Loved ones mourn victims of shooting at San Jose rail yard
As a gunman opened fire Wednesday at a Northern California light rail yard, Taptejdeep Singh rushed out of an office where others were hiding. He wanted to help others escape, his co-workers told his family.
Singh, 36, helped a woman hide in a control room, The Mercury News reported. Then, he was gunned down in a stairway.
“He always thought about others,” Dhillon told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He always wanted to help.”
“He lost his life saving others,” Dhillon added.
Light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and an assistant superintendent were among the victims of Wednesday’s shooting spree at a Valley Transportation Authority facility.
Many of the victims were longtime employees. They were identified by the Santa Clara County coroner’s office Wednesday night as Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.
A ninth victim, Alex Ward Fritch, 49, was taken to a local hospital where he later died.
The shooter, also an employee, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, San Jose police spokesman Russell Davis said. Authorities are still trying to determine a motive.
Singh’s cousin, Bagga Singh, said he worked as a light rail train driver for almost a decade and had a wife and two young children. The Mercury News reported they were 3 and 1 years old.
Bagga Singh said he was told that the gunman targeted some people and let others go.
“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,” Bagga Singh said.
Singh migrated to the U.S. from Amritsar in Punjab, India, in 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. His uncle told the newspaper that the family is in shock.
“We can’t believe he’s gone,” Singh’s uncle Sukhwant Dhillon said.
San Jose Council member Raul Peralez, a close friend of Rudometkin, said in a Facebook post that he and his dad were planning a golf day reunion with Rudometkin.
“My family and I have lost a long time great friend and there are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family,” he wrote. “Eight families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well.”
Family members were sharing photos tagging what appeared to be Rudometkin’s Facebook profile. Rudometkin started as an overhead line worker in December 2018, according to the Facebook profile.
His cousin, Christina Marie, mourned Rudometkin on Facebook and posted photos of him alongside family and friends.
“We lost our dear Cousin Mike today in the San Jose’s VTA mass shooting,” she wrote. “He was the nicest person in the world. He loved his family so much. Please pray for our family. We are so devastated.”
His mother, Rose Rudometkin, said in a statement to ABC 10 that her son was attending a union meeting when the shooting took place. She said he was also a youth minister.
“He had just turned 40 and still had more to live,” she said in the statement. “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. Anyone could call him for help and he’d be there.”
Lars Kepler Lane was a grandfather and left behind a wife and three children, as well as six siblings, his family told KTXL. He would have turned 64 in three days.
Lane’s brother told KTXL that waiting to hear news of his loved one was tortuous.
“Waiting 10, 12, 14, 18, 28 hours, it’s horrific,” Edward Lane told the station. “That’s devastation.”
Other family and friends of the victims mourned by posting to Facebook pages of the victims.
Paul Delacruz Megia was described as “a ray of sunshine” by friend Melissa Santos Poquiz.
Phil Guzman, a friend of Adrian Balleza, 29, wrote that seeing him was sometimes the highlight of his day. “It was kinda like having a younger cousin around when you were there,” the Facebook post said. “Adrian Balleza, my friend, I will truly miss talking trash with you. I miss you, my friend.
Tim Romo, a VTA power foreman, was planning a trip with his wife to visit their son before he was killed, his neighbor Keith Baldwin told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“He was a very friendly man, always ready to help you out,” his neighbor Nancy Martin told the newspaper.
Flags flew at half staff as California Gov. Gavin Newsom 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,” he said. “‘What the hell is going on in the United States of America?’”
There have been 15 mass killings in 2021, each with at least four victims killed, according to an Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University database that tracks every mass killing over the last 15 years. All 2021 cases were shootings and claimed a total 86 lives.
“There are at least eight families who will never be whole again,” President Joe Biden tweeted Wednesday. “Every life taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We must do more.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: San Jose victims names: What we know about VTA shooting workers