SAN JOSE, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — At least nine people are dead after a mass shooting at a light rail facility in San Jose, California, Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The shooting took place around 6:30 a.m. at a light rail facility next door to the sheriff’s department and across a freeway from the airport. The facility is a transit control center that stores trains and has a maintenance yard.
The VTA provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, the largest in the Bay Area and home to Silicon Valley.
Victims ranged in age from 29 to 63 and all worked for the VTA.
The family of one victim, Taptejdeep Singh, told reporters their loved one saved at least one person before he died.
Overnight, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner announced a ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, who died at a hospital after being taken there in critical condition.
The victims’ names and ages are below:
- Paul Delacruz Megia, 42
- Taptejdeep Singh, 36
- Adrian Balleza, 29
- Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35
- Timothy Michael Romo, 49
- Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40
- Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63
- Lars Kepler Lane, 63
Their jobs included bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and assistant superintendent. One had worked for the transit authority since 1999.
Lars Kepler Lane
Lars Lane’s family confirmed he was a victim to NewsNation affiliate KTXL.
Lane was a father, husband, grandfather and brother. He became an electro mechanic with VTA in 2001. Later, he was a overhead line worker.
Singh had worked as a light rail train driver for eight or nine years and had a wife, two small children and many family members, said his cousin, Bagga Singh.
“We heard that he chose the people to shoot, but I don’t know why they choose him because he has nothing to do with him,” he said. He said he was told that the gunman targeted certain people and let others go.
His brother Karman Singh released the following statement, via the Sikh Coalition:
“We are beyond devastated by the loss of Taptejdeep, a beloved father, husband, brother, son, and nephew. He was a wonderful person who was committed to serving others at work and in his free time.”
“We take some measure of comfort in what we have learned from eyewitnesses and others: Taptejdeep spent his final moments trying to keep others safe. From what we have heard, he reacted quickly to get colleagues into secure offices, and was frantically calling others who would have been coming in for a shift change to warn them about the shooter. We understand that he was attempting to secure his building when he was killed.”
“Even in these moments of chaos, Taptejdeep was living by the values of Sikhi: living in service and protection of others. We believe that if the shooter had ever asked our brother for help, Taptejdeep would have gone above and beyond for him like he did for everyone he crossed paths with; he never harmed anyone, and no one who knew him would ever want to harm him. We choose to remember Taptejdeep as the hero he was, both in those final moments and throughout his life of service.”
The victim’s family also said that they were told Taptejdeep spent his last moments trying to save other employees. He made a call to another VTA employee to warn him. The employee said:
“Taptejdeep called me to warn me that there was an active shooter in Building B and to go hide or get out immediately. He told me he was with Paul, another victim, at the time. From what I’ve heard, he spent the last moments of his life making sure that others–in the building and elsewhere–would be able to stay safe. Because of him, so many people were able to go home to their families. We will never forget how he lived to the highest ideals of Sikhi in a moment of crisis, and my prayers are with his family and the families of all those who lost loved ones in this horrific attack.”
Michael “Mikey” Rudometkin was identified as a victim killed in Wednesday’s shooting, according to San Jose officials. He became a VTA mechanic in 2013 then an electro-mechanic and overhead line worker.
San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez said Rudometkin was a close friend. “There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family,” he wrote on Facebook. “Eight families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well.”
“Our son was attending a union meeting at the time this occurred,” Michael Rduometkin’s mother, Rose, told NewsNation affiliate KRON. “He was very passionate about his union affiliation. He had just turned 40 and still had more to live and accomplished. He has always been a wonderful son, brother, loving husband, uncle, cousin and friend to many. He would give his last penny and shirt off his back.”
Paul DelaCruz Megia
Paul DelaCruz Megia, 42, was identified as one of the victims in the shooting. Paul was the son of Leonard and Edna, the brother of Luci and Julie, and the father of Nate, Gavin and Avery.
He was a bus operator trainee from 2002. He moved on to becoming a light rail operator, transportation supervisor, transit division supervisor, ultimately an assistant superintendent in service management.
Leonard spoke with KRON and had a hard time holding back tears as he talked about his son.
“My son is a very fine man and he was my best friend,” Leonard said.
The 42-year-old moved in with his mom and dad after a divorce, along with his three children. He had since been remarried.
“Paul was a wonderful dad and a good son, he does everything for his family and I’m gonna miss him. His kids are wonderful too because of their dad’s guidance,” Leonard said.
Leonard did not know anything about the gunman prior to Wednesday’s shooting. He does believe his son’s role as a manager may have played a part in why he was killed.
“He wasn’t supposed to be there yesterday, he was supposed to work at home but they called him to go and I was looking for him yesterday morning for breakfast, my wife said he left for work,” Leonard said.
Adrian Balleza, 29, was kind-hearted and the type of colleague who tried to make work fun for his co-workers, a Valley Transportation Authority colleague told a news conference Thursday.
Balleza joined the VTA in 2014 as a bus operator trainee and then became a maintenance worker and light-rail operator, said Glenn Hendricks, chair of the authority’s board.
He is survived by his wife, Heather Balleza, and 2-year-old son.
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35, could fix anything, loved his hobbies and lived life with zest, according to his family.
The Dublin, California, resident was a substation maintainer who had been partnered with Samuel Cassidy, the man who authorities say gunned down Hernandez and eight others, said his father, Jose Dejesus Hernandez II, a retired Valley Transportation Authority employee. He said he was not aware of issues Cassidy may have had with his son or others.
“He was somebody who was so fair. A very, very fair person and always leaning to the right side of things, always looking for the right thing to do,” said Hernandez, crying at times in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. “He was a really good guy, a great kid, and now he’s gone.”
“I feel really sorry for all those families because these things aren’t supposed to happen. I feel sorry for the family or even the person who did this thing,” he said.
Jesus Hernandez’s former wife, Sarah, said waiting to find out what happened Wednesday was torturous. She tried to channel her former husband’s logic and calm.
“I just tried to be very logical and think, ‘Thousands of people work there, there’s no way, let’s just wait to hear and not get worked up, I’m sure he’s fine, I’m sure he’s on scene and he can’t have his phone,’” Sarah Hernandez said.
Timothy Michael Romo
Timothy Michael Romo, 49, was an overhead line worker at the Valley Transportation Authority for 20 years, said Glenn Hendricks, chair of the VTA’s board.
He grew up in the Central Coast town of Greenfield, California, where his father, Mike Romo, was the mayor and police chief, for many years.
He is survived by his wife and three children, said Greenfield’s mayor, Lance Walker.
63-year-old Abdolvahab Alaghmandan was identified as one of the victims in Wednesday’s shooting. He worked for VTA for about 20 years as a substation maintainer.
“He worked overtime. He worked through the entire pandemic,” Soheil said of his father. “He’s a tinkerer. He can fix anything.”
“Our hearts are hurting. We just don’t know what we’re going to do without him,” Megan Staker said.
Staker is still numb to 63-year-old Abdi Alaghmandan’s sudden death.
Her boyfriend, Soheil, is the youngest of Abdi’s two grown sons.
She knew Abdi for five years — and considered him a father figure.
“He wanted to help everyone. He had such a big heart,” Staker said. “He was so good to his wife and his two sons.”
Alex Ward Fritch
Alex Fritch, 49, died at a hospital late Wednesday, surrounded by his children and parents, said his wife, Terra Fritch of San Jose.
“He was our rock, my safe place to fall. He was the love of my life,” Fritch said.
The couple got married after having known each other for just six months and had been together 20 years. They were supposed to travel to Hawaii next September to renew their vows, she said.
“He always tried to look on the bright side of things. He loved Mr. Rogers. He watched him all the time. He loved the documentaries. He loved movies,” she said.
Alex’s friends say he loved tiki crawls, Star Wars, and was known for being an optimistic and passionate man.
Fritch said she raced to the hospital after learning he had been shot. She said hospital staff moved him over in his bed so she could lie down with him.
“Alex was really fighting hard. He didn’t want to go anywhere, and I didn’t want him to go,” Fritch told the station.
The attacker was identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, according to two law enforcement officials. Investigators offered no immediate word on a possible motive.
His ex-wife, Cecilia Nelms, told The Associated Press that Cassidy had a bad temper and would tell her that he wanted to kill people at work, “but I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now.”
Members of a union representing Valley Transportation Authority workers were meeting when the shooting began, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, but it’s not clear the meeting was related to the attack.
When she heard shots, transit authority mechanic Rochelle Hawkins said she dropped her phone.
“I was running so fast. I just ran for my life,” she said. “I would hope everyone would just pray for the VTA family. Just pray for us.”
Cassidy had worked for Valley Transportation Authority since at least 2012, according to the public payroll and pension database Transparent California, first as a mechanic from 2012 to 2014, then as someone who maintained substations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking emotionally in front of a county office where flags flew at half-staff, said victims’ relatives were “waiting to hear from the coroner, waiting to hear from any of us, just desperate to find out if their brother, their son, their dad, their mom is still alive.”
“It begs the damn question, ‘What the hell is going on in the United States of America?’”
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KRON contributed to this report.