Democracy Dies in Darkness
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and officials shared details and reactions after a San Jose
transit system employee killed at least nine co-workers on May 26. (James Cornsilk, Whitney
Leaming/The Washington Post)
May 27, 2021 at 6:15 a.m. EDT
SAN JOSE — A transit system employee in San Jose opened fire Wednesday morning at a lightrail facility, killing at least nine people before shooting himself, officials said.
Investigators confirmed little about the attacker Wednesday, saying they were still searching for
a possible motive. They declined to say whether they thought any of the victims had been
Authorities fanned out on multiple fronts Wednesday, with a bomb squad scouring the facility
after a dog indicated potential explosives, while other law enforcement officials gathered at a
San Jose house that was on fire and was believed to be linked to the gunman.
The shooting rampage shook this city in the heart of Silicon Valley and reverberated across a
country painfully familiar with devastating gun violence. The bloodshed came just weeks after
recent massacres in Indianapolis, the Atlanta area and Boulder, Colo., in which people were
killed while doing their jobs.
“This is a horrific day for our city,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.
Fearing mass shooters, employers turn to workers to monitor their peers
Authorities late on Wednesday named the victims as Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29;
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40;
Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; and Alex Ward
They confirmed that at least some worked with the shooter at the Valley Transportation
Authority, among more than 2,000 employees of an agency that operates light rail and bus
services in Santa Clara County. Liccardo praised the transit system’s workers for persevering
through the coronavirus pandemic, noting that they had been among those who risked potential
exposure by going in to work.
“These are the women and men who supported our communities through this pandemic,”
Liccardo said. “They showed up at work every day as essential workers, despite risks to their
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on May 26 said it’s time to deal with gun violence following
a San Jose rail yard shooting that left at least eight dead. (AP)
Police say they began getting 911 calls about gunfire at the light-rail yard shortly after 6:30 a.m.
Wednesday. This facility is near the sheriff’s offices, police department and the city’s
international airport. Laurie Smith, the Santa Clara County sheriff, said deputies rushed to the
scene while shots were still being fired.
The deputies who responded did not exchange any gunfire with the shooter, and officials think
he shot and killed himself, said Russell Davis, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s
This sudden burst of violence added San Jose to the grim roster of communities shaken by mass
shootings. It came just weeks after a former employee killed eight people at an Indianapolis
FedEx facility, an attack that followed massacres at a Boulder supermarket and three Atlantaarea spas in which a combined 18 people were fatally shot.
These places were communal areas — including schools, churches, synagogues, shopping malls,
bars and nightclubs — where someone has opened fire.
The San Jose region has not been immune to such violence. In 2019, a 19-year-old fatally shot
three people, two of them children, during an attack at a food festival in Gilroy, Calif., about 40
minutes from downtown San Jose.
Speaking Wednesday in San Jose, California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the Gilroy
shooting and described the “sameness” that surrounds such mass shootings. By now, these
attacks are followed by a well-established pattern in which officials make mournful
pronouncements, communities hold anguished vigils and then, eventually, a similar attack occurs
“It just feels like this happens over and over and over again,” Newsom (D) said. “Rinse and
repeat, rinse and repeat. . . . It begs the damn question, what the hell is going on in the United
States of America?”
Newsom spoke after visiting with families awaiting word on their relatives, “just desperate to
find out if their brother, their son, their dad, their mom, is still alive,” he said.
Outside a Red Cross facility where families were gathering, Bagga Singh waited for answers
about Taptejdeep Singh, his cousin, who he said worked as a train operator.
Singh said his family has several members working for the transit agency, and they used location
tracking to find the cousin’s phone. It remained inside the transit facility and their calls to it went
Now, he said, they were in the midst of an excruciating wait to find out whether he was okay.
“His cellphone location is showing in the building,” Singh said. “Those people [who] are already
out in the parking lot, they run away, they’re here. He is missing. Very scary.”
“You think positive and negative,” he said, “you never know.”
Taptejdeep Singh was later identified as one of the victims killed in the shooting.
Christina Gonzalez was also waiting to see whether her cousin, who was missing, would turn up
Wednesday. “I just pray that he’s okay,” she said through tears. “We don’t know anything —
they’re not telling us anything. Just waiting and praying and hoping he’s okay.”
Amalgamated Transit Union International President John A. Costa said the national group was
organizing support for victims and members of its local chapter, ATU Local 265.
“We are working to provide support and assistance to the victims’ families, and everyone
impacted by this tragic event,” he said.
Smoke poured from a San Jose house believed to be connected to the shooting. (Andy Abad)
News of the San Jose shooting rippled across the country, and it was invoked even as Republican
senators on Capitol Hill were questioning David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to lead the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about his past commentary on gun
ownership. Chipman, a former ATF special agent, has for the past five years been a policy
adviser at the gun-control advocacy group Giffords.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) was one of several Democrats at the hearing who noted that
Chipman was speaking to senators even as police were responding to yet another mass shooting.
“This is a gun-happy nation,” she said.
“Unfortunately we’re not making the laws that can protect people from this kind of gun crimes,”
Biden issued a statement noting that “yet again,” he had to order flags flown at half-staff in
honor of shooting victims. He called on Congress to act on gun violence.
“There are at least eight families who will never be whole again,” he said. “There are children,
parents, and spouses who are waiting to hear whether someone they love is ever going to come
home. There are union brothers and sisters — good, honest, hardworking people — who are
mourning their own.”
Federal officials responded to the scene, with the FBI and ATF dispatching people to the
shooting. The FBI said it was sending investigators, an evidence response team and victim
The Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office dispatched its bomb squad to the facility after a dog detected
possible explosives, said Davis, the spokesman. The bomb squad would search “every crevice,”
Davis said, a process that would take time.
In addition to the eight people killed at the rail yard, one person was critically injured and taken
to a hospital, Davis said.
Joy Alexiou, a spokeswoman for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said the hospital received
two victims from the shooting, one of whom was dead on arrival and the other in critical
condition. Both were male, Alexiou said.
Laura Maciel, a landscaping worker, was heading to work at the sheriff’s office Wednesday
morning when she heard gunshots from the VTA facility and law enforcement officials blocked
“My stomach was just twisted up,” she said.
Soon after, Maciel said, she saw officers running toward the shooting and the gunfire stopped. “It
just went quiet,” she said.
“How can this man make a conscious decision to go in to work like that?” she said of the
attacker. “And to kill people he knows personally?”
The attacker’s connection to the transit agency where he opened fire carries echoes of previous
Researchers have found that shooters frequently target places they know, including current and
former workplaces. In a study released in 2018, the FBI looked at dozens of shooters and found
that most of them had some type of grievance they used to fuel their attacks. Many of these
grievances had something to do with the attackers’ work or relationships with others, the study
These attackers, researchers have found, often displayed behaviors that worried the people
around them beforehand. Most of them legally acquired their guns. In some cases, attackers
explicitly had expressed their potential for violence.
The Valley Transportation Authority light-rail maintenance yard in San Jose. (KGOTV/ABC7/AP)
While investigators released scant details about the gunman Wednesday, law enforcement
officials were seen outside a San Jose home believed to be connected with the gunman.
One official briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the
ongoing matter, said the gunman apparently set his home on fire before going to the rail yard and
The home sits on a quiet residential street, and residents said they heard a commotion in the
neighborhood early in the morning.
“I noticed a community officer with a few helicopters going by,” said Awne Elrabadi, 41, a real
estate agent who lives in the area and was having his morning coffee when he saw news crews
show up. “And I noticed some home that had smoke coming out of it.”
Andy Abad, 63, said he saw a tall plume of smoke followed by flames coming from a house
nearby and called 911 about 6:50 a.m.
“I looked in there, called 911 and the next thing I know there were flames,” he said.
Devlin Barrett, Justin George, John Wagner, Julie Tate and Alice Crites in Washington and
Meryl Kornfield in Miami contributed to this report.