The colleagues killed in San Jose mass shooting were like family, official says
The death of a San Jose rail transit worker overnight makes Wednesday’s massacre at a rail yard in the California city the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area. More details emerged on Thursday about the shooting that claimed the lives of 10 people, including the gunman. Santa Clara county sheriff officials identified the shooter at the light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority as 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy, a longtime maintenance worker at the facility. Cassidy’s ex-wife said he had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago. Cassidy shot nine of his co-workers – bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and an assistant superintendent. One victim had worked for the agency since 1999.
The nine colleagues killed in the San Jose, California, mass shooting leave behind grieving families, heartbroken friends and a network of coworkers reeling from Wednesday's violence. The victims were Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) employees, VTA Board Chairperson Glenn Hendricks said at a Thursday news conference. "Many of you have reported the names of the employees who were lost," he said. "To us here at VTA they are friends and our family and we want to honor their memory."
Here's who they were:
· Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, worked with VTA for about 20 years as a substation maintainer.
· Adrian Balleza, 29, started as a bus operator trainee in 2014 and later worked as a maintenance worker and light rail operator.
· Alex Ward Fritch, 49, was a substation maintainer.
· Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35, began in 2012 as a transit mechanic and then became an electro-mechanic and later on a substation maintainer.
· Lars Kepler Lane, 63, started in 2001 as an electro-mechanic and went on to become an overhead line worker.
· Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40, started in 2013 as a VTA mechanic, later worked as an electro- mechanic and then an overhead line worker.
· Paul Delacruz Megia, 42, started in 2002 as a bus operator trainee, became a light rail operator, transportation supervisor, transit division supervisor and finally an assistant superintendent in service management.
· Taptejdeep Singh, 36, started in 2014 as a bus operator trainee and later became a light rail operator.
· Timothy Michael Romo, 49, served over 20 years as an overhead line worker.
Victim spent his final moments protecting others
Singh was a member of the Sikh community, a statement from his family said.
"We are beyond devastated by the loss of Taptejdeep, a beloved father, husband, brother, son, and nephew," his brother, Karman Singh, said in a statement. "He was a wonderful person who was committed to serving others at work and in his free time."
The brother went on to say they found out from eyewitnesses that Singh 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," the statement said.
"We understand that he was attempting to secure his building when he was killed," it added.
Taptejdeep Singh was born in Punjab, India, and moved to California with his parents roughly 17 years ago, a statement from the family said.
He is survived by his wife, 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter, the family said.
San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez remembered his friend, Rudometkin, and said he had spent time with the family.
"I, unfortunately, get to know personally how these nine families have felt last night, this morning with just a sense of disbelief, with a hope that your loved one is still going to come home," Peralez said.
"And know that that's just never going to happen again," he added.
The past day, Peralez said, has been "painstaking and heartbreaking."
Naunihal Singh, the superintendent of the light rail yard, said he supervised many of the victims and shared an office with Megia. His direct reports were Singh and Balleza.
"I'm that unfortunate leader who lost my VTA family members," he said. "Words are not enough to justify the pain we are all going through."
He said Megia always accepted all of his requests with a smile and was "always willing to help his employees."
Balleza, he said, was "very kindhearted."
The victims tried to save others "while going through that chaotic situation," the superintendent added.
Hendricks, the VTA board chair, said he has spoken to the families of all nine victims, adding "all the families are in pain, but we are here to help."
"We want all of our employees to know we are all grieving together and we want to do everything we possibly can to support each other. If today or in the coming days you need to stop, talk with a coworker, take some quiet time, do it. Whatever your emotions, the pain, sorrow, anger, love, questions, these are all normal," he added.
A gunman opened fire early Wednesday at the light rail yard where he worked in the California Bay Area, fatally shooting at least eight people in the latest spasm of mass gun violence to rock America. The suspected gunman—identified by multiple outlets as 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy — reportedly set his own home ablaze, then drove to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) rail yard and began shooting during a union meeting around 6:30 a.m. PT. Authorities confirmed the shooter died in the attack, with multiple reports saying he killed himself.
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