Husbands, Fathers, Saviors: These Are the Victims of the San Jose Mass Shooting
Nine men, aged 29 to 63, were killed when a shooter opened fire at a light rail yard in San Jose, Calif., before turning the gun on himself
Nine people are confirmed dead and more are injured after a gunman opened fire at a light rail yard in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday morning, where the shooter allegedly worked.
At about 6:34 a.m., 911 operators received multiple alerts that shots had been fired at a facility operated by the Valley Transportation Authority, Santa Clara County's public transportation system. Employees were gathered for a union meeting at the rail yard that morning, the Los Angeles Times reports.
When law enforcement arrived at the scene, the shooter — now identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy, the victims' co-worker — took his own life, but the damage had already been done, marking another tragic mass shooting in recent months after a year with none.
The nine victims who lost their lives, all males, have now been identified by the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office. Initially, eight fatalities were reported, but the number grew to nine after a victim succumbed to his wounds Wednesday evening, the coroner's office confirms to PEOPLE.
Below is a list of the nine victims and what PEOPLE has learned about them so far. This post will be updated as more information becomes available.
Taptejdeep Singh, 36
Relatives now grieving the death of 36-year-old VTA light rail operator Taptejdeep Singh have learned from co-workers that the married father-of-two, including a 1-year-old daughter, helped save lives Wednesday morning, taking quick action to warn others after gunfire rang out.
Singh, family members told The Mercury News, heard gunshots and ran from a secured office, where others had taken cover.
"He always thought about others," his uncle, Sakhwant Dhillon, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He told people, 'be careful, hide.' He was running around the building to save others' lives."
Singh's cousin, Bagga Singh, said he was told his brother "put a lady in a control room to hide. He saved her and rushed down the stairway."
His body, Bagga said, was found in that stairwell. "He should have saved his life, too. We lost a good person."
A GoFundMe page has been posted by Singh's family to help alleviate various financial stresses and set his small children up for future success.
Alex Ward Fritch, 49
Alex Fritch was “the life of the party” and always “the most interesting man in the room,” his wife, Terra, tells PEOPLE.
When Fritch, the final victim to die from Wednesday’s mass shooting, took his last breath on Wednesday evening, Terra was laying in a hospital bed beside him.
“The nurse came in because the ventilators started beeping,” says Terra. “And she said, ‘He knows you’re here. He’s crying.’ And at that moment, his heart stopped. … And I laid with him for as long as I could.”
Fritch had an unparalleled passion for everything he did, his wife says. He had a special fondness for tiki crawls, Star Wars and dirt bikes — something that he and Terra bonded over when they met. The two married at the courthouse six months after meeting.
“We were supposed to go to Hawaii in September and renew our wedding vows and have a wedding that we never got to have and the honeymoon we never got to have,” Terra says through tears. “He never got to go to Hawaii. He never got to see his 50th birthday. Our child's graduating next week and he's [not] going to see it.”
Fritch is survived by his wife and three children, ages 30, 18, and 16. He was the sole provider for his family, and a GoFundMe has been established to help support them financially.
Lars Kepler Lane, 63
This Saturday, Lars Lane's family planned to hold a barbecue to celebrate his 64th birthday.
"He was just amazing," his wife of 22 years, Vicki Lane, tells PEOPLE. "He is a loving, loving husband and father. He's loved by all."
Lane, 63, was an overhead lineman who worked at Valley Transportation Authority since 1999. "He handled all the power for the light rails," says Vicki.
He loved golfing, biking and barbecuing. He coached Little League baseball, was teaching his grandson to fix cars and always had a puzzle in progress.
"He is a handyman that could do anything. Either he could be a mechanic or a plumber," his wife says. "He could build anything."
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up on Vicki's behalf to help cover the costs of a funeral and memorial.
Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63
Abdi Alaghmandan, 63, a substation manager, worked for the Valley Transportation Authority for 20 years.
"He brought so much joy and laughter to our lives and he's going to be missed so much," his son's girlfriend, Megan Staker, tells PEOPLE. "He's just so amazing and I can't believe he's gone. He shouldn't be gone."
Alaghmandan moved to the U.S. with his wife and two sons in the 1990s from Tehran, Iran.
"He worked so hard for his family because he wanted them to have a good life," Staker says. "He was such a selfless man, so generous and giving."
Staker set up a GoFundMe for Alaghmandan to cover the costs of a memorial and help the family carry on without him.
Timothy Michael Romo, 49
Tim Romo was an overhead line worker at the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority and had worked at the VTA for 20 years, KSBW reports. He is remembered for more than his role as a VTA supervisor, though.
"He will be truly and deeply missed," his friend and neighbor, Mary Baldwin, 54, tells PEOPLE.
When Baldwin's husband was out of town, Romo mowed her lawn. He fixed the brakes on the Baldwins' car and helped tear out the flooring in their home.
"If my husband was hunting, Tim and his wife would check on me and make sure I was okay," Baldwin says. "You couldn't ask for better friends, neighbors. They're like family."
Romo had two dogs, Scooby and Lucky. He was a Raiders fan, loved college football and played darts.
"He will forever live in our hearts and be remembered as the funny, caring, selfless man that he was," reads a GoFundMe page created to support Romo's family. According to the fundraiser, he leaves behind his wife, five children, and two grandchildren.
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35
Substation mechanic Jose Dejesus Hernandez III spent his life "worshipping the Lord and just helping people," his ex-wife, Sarah, told NBC News.
"He was the most loving, romantic and giving man that I have ever known," she said. "I'm at a loss for words."
The pair were married 11 years and divorced only last August; she said her younger brother still looked up to her ex and they were "like best friends."
"This isn't about me," Sarah wrote on Facebook, "it's about his life and may he always be remembered for the amazing man, friend and son he was."
Hernandez had worked for the VTA since 2012, and worked his way up from his start as a transit mechanic, the company said at a news conference Thursday.
Hernandez's family has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his memorial.
Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40
According to San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez, his close, childhood friend, Michael Rudometkin, was killed in Wednesday's violence at the VTA.
"There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family," the councilman wrote in a post to Facebook, hours after the shooting. "Eight families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well."
Speaking to The New York Times, Rudometkin's cousin, Christina Gonzalez, said he had attended a union meeting at the light rail facility that morning.
Rudometkin, she said, was "a very good person" who had "loved his job and just always stood up for everyone's rights."
Paul Delacruz Megia, 42
Paul Megia, 42, spent his final moments trying to save his coworkers, his sister, Luci Megia, tells PEOPLE. "He's a hero," she says. "He didn't have to do that, but he did."
NBC News reports that Megia has worked for the VTA since 2003 — first as a bus operator trainee, and then as a light rail operator. He later held several supervisory positions, including his most recent role as an assistant superintendent in service management.
Megia loved wakeboarding, deep sea fishing and taking his kids hiking in Yosemite. He has three biological kids — ages 10, 13, and 22 — and a stepson, who is 10. This weekend, the family planned to go to Disneyland to celebrate his son's eighth-grade graduation.
"Everyone's heartbroken," says Luci, who spoke to her brother every day. "Everyone felt like he was his best friend — that's how he made people feel."
"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," his wife, Nicole Yamada, said in a statement. "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."
Megia's loved ones have created a GoFundMe page to raise funds and support his children's futures.
Adrian Balleza, 29
Adrian Balleza, a San Jose resident, was married with a 2-year-old son. Social media shows he worked as a light rail operator for the VTA, where his supervisor says he was always thinking of fun activities to organize for co-workers, reports The New York Times.
Phil Guzman, a friend of Balleza's, wrote a tribute to him, saying that seeing Balleza was sometimes the highlight of his day.
"It was kinda like having a younger cousin around when you were there," Guzman wrote on Facebook. "Adrian Balleza, my friend, I will truly miss talking trash with you. I miss you, my friend."
The Times reports that in response to Balleza's death, his wife, Heather, said, "The world needs more people like my husband, not one less. He was my night and day. The best father and husband … my forever angel."
Balleza's family launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Heather and his son following the tragedy.
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