A motorcyclist, a 'jack-of-all-trades': the victims of California railyard massacre

·4-min read
Police secure the scene of a mass shooting in San Jose

By Gabriella Borter and Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - To his friends, Lars Kepler Lane - also known as "Keppy" - was a laid back, ordinary guy who liked to spend time with family and take on projects outside his work at Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, California.

On Wednesday, Lane was one of nine people shot dead at the Northern California railyard where he worked when an employee opened fire on his coworkers. Also among the dead were an avid motorcyclist, a beloved supervisor and a young father.

Authorities are still investigating the motive of the employee who shot himself after opening fire at about 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday as the work day was beginning at a light-rail maintenance yard in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Lane, 63, was a husband, father, grandfather, and a brother to five siblings, said his childhood friend Brad Fisher, a truck driver, in a telephone interview. He was "an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things," Fisher said. An avid bicyclist and a "jack-of-all-trades," Lane loved doing projects at home like building a pool in his backyard.

Fisher, 66, said Lane was proud of his work at VTA, and one time showed Fisher around the railyard, even letting him operate a train for a minute for fun.

When Fisher heard the news about the shooting yesterday, he called his friend and got his voicemail, later learning of his friend's death from Lane's son.

"It was like a sucker punch to the gut," Fisher said.

Indian-born Taptejdeep Singh, 36, was a father of two and a "noble person" who enjoyed playing cricket, said his friend Kashmir Singh Shahi, a community outreach coordinator at the Gurdwara Sahib in Fremont.

Singh was active in his Sikh community and frequently volunteered at the gurdwara, his friend said.

He was always looking to help people – a trait that cost him dearly on Wednesday, his family said.

"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," his brother Karman Singh said in a statement. "We understand that he was attempting to secure his building when he was killed."

Paul Delacruz Megia, 42, left behind three children, local television station KRON4 News reported. Megia was remembered by friends on social media for his good humor. In a Facebook post, his childhood friend Monica Lennon wrote that Megia had a "special twinkle" in his eye and told "dorky jokes."

"Thank you for making my life so much brighter because of your infectious smile," Lennon wrote.

Phil Guzman, who said he worked with a few of the victims, wrote on Facebook that Megia was "one of the best supervisors I've ever worked for."

"Never too busy to listen to whatever stupid, silly or crazy thoughts I had. A truly honest and genuine person," Guzman said of Megia.

Guzman also knew Adrian Balleza, a 29-year-old victim of Wednesday's shooting. Balleza posted many photos of his wife and young son on his Facebook page.

Michael Rudometkin, 40, was a motorcycle buff, according to his Facebook profile. When he posted on Facebook in December 2018 that he'd joined the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority as an Overhead Line Worker, his mother Rose Rudometkin wrote: "Congratulations son!"

San Jose City Council member Raul Peralez, who represents the district where the shooting occurred, told reporters on Thursday that he had lost a lifelong friend in Rudometkin.

"My dad and I were just planning another golf day reunion with Mikey, and now that will never happen again," Peralez wrote in a Facebook post. "There are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now."

Alex Fritch, 49, succumbed to his wounds at a hospital late on Wednesday. His wife, Tara, told television station KTVU that he died in her arms, with friends and family nearby.

The couple has two teenage boys and a 30-year-old daughter. They had planned to travel to Hawaii in September to renew their vows after 20 years of marriage.

"He was our rock," Tara Fritch said.

According to authorities, the other victims are: Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, Timothy Michael Romo and Abdolvahab Alaghmandan.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter, Alexandra Ulmer and Joseph Ax; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and David Gregorio)

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