Nine victims in San Jose shooting included rail workers from diverse backgrounds

Taptejdeep Singh, one of the victims in the San Jose mass murders May 26, 2021. Photo :California Sikh Youth Alliance Twitter

Taptejdeep Singh had managed to find cover inside an office early Wednesday as a San Jose transit system employee fired away at his co-workers inside a light-rail facility. But that safety meant little to Singh, a light-rail operator, if he could not warn other colleagues about the shooter, his family told the San Jose Mercury News.

So Singh, 36, rushed out of the room where he was hiding with colleagues to help others to safety, including a woman he hid inside a control room, his family said. He was later shot when he crossed paths with the shooter inside a stairwell, the Mercury News reported.

Singh was among at least nine people killed at the Santa Clara facility, authorities confirmed late Wednesday, in addition to the suspected gunman.

“We are in very deep grief,” his uncle, Sakhwant Dhillon told the Mercury News. “He told people, ‘Be careful, hide.’ He was running around the building to save others’ lives.”

Those fatally shot included other Valley Transportation Authority workers from a diverse array of backgrounds, with ties to India and Mexico, ranging in age from 63 to 29. Authorities confirmed that some worked with the shooter at the agency of 2,000 employees that operates light-rail and bus services in Santa Clara County.

The Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner identified the other eight victims as Lars Kepler Lane, 63; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Alex Ward Fritch, 49; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; and Adrian Balleza, 29.

Authorities have yet to confirm the name of the shooter, who began firing at around 6:30 a.m. and who officials believe fatally shot himself following the rampage. Whether the shooter specifically targeted any workers at the facility was also unknown as of early Thursday.

While local and federal authorities searched the railroad yard and its buildings on Wednesday, law enforcement officials were seen outside a San Jose home believed to be connected with the gunman. An officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation said the gunman apparently set his house on fire before heading to the light-rail facility.

In the hours after the shooting, families who had not heard from their loved ones gathered at the Red Cross Center in north San Jose waiting for news.

Christina Gonzalez was at work when she got a call from her brother saying that Rudometkin, her cousin, had been shot. She ran out so quickly that she left her wallet at her job, she told The Post.

Rudometkin, a San Jose native, was active in the union and took pride in his job, she said.

“[He] loved his job and just always stood up for everyone’s rights,” Gonzalez said. “He was just a very good person.”

Singh’s family arrived at the center after a phone tracking app showed that the train operator and father of two, who had just returned to work from vacation, was still inside the building, Bagga Singh, his cousin, told The Post. The family had called his number incessantly after they heard the news of the shooting but all of his calls went to voice mail.

Singh, who was born in India and lived in Union City, Calif., had left at 4 a.m. Wednesday for the transit agency where he had worked for the better part of a decade.

“We don’t know what’s happened to him,” Bagga Singh said earlier Wednesday. “Those people [who] are already out in the parking lot, they run away, they’re here. He is missing. Very scary.”

Others, like Edward Lane, agonized as they waited for any news on their loved ones from their homes. Lane, had not heard any news from authorities on the whereabouts of his brother, Lars Kepler Lane.

“It’s horrible,” Lane told KTXL. “Even though we don’t see each other day-to-day, month-to-month, that’s still my brother, that’s my family and they [police] are not saying anything . . . Not knowing is horrific . . . If they need someone to go in there and walk in the floor to find out if that one is my brother, I’d be happy to.”

After hours of waiting, officials late on Wednesday confirmed the relatives’ worst fears.

Raul Peralez, who identified himself as Rudometkin’s close friend, said he and his father were planning a golf day with “Mikey.”

“Now that will never happen again,” Peralez wrote on Facebook. “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 added, “[Nine] families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well. It has been personally tough to find the right words.”

Rose Rudometkin, the victim’s mother, told The Post that her son was in the building on Wednesday for a union meeting. She called him a “wonderful son, brother, loving husband, uncle, cousin and friend to many.”

“He would give his last penny and shirt off his back,” she said in an email to The Post. “Anyone could call him for help and he’d be there.”

Rudometkin was a professional auto technician who enjoyed sports, especially golf, and visiting the nearby Russian River, his mother told the station. “He had just turned 40 and still had more to live and accomplish,” she wrote.

Edward Lane described his brother as a husband, father and grandfather. Lars Kepler Lane worked as a full-time journeyman lineman, according to his LinkedIn page.

Raul A. Perez grappled with the loss of his cousin, Adrian Balleza, the youngest victim identified by authorities.

“Sad, angry, sick to my stomach. Our San Jose family has to face the loss of their beloved Adrian Balleza . . . the youngest listed victim, 29. My heart hurts for my primo and the rest of the family,” Perez wrote on Facebook.

Melissa Santos Poquiz, who identified herself as Megia’s friend, called the shooting a “senseless act and massacre.” According to the Mercury News, Megia, Singh’s supervisor, also told other workers to seek shelter as bullets flew.

“Paul, you were a ray of sunshine and my heart is broken for your kids and family,” Santos Poquiz captioned a picture of Megia smiling while being held by others sitting on a couch. “Rest easy and thank you for the memories.”

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