Horror, heroism mark deadly shooting at San Jose railyard

California

Taptejdeep Singh died trying to save others from a gunman. Kirk Bertolet saw some of his co-workers take their last breaths.

Friends, family and survivors were mourning nine men killed this week when a disgruntled employee hauling a duffel bag full of guns and ammunition opened fire at a California rail yard complex, apparently choosing his targets and sparing others.

Investigators were still trying to determine what might have set off Cassidy, who for years apparently held a grudge against his workplace. San Jose police said Friday that they determined a suspicious package at his home was safe. But investigators believe he set a timer or slow-burn device to start a fire at the house at the same time he attacked his co-workers.

The victims were Alex Ward Fritch, 49; Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Taptejdeep Singh, 36; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez, 35; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63; and Lars Kepler Lane, 63.

The minutes-long attack was marked by both horror and heroism.

Singh, the father of a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter, was on an early shift as a light rail operator when the shooting began.

He called another transit employee to warn him, saying he needed to get out or hide.

“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,” co-worker Sukhvir Singh, who is not related to Taptejdeep Singh, said in a statement.

Bagga Singh said he was told that his cousin “put a lady in a control room to hide,” The Mercury News in San Jose reported. “He saved her and rushed down the stairway.”

Singh’s brother-in-law, P.J. Bath, said he was told Singh was killed after encountering the gunman in a stairwell.

“He just happened to be in the way, I guess,” Bath said.

Bertolet, 64, was just starting his shift when shots rang out, then he heard the screams. He and his co-workers threw a table in front of their door, and Bertolet called the control center.

Then there was silence.

Cautiously, Bertolet left the barricaded office, hoping he could offer first aid. He couldn’t.

Bertolet, a signal maintenance worker who worked in a separate unit from Cassidy, said he is convinced Cassidy targeted his victims, because he didn’t hurt some people he encountered.

“He was pissed off at certain people. He was angry, and he took his vengeance out on very specific people. He shot people. He let others live,” he said.

Glenn Hendricks, chairman of the transit authority’s board of directors, said he had no information about any tensions between Cassidy and the co-workers he shot.

Cassidy fired 39 bullets. Camera footage showed him calmly walking from one building to another with his duffel bag to complete the slaughter, authorities said.

“It appears to us at this point that he said to one of the people there: ‘I’m not going to shoot you,’” Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said. “And then he shot other people. So I imagine there was some kind of thought on who he wanted to shoot.”

Cassidy’s ex-wife said he had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago. Cecilia Nelms told The Associated Press that he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.

He also spoke of hating his workplace when customs officers detained him after a 2016 trip to the Philippines, a Biden administration official told the AP.

A Department of Homeland Security memo said Cassidy also had notes on how he hated the Valley Transportation Authority, according to the official. The official saw the memo and detailed its contents to the AP but was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the memo.

It doesn’t say why he was stopped by customs officers. It said he had books about “terrorism and fear and manifestos” but when he was asked whether he had issues with people at work, he said no. The memo notes that Cassidy had a “minor criminal history,” citing a 1983 arrest in San Jose and charges of “misdemeanor obstruction/resisting a peace officer.”

San Jose police said in a statement through Mayor Sam Liccardo’s office that they sought an FBI history on Cassidy and found no record of federal arrests or convictions.

“Whatever this detention at the border was, it did not result in an arrest that showed up on his FBI criminal history, and it was not reported to SJPD,” the statement said.

Neighbors, acquaintances and an ex-girlfriend described him as a loner, unfriendly and prone at times to fits of anger.

Documents show he had worked at the transit authority since at least 2012. Bertolet said Cassidy worked regularly with the victims but he always seemed to be an outsider and perhaps couldn’t take the rough humor of colleagues.

“He was never in the group. He was never accepted by anybody there. He was always that guy that was never partaking in anything that the people were doing,” Bertolet said.

Sheriff’s officials said the three 9mm handguns Cassidy brought to the rail yard appear to be legal. Authorities have not said how he obtained them.

He also had 32 high-capacity magazines, some with 12 rounds. In California, it is illegal to buy magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. However, if Cassidy obtained them before Jan. 1, 2000, he would have been allowed to have them unless he was otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.

Correction: This post has been updated to correct the relationship between Bagga Singh and Taptejdeep Singh. They were cousins.

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