Remembering Their Sacrifice: Jean Hillery, Tom Quadros and Bill Shaline
By Sara Baucher, Will Gillingwater and Scott Safian, OIEA
On June 21, 2000, FSIS Compliance Officers Jean Hillery and Tom Quadros and California Senior Investigator Bill Shaline were shot shortly after they arrived at a USDA-inspected sausage establishment in San Leandro, California. California Food Inspector Earl Willis was also shot at, but escaped injury.
Operations at the establishment were suspended because the plant was not operating in compliance with food safety regulations. Rather than correct the problems, plant owner Stuart Alexander continued to illegally produce and sell products without the required Federal inspection. FSIS and the State of California began investigations to protect the public and detain product that was already found in commerce.
Hillery, Quadros, Shaline and Willis went to the establishment to meet with the owner to collect evidence and serve notice of the violations. The owner retrieved a gun from his office, entered the retail area where Hillery, Quadros and Shaline were waiting, and opened fire, killing the three investigators. Willis was waiting outside for police, who had been called to assist with meeting with the owner. Willis was able to escape by taking shelter in a local business.
FSIS worked closely with USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, the United States Attorney’s Office and the State of California to help prosecute the establishment owner. The events were captured on video cameras at the establishment that the owner had turned on before confronting the public servants. On October 19, 2004, jurors convicted the owner of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He was subsequently sentenced to death but died in prison of natural causes in December 2005.
Following the shootings, FSIS took multiple steps to prevent tragic events such as this one from ever happening again:
- FSIS established a Workplace Violence Prevention Taskforce, which produced and implemented actions with the Agency and industry to guard against similar attacks. The Taskforce focused on workplace violence awareness and prevention, as well as improved outreach with industry.
- FSIS identified and implemented measures for improving personal and worksite security by establishing the Workplace Violence Prevention and Response Program and a 24-hour toll-free helpline to report threats and incidents of workplace violence. The program focuses on awareness and prevention within the Agency and with internal and external partners. It also provides guidance, training, reporting systems and management of incidents related to workplace violence prevention and response.
- The Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) is a multi-disciplinary Agency team whose goal is to review, monitor and track workplace violence incidents of increased severity and frequency to prevent further escalation.
- FSIS engaged with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center to train compliance investigators on safety protocols, awareness, prevention and personal security.
- FSIS developed investigation and regulatory directives, including protocols for investigative plans that require up-front analysis and action plans for the security of FSIS personnel and liaison, whenever needed, with Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
- Developed additional training and other policies to include other frontline FSIS personnel, such as Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officers in the Office of Field Operations.
- Established a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Federal Protective Service to help keep our employees safe from a possibly dangerous encounter while carrying out the FSIS food safety mission.
The Agency never envisioned a crime of this nature occurring in a USDA-inspected plant. Although it has been 20 years, Hillery, Quadros, Shaline and Willis and the events of June 21 are not forgotten. The prevention of workplace violence remains a top priority within the Agency, and FSIS is committed to the safety of all employees.
Workplace violence is any type of violence, threat, intimidation, assault, harassment, interference or other disruptive behavior in the workplace. It is not tolerated in FSIS because it is harmful to employees, and it prevents us from fulfilling our mission. No one can predict when violence may occur. The key to preventing workplace violence is to recognize the warning signs and involve the appropriate resources as soon as possible. Timely notification and documentation of potential problems is essential, and employees are encouraged to become familiar with Agency policy, directives and contact information so that you can take any necessary steps to ensure a safe workplace.
We must remember that our mission to ensure safe food is a noble and important one. And that those performing it — often without thanks or recognition — are some of our country’s most dedicated civil servants. FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker says, “FSIS will never forget Jean, Tom, Bill and Earl, for their courage, professionalism and commitment to the safety of our Nation’s food supply.”
A planned 20-year remembrance service has been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.
FSIS Compliance Officer Jean Hillery
FSIS Compliance Officer Tom Quadros
California Senior Investigator Bill Shaline
California Food Inspector Earl Willis