DEVASTATED neighbors of San Jose rail yard mass shooting victim Adrian Balleza have described him as a “great guy who loved to make people smile”.
Adrian, 29, was among nine Valley Transportation Authority who were gunned down by co-worker Sam Cassidy, 57, on Wednesday morning.
Married father-of-one Adrian began working for VTA as a bus operator trainee in 2014 and later became a maintenance worker and light rail operator.
His next door neighbor Beatrice Trotter, 55, told The Sun spoke of the devastation felt by Adrian’s community in Gilroy, Northern California.
Beatrice said: “It’s so sad, Adrian was a very good guy. All this gun violence is terrible.
“Adrian had lived here about two years and he was a wonderful Christian and a loving father, husband and neighbor.
“He was very neighborly and respectful, it’s so unfair that this happened to him.
“Adrian loved his job and what he loved about it were the people that he met while working.
“He just loved making people smile. He was a very caring guy. “He loved meeting people on his job.
“Adrian was married to his wife Heather and they have a young son.
“I spoke with Heather after it happened and of course she was very distraught. We’re all devastated.
“When I woke up I saw what had happened and I sent Adrian a text and called his phone.
“I left a couple of messages but he didn’t answer.“I never thought in a million years that it would be him that had been killed.”
Cassidy took his own life with one pair of the weapons authorities say he was carrying just as law enforcement descended onto grounds.
Authorities confirmed that Cassidy did not engage in any gunfire with the responding officers.
Authorities say the 57-year-old shooter was heavily armed on Wednesday morning with three 9 mm handguns and 32 high-capacity magazines, some with 12 rounds.
The officials painted Cassidy as a "highly disgruntled VTA employee for many years,” and suspect those pent-up grievances may have inspired him to commit the attack.
Cassidy fired on his coworkers at around 6:30 a.m. throughout two buildings on the VTA premises.
Bomb squad team members were canvassing the premises after a batch of bomb materials were discovered inside Cassidy’s locker.
Prior to the mass shooting and purported suicide, Cassidy was captured getting ready to head to work for the last time.
A neighbor’s Nest cam captured him lifting a large dark duffel bag into his white Ford pickup truck as he wore a facemask and official reflector train uniform.
His Angmar Court home would go up in flames after rigged timers or slow-burn device went off just as the shooting at the VTA erupted, sheriff’s told the AP.
A witness managed to videotape the same home bursting with flames and clouded in dark smoke as firefighters tirelessly work to put it out.
The initial bodycount was eight innocent lives lost as well as Cassidy’s. But on Thursday after the medical examiner released the eight slain, confirmed a ninth victim as 49-year-old Alex Ward Fitch who succumbed to injuries died at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
Paul Delacruz Megia, 42; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Timothy Romo, 49; Abdolvahab Alaghmandan 63; and Michael Rudometkin, 40, Lars Lane, 63, Taptejdeep Singh, 42, were also among those killed.
A vigil was held to honor those whose lives were taken in Wednesday's bloodshed.
Lars Lane, 63, was one of the oldest of the nine transit train workers to die in the gunfire.
Several others were wounded in the assault.
His family claimed there was “no reason” for accused mass murder Cassidy to target him as the two never had any quarrels.
Speaking from Lars’s home in San Jose, his son Michael Lane told The Sun: “We haven’t been told anything about why this happened."
“There was no reason why he (Cassidy) would have an issue with my dad," Michael said. "My dad said he (Cassidy) was a quiet guy, he would say ‘Hi’ and respond if talked to but for the most part kept to himself."
“My dad had never had any problems at all with him and there was no suspicions that anything like this would happen."
Speaking from Lars’s home in San Jose, his son Michael Lane told The Sun:
“We haven’t been told anything about why this happened."
“There was no reason why he (Cassidy) would have an issue with my dad," Michael continued. "My dad said he (Cassidy) was a quiet guy, he would say ‘Hi’ and respond if talked to but for the most part kept to himself."
Light rail operator Taptejdeep Singh reportedly left an office to help other escape, the Mercury News reported.
His uncle Sakhwant Dhillion said: "He told people, 'be careful, hide'. He was running around the building to save others' lives."
In fact, surviving coworkers informed Singh’s family that the selfless man pushed a fellow train colleague into a room to protect her from Cassidy and went on to frantically warn others about the attack that the man taking place.
“He just saved her and then after that he go toward the downstairs,” Singh’s cousin Bagga Singh told KPIX. “We lost a good person, he’s a very good person.”
Singh's brother-in-law wasn’t surprised by the heroics, describing him as always "helpful" and "caring."
Councilman Raul Peralez paid tribute to Michael Rudometkin on Facebook.
He posted: “My heart is broken, I still don’t want to believe this… Mikey was all around the greatest guy.”
Air Force Veteran Timothy Romo had worked at VTA for over two decades.
“He was a very friendly man, always ready to help you out,” Romo’s neighbor Nancy Martin told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Cassidy worked at the VTA as a maintenance worker, police said.
He had been an employee at the VTA dating back at least since 2012, according to Transparent California.
His father, 88-year-old James Cassidy, told The Daily Beast that his son "seemed completely himself" in the days leading up to the shooting.
"He didn't talk about his job or politics. I just found out he was dead and his house on fire and all that a minute ago," he said.
"It's really…. I really, really don’t want to… I guess I have to just kind of absorb it all myself. I don’t really have any information anyway, so… sorry."
Cassidy’s ex-wife Cecilia Nelms remembered the man as being extremely moody.
“He had two sides,” Nelms, 64, told the Canon City Daily Record. “When he was in a good mood he was a great guy. When he was mad, he was mad."
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