Remembering the 9 we lost in the VTA mass shooting

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The San Jose community and VTA family lost nine beloved people on Wednesday, May 26 to a senseless shooting at the railyard.

(Courtesy: VTA)

Here is what we’ve learned about the victims and their lives.

Lars Lane

Lars Lane

One of the victims has been identified as Lars Lane, his family confirms to KRON4’s sister station KTXL.

Lane was a father, husband, grandfather and brother. He became an electro mechanic with VTA in 2001. Later, he was a overhead line worker.

Michael Rudometkin

Michael Rudometkin

Michael “Mikey” Rudometkin was identified as a victim killed in Wednesday’s shooting, according to San Jose officials. He became a VTA mechanic in 2013 then an electro-mechanic and overhead line worker.

Raul Peralez, a friend of Rudometkin, told KRON4 he was waiting to hear about his friend, who he has now confirmed died.

Peralez talked about the heartache after losing his close friend.

“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 wrote on Facebook. “Eight 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 and I will be spending some much needed time amongst family and friends tonight. Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out and offered your thoughts and support.”

Rose Rudometkin, Michael’s mother, shared this statement about her son:

“It is with heavy hearts that we lost our son to a ruthless disgruntled employee of VTA.  Our son was attending a union meeting at the time this occurred.  He was very passionate about his union affiliation.  He had just turned 40 and still had more to live and accomplished.  He has always been a wonderful son, brother, loving husband, uncle, cousin and friend to many.  He would give his last penny and shirt off his back.  Anyone could call him for help and he’d be there.  He attended Cupertino schools, was a Youth Minister and Pastoral Council member at Queen of Apostles Church in San Jose, CA. Michael graduated from Evergreen CollegeCum Laude and became one of the youngest Auto master technicians.  He enjoyed sports of all kinds, golf enthusiast, cars, working at home, and the Russian River.”

Taptejdeep Singh

Taptejdeep Singh (provided by family)

Family identified 36-year-old Taptejdeep Singh as a victim of Wednesday’s shooting.

He is survived by his 3-year-old son, 1-year-old daughter and wife.

His brother Karman Singh released the following statement, via the Sikh Coalition:

“We are beyond devastated by the loss of Taptejdeep, a beloved father, husband, brother, son, and nephew. He was a wonderful person who was committed to serving others at work and in his free time.” 

“We take some measure of comfort in what we have learned from eyewitnesses and others: Taptejdeep 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. We understand that he was attempting to secure his building when he was killed.” 

“Even in these moments of chaos, Taptejdeep was living by the values of Sikhi: living in service and protection of others. We believe that if the shooter had ever asked our brother for help, Taptejdeep would have gone above and beyond for him like he did for everyone he crossed paths with; he never harmed anyone, and no one who knew him would ever want to harm him. We choose to remember Taptejdeep as the hero he was, both in those final moments and throughout his life of service.”

The victim’s family also said that they were told Taptejdeep spent his last moments trying to save other employees. He made a call to another VTA employee to warn him. The employee said:

“Taptejdeep called me to warn me that there was an active shooter in Building B and to go hide or get out immediately. He told me he was with Paul, another victim, at the time. From what I’ve heard, he spent the last moments of his life making sure that others–in the building and elsewhere–would be able to stay safe. Because of him, so many people were able to go home to their families. We will never forget how he lived to the highest ideals of Sikhi in a moment of crisis, and my prayers are with his family and the families of all those who lost loved ones in this horrific attack.”

He was a bus operator trainee in 2014, and then became a rail operator.

Paul DelaCruz Megia

This photo provided by the family shows Paul with his children from left to right: Avery, Paul, Gavin and Nate

Paul DelaCruz Megia, 42, was identified as one of the victims in the shooting. Paul was the son of Leonard and Edna, the brother of Luci and Julie, and the father of Nate, Gavin and Avery.

He was a bus operator trainee from 2002. He moved on to becoming a light rail operator, transportation supervisor, transit division supervisor, ultimately an assistant superintendent in service management.

Adrian Balleza

Adrian Balleza, 29, was kind-hearted and the type of colleague who tried to make work fun for his co-workers, a Valley Transportation Authority colleague told a news conference Thursday.

Balleza joined the VTA in 2014 as a bus operator trainee and then became a maintenance worker and light-rail operator, said Glenn Hendricks, chair of the authority’s board.

He is survived by his wife, Heather Balleza, and 2-year-old son.

Jose Dejesus Hernandez III

Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35, could fix anything, loved his hobbies and lived life with zest, according to his family.

The Dublin, California, resident was a substation maintainer who had been partnered with Samuel Cassidy, the man who authorities say gunned down Hernandez and eight others, said his father, Jose Dejesus Hernandez II, a retired Valley Transportation Authority employee. He said he was not aware of issues Cassidy may have had with his son or others.

“He was somebody who was so fair. A very, very fair person and always leaning to the right side of things, always looking for the right thing to do,” said Hernandez, crying at times in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. “He was a really good guy, a great kid, and now he’s gone.”

“I feel really sorry for all those families because these things aren’t supposed to happen. I feel sorry for the family or even the person who did this thing,” he said.

Jesus Hernandez’s former wife, Sarah, said waiting to find out what happened Wednesday was torturous. She tried to channel her former husband’s logic and calm.

“I just tried to be very logical and think, ‘Thousands of people work there, there’s no way, let’s just wait to hear and not get worked up, I’m sure he’s fine, I’m sure he’s on scene and he can’t have his phone,’” Sarah Hernandez said.

Timothy Michael Romo

Timothy Michael Romo, 49, was an overhead line worker at the Valley Transportation Authority for 20 years, said Glenn Hendricks, chair of the VTA’s board.

He grew up in the Central Coast town of Greenfield, California, where his father, Mike Romo, was the mayor and police chief, for many years.

He is survived by his wife and three children, said Greenfield’s mayor, Lance Walker.

Abdolvahab Alaghmandan

(Valley Transportation Authority via AP)

63-year-old Abdolvahab Alaghmandan was identified as one of the victims in Wednesday’s shooting. He worked for VTA for about 20 years as a substation maintainer.

“He worked overtime. He worked through the entire pandemic,” Soheil said of his father. “He’s a tinkerer. He can fix anything.”

Alex Ward Fritch

Alex Fritch and wife Terra (Photo: Terra Fritch)

Alex Fritch, 49, died at a hospital late Wednesday, surrounded by his children and parents, said his wife, Terra Fritch of San Jose.

“He was our rock, my safe place to fall. He was the love of my life,” Fritch said.

The couple got married after having known each other for just six months and had been together 20 years. They were supposed to travel to Hawaii next September to renew their vows, she said.

“He always tried to look on the bright side of things. He loved Mr. Rogers. He watched him all the time. He loved the documentaries. He loved movies,” she said.

Fritch said she raced to the hospital after learning he had been shot. She said hospital staff moved him over in his bed so she could lie down with him.

“Alex was really fighting hard. He didn’t want to go anywhere, and I didn’t want him to go,” Fritch told the station.

This story will be updated as more information is provided.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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