SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office has identified nine victims who were killed by a gunman in Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard in San Jose.
The early morning shooting at the rail yard left nine people, including the shooter, dead.
Officials released a list of eight victims Wednesday evening. Several hours later, the medical examiner announced a ninth victim, identified as 49-year-old Alex Ward Fitch, died at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center after being hospitalized in critical condition.
List of victims in the VTA shooting:
Paul Delacruz Megia, 42
Taptejdeep Singh, 42
Adrian Balleza, 29
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35
Timothy Michael Romo, 49
Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40
Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63
Lars Kepler Lane, 63
Alex Ward Fritch, 49
Mayor Sam Liccardo told CNN the gunman was no stranger to the people he shot.
“It’s clear the victims and all the colleagues knew the shooter well,” Liccardo said.
One of the victims, Rudometkin, was earlier identified by his friend, San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez. Rudometkin was an overhead line worker with the VTA.
“My dad and I were just planning another golf day reunion with Mikey, and now that will never happen again. 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 said on his Facebook page.
Rudometkin’s cousin, Christina Gonzalez, said she dropped everything when she heard about the shooting, and went to the scene to find out if he was one of the victims who was shot.
“We have no idea, I just pray that he’s OK, we just pray he’s OK,” said Gonazalez.
Taptejdeep Singh was the father of two, family members told KPIX reporter Maria Medina.
Family members provided us with this photo of 42-year-old Taptejdeep Singh.
He was one of 8 victims who was killed in today’s mass shooting in San Jose. He was a father of two. pic.twitter.com/GKYs97Wy5k
— Maria Medina (@MariaKPIX) May 27, 2021
They said Singh’s last moments of his life were spent being a hero. Co-workers told Singh’s family that he pushed one co-worker into a room to protect her from the gunman, and then frantically called other co-workers to warn them what was happening.
“He just saved her and then after that he go toward the downstairs,” said Singh’s cousin Bagga Singh. “We lost a good person, he’s a very good person.”
They had been waiting for several hours at the Red Cross with other families when they received confirmation he had been killed.
“We know he was there, and we have been trying to contact him since the morning time since it happened and he has not been returning calls, no text messages or nothing,” a relative of Singh’s told reporters Wednesday afternoon prior to the coroner’s release. “It is really difficult because he has two little kids. That is all I can think about right now is just his kids.”
Singh had worked as a light rail train driver for eight or nine years. There were a number of bus and light rail operators among the victims.
Others were mechanics, linemen and assistant superintendent. One victim had worked for the transit authority since 1999.
According to Facebook posts memorializing 29-year-old Adrian Balleza, he was a Gilroy resident who grew up in San Jose. Balleza was married and had a young son.
A Facebook post paying tribute to all of the VTA workers who were killed Wednesday singled out Paul Delacruz Megia, calling him “a ray of sunshine.” The post also said “my heart is broken for your kids and family.”
Though a motive has not been determined, authorities confirmed the identity of the gunman, a 57-year-old Valley Transportation Authority employee.
Authorities were first notified about the shooting around 6:30 a.m., when the gunman opened fire at the light rail facility, which is near the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. About 75-80 people were at the facility at the time of the shooting, which was during a shift change.
The investigation was complicated after a bomb-sniffing dog detected possible explosives at the site. Authorities have spent the entire day combing through the VTA facility in order to ensure that no explosive devices are on the premises.
“We have received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building,” Davis said. “That being said, we activated our bomb squad which is currently out on scene. Pretty much we’re trying to clear out every room and every crevice of that building to ensure public safety.”
A number of families who were not able to hear from their loved ones gathered at a county government building in Downtown San Jose building that was set up as a family reunification center.
Peralez, who said he knew Rudometkin since childhood, also gathered at the reunification center.
“We saw the report initially of the active shooter and I know this is the time of day that my friend gets off work, 8 a.m. in the morning, and they have their union meetings which is what they were having today,” the councilmember said earlier in the day. “Actually haven’t been able to communicate with him, a friend’s family has been trying to get info and that is actually why I came down here as well.”
Victims’ grief-stricken families sat huddled together, holding hands and crying, after learning they had lost a loved one, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen told reporters, describing the scene inside a county building.
“They’re just sitting and holding hands and crying,” Rosen said. “It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s raw. People are learning they lost their husband, their son, their brother.”
Rosen held a press conference at the Red Cross and vowed to figure out if the shooting could have been prevented.
“When they said goodbye to their spouse this morning, their husband, they didn’t mean goodbye forever, they meant goodbye until dinner time,” said Rosen.
He said about 100 people were inside the family reunification center.
A vigil to honor the victims is scheduled to take place at San Jose City Hall at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Mayor Sam Liccardo, members of the San Jose City Council along with Santa Clara County and VTA officials are expected to attend.
The San Jose-based community organization Working Partnerships USA and the South Bay Labor Council set up a fund to support families of the shooting victims. Donations can be made at bit.ly/vtasolidarity.