Nine people were killed Wednesday after a public transit employee opened fire on his co-workers at a Northern California rail yard.
The shooting — the latest amid a troubling yearlong rise in nationwide gun violence and record firearm sales — happened just after 6:30 a.m. PT near 100 W. Younger Ave. in downtown San Jose. The victims were found in two buildings, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.
They were identified by the Medical Examiner-Coroner as 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; and Alex Ward Fritch, 49.
Here is what we know about the people who lost their lives.
Taptejdeep Singh’s family said the married father of two was trying to warn his colleagues that there was a shooter when he was gunned down. His uncle, Sukhwant Singh Dhillon, told NBC’s “Today” that Taptejdeep ran throughout his building alerting his co-workers and locking doors after shots rang out nearby.
“The one thing we know for sure, his last moments he was still working for others. He was making phone calls to his friends saying the place has an active shooter, do not come in,” his cousin, Harpartap Singh, said.
“Even in the last moments, he wasn’t looking for his own safety, per se, he was trying to save people. That’s who he was,” the cousin added.
Taptejdeep, 36, moved from India with his family and attended college in the United States. After college, he began working for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). His family said he was a light rail operator who loved his job.
Outside of work, Taptejdeep was dedicated to his community and family, including his wife, one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.
The community was so devastated over his death that more than 100 people came out Wednesday for a gathering.
“Everybody in the community loves him,” Harpartap Singh said. “The community is just pouring out in his memory.”
The family is in “deep grief,” Sukhwant Singh Dhillon said.
“It’s hard to put into words that grief,” Harpartap Singh added. “I mean if you look at the father, the wife and children. I mean, dad goes to work and he’s not back home. It’s very, very unfortunate.”
Taptejdeep Singh began working for the VTA in 2014 as a bus operator trainee and later became a light rail operator.
Paul Delacruz Megia
Paul Delacruz Megia started working with the VTA in 2002 as a bus operator trainee. The company said he later became a light rail operator before holding several supervisor positions. At the time of his death, he was an assistant superintendent in service management.
His wife, Nicole Yamada, released a statement following his death.
“Paul was a wonderful husband & father who was full of love, jokes, energy for life and always up for new adventures. I treasure all our memories,” she said. “God took you too soon & I would do anything to have one last hug & goodbye. I will miss having my best friend by my side. I love you always.”
His sister, Luci Megia, recalled how he loved to tell jokes and was an “inspiration to all of us.”
“His life was cut short and he had so many adventure plans for his family,” she said in a statement. “My dad lost a best friend. We love and miss you Paul.”
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III began working for the VTA in 2012 as a transit mechanic, the company said at a press conference Thursday. He later became an electro-mechanic and then a substation mechanic.
His ex-wife, Sarah Raelyn, described him as the calmest and most level-headed person that she had ever known and he spent his life “worshipping the Lord and just helping people.”
The pair married on June 20, 2009 after meeting through mutual friends. They divorced this past August. Raelyn said that despite their marriage ending, her younger brother still looked up to Hernandez and the pair were “like best friends.”
On the morning of his death, Raelyn said someone messaged her an article about the shooting and said they were having trouble reaching Hernandez.
“I tried to be pragmatic and just be like, ‘It’s OK. … I’m sure he’s OK.’ And when I saw the timestamp that the call came in, I knew that he got to work right at 6:30,” she said.
Around 11 a.m., Hernandez’s godmother called to share the tragic news.
“He was the most loving, romantic and giving man that I have ever known,” she said in a tearful phone interview Thursday. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Michael Joseph Rudometkin
San Jose City Council Member Raul Peralez said he was longtime friends with Michael Joseph Rudometkin, whom he referred to as a “Mikey” in a Facebook post mourning his death.
“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,” Peralez wrote. “It has been personally tough to find the right words and I will be spending some much needed time amongst family and friends tonight. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and offered your thoughts and support.”
Rudometkin started working for the VTA in 2013 as a mechanic, according to the company. He later became an electro-mechanic and then an overhead line worker.
The other victims
The family of Abdolvahab Alaghmandan declined to be interviewed Thursday. The families of Adrian Balleza, Timothy Michael Romo, Lars Kepler Lane and Alex Ward Fritch could not immediately be reached.
The VTA said Thursday that it has been in communication with all nine families to “share our condolences and sorrow.”
“We want all our employees to know we’re all grieving together and we want to do everything we possibly can to support each other,” an official with the transit agency said at the press conference.
The company said it will hold a vigil for the victims Thursday at 6 p.m. at San Jose City Hall Plaza.
Authorities have not commented on a possible motive for the shooting. The gunman, identified by police as Samuel Cassidy, a VTA employee, died by suicide.
This story will continue to be updated.