at the stake. The toll it takes on people drive them to murder or suicide- or both. You didn't forget Columbine did you? It's not just restricted to the post office. Take all the bully bosses and sit them down with the Liu's of the working world and straighten this mess out. There is no "Master and Slave" anymore so people need to learn to stop that toxic cycle.

guest
guest

I'm not surprised, when you have a bunch of unskilled, unqualified people who are put in management positions over others based on who they know, not what they know - then they use their minor league power to intimidate those "beneath" them.

Ioannescaelius
Ioannescaelius

Ah, Lord Running Clam, greetings from Caelius Mons. I should have put it in the proper vernacular for you. Instead of saying, “lower rung of hell” I should have said, the "Black Iron Prison.” Of course you are correct. Twas ever thus.

Ioannescaelius
Ioannescaelius

I worked for a Postal Service contractor for 28 years, going into Postal facilities all over the 11 western states. Indeed, I saw a culture of rampant psychological abuse. But, the worse thing of all, which is only hinted at in the article, was the overt and widespread racial hatred from all sides. Now retired, I am sooo glad that I no longer have to come in contact with this lower rung of hell.

Guest
Guest

Being a carrier for 28 years (and finally retiring!!) no one outside the post office have a clue what happens inside. Constant harassment, micro-managed by supervisors who either never carried mail or were piss poor when they did, and on and on. This is the typical day of a carrier:1) clock in on time; don't be late or start early..ON TIME (2) Your time in the office is way too long...hurry, get out on the street NOW (3) Your street time is way to long...hurry, deliver the mail, get off the street NOW (4) now that you're back in the office, why are you still on the clock...get off the clock NOW and that boys and girls, is how the typical day in the post office goes. If you want the truth how the P.O works, ask those that do the job. This story doesn't surprise me. Why? Because this kind of treatment happens in every station throughout the fruited plains. What does surprise me is the restraint carriers all over this nation show each and every day, That's because we are professional and we truly care about how we do our jobs, and to see how the USPS Titanic is going down because of those in charge is just sad.

Ralph
Ralph

If you don't let the workers carry guns into the building, then things are less likely to get too far out of hand.

CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist
CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist

I've never really thought much about how the word "going postal" came about. I didn't know it stemmed from disgruntled postal workers. There really is a need for regular checks, and not just for the starting employees but for upper management as well.

Guest
Guest

being that the post office is losing money and want to reduce the work force..management will try to either fire you or make you retire early rather then suspend you for a serious violation these days and eventually replace you later on with a $15/hour casual..

Dennis McPeters
Dennis McPeters

Every time an employee did something wrong, whether it was theft, malfeasance, insubodination, or violence - whatever - the unions always blamed it on mean management and the horrible work environment. It is alas, the mark of a sad and declining society that individuals never take responsibility and those who commit horrible acts are viewed simply as helpless victims. Writers like the author of this article and such comments as yours just encourage people to blameshift. It is disingenuous and patently wrong to blame management of the Postal Service or the Iindustrial complex when those who lack control or are deranged commit horrible acts.

Tom
Tom

Mirza Negron-Morales, HUD’s Deputy Regional Administrator for New York Found Guilty by EEOC of Repeatedly Intentionally Discriminating Against an Employee in Her Department

Ms. Negron-Morales was not only not disciplined for her illegal actions, she was promoted by HUD!

(EMAILWIRE.COM, December 28, 2011 ) New York, NY -- HUD’s Deputy Regional Administrator for New York Found Guilty by EEOC of Repeatedly Intentionally Discriminating Against an Employee in Her Department.

On September 1, 2010, EEOC Judge William Macauley issued a decision in which he found that United States Department of Housing and Urban Development intentionally retaliated against Thomas Saracco, an engineer who formerly worked in HUD’s Office of Public Housing in New York City, in retaliation for a federal lawsuit¹ filed by Mr. Saracco against HUD based on disability (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) discrimination. (Saracco v. HUD, EEOC Hearing No. 520-2009-00104X).

Judge Macauley found that HUD had denied a promotion for Mr. Saracco that had been granted to every other engineer in the country except one. The HUD official centrally responsible for the denial of the promotion was Mirza Negron-Morales, then the Director for New York of HUD’s Office of Public Housing. Judge Macauley found that her testimony in the case was not credible and that the justification she advanced for not promoting Mr. Saracco was "a mere pretext to retaliate" against him.

Less than two weeks later, on September 13, 2010, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., HUD’s Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, announced that HUD was promoting Negron-Morales to the position of Deputy Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey.

Notably, this was not the first time Judge Macauley had found that Negron-Morales had intentionally discriminated against Mr. Saracco. In a decision dated April 24, 2006, Judge Macauley found that Negron-Morales had retaliated against Mr. Saracco by suspending him on two occasions because he had filed the federal lawsuit and made other complaints of discrimination. (EEOC Case No. 160-2005-00337X) In that decision Judge Macauley found that Negron-Morales directly admitted that she suspended Mr. Saracco in retaliation for his protected conduct and that she "has expressed her retaliatory animus against [Mr. Saracco] on more than one occasion." Further, Judge Macauley determined that "Negron-Morales was preoccupied with [Mr. Saracco’s] EEO history and held retaliatory animus toward him." Finally, Judge Macauley expressly found that "Negron-Morales’ reasons for suspending [Mr. Saracco] were not credible ones."

In June, 2007 HUD placed Mr. Saracco on unpaid administrative leave claiming that a psychiatrist had determined that he was a threat to himself and others. He reached this conclusion after being provided false information by Ms. Negron-Morales. The psychiatrist never spoke with Mr. Saracco.

Mr. Saracco was required to provide a Fitness for Duty report, which he did. HUD still would not allow Mr. Saracco to return to work. Finally in June, 2008, more than one year after being placed on administrative leave, Mr. Saracco was told he could return to work.

In 2008, Mr. Saracco resigned from HUD and filed an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB Docket Nos.:NY-0752-09-0195-I-1, NY-0752-09-0197-I-1) alleging constructive termination and a suspension of more than 14 days. In 2011, HUD paid Mr. Saracco approximately $700,000 in order to settle that appeal and the EEOC case

Mr. Saracco was represented by David N. Mair of Kaiser Saurborn & Mair, P.C. in New York City.

1. The federal lawsuit was filed in 2002 and resulted in a settlement in 2003. This case began as a complaint before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January, 2000; EEOC Hearing No. 160-A1-8243X. The complaint arose from (i) HUD's failure to provide Mr. Saracco a reasonable accommodation for his disability (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and (ii) the concerted harassment of Mr. Saracco by HUD's employees because of his disability and in retaliation for his complaints of discrimination filed with HUD's Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the EEOC.

Tom
Tom

This type of behavior by managers is not limited to the Postal Service.

The Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No Fear) Act (2002) states, among other things, that employees who engage in misconduct be disciplined. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo , a senior policy analyst at the EPA, was a driving force behind the creation of the no fear law. The system before No-Fear, Coleman-Adebayo said, has been anything but just to employees who suffer years of discrimination or retaliation at the hands of managers who are never punished for their actions. She went on “The spirit of the No-Fear law was that managers were to face major consequences as a result of findings of discrimination against them. We will demand that the government live up to the spirit of the law. These are not victimless crimes, and for someone to get slapped on the hand when you have violated someone’s human and civil rights, you do not have a right to work for the federal government.

The law, designed to hold agencies accountable for discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, is to result in tough penalties, including termination, for federal managers who violate a co-worker’s civil rights."

Managers are not being punished for their disgraceful and illegal actions. The No Fear Act is an empty shell. No outside agency is charged with the responsibility of enforcing its provisions. It is left to the agency itself to police its own managers. This is not being done.

Thirdeye
Thirdeye

The provisions of the No FEAR act have had the opposite effect of their intentions. They have become another tool for managers to harass and intimidate employees. A culture of seeking political advantages and parochial agendas while avoiding accountability has taken root, and that is the underlying problem.

Guest
Guest

Supervisors and Postmasters are treated differently than craft employees when they do something wrong. Management can do the most horrendous, harassing, and often times illegal acts that they want and NEVER receive any discipline for it. They just get shipped to another station, if even that. Craft employees on the other hand are harassed, micromanaged, and overly disciplined by management at will. Even if you win a grievance 3 years later, nothing is done to the managers. Until this disparity stops, or until managers are reeled in, this anger by employees will continue.

Cdontlack0
Cdontlack0

You're 100% correct. Problem supervisor or postmaster? Don't fire them; just move them to another office! I've lived with it too many times.

 
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