By Ritchel Mendiola and Caroline Giovanie
A FILIPINO father was among the nine employees killed at a San Jose rail yard on Wednesday, May 26, marking California’s deadliest mass shooting this year.
Paul Delacruz Megia and eight other Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) workers were fatally shot by a disgruntled colleague on Wednesday.
The 42-year-old was supposed to be working from home, but was called in to report to the light rail yard facility during the early morning shift, according to various sources.
Megia, who immigrated from the Philippines as a toddler, joined the VTA in 2002 as a bus operator trainee and held various positions, including light rail operator. He was most recently an assistant superintendent in service management at the time of his death.
He is remembered by colleagues and family for always having a smile on his face and as someone who spent time with his children on days off.
Megia leaves behind his parents Leonard and Edna Megia, his wife Nicole, their four children — two sons, a daughter and a stepson — and two sisters. Megia had reportedly planned a family vacation to Disneyland in the coming holiday weekend, according to the New York Times.
“He tried his best to make his family live the American dream. He’s a good son, you know. He does the right thing, you know? You can’t say anything bad about him. I’m gonna miss him,” Leonard Megia told CBS San Francisco.
A GoFundMe page has been started for Megia’s children with a $25,000 goal, as of this writing.
He was described as “a hardworking family man who was very caring and always saw the positive in life” in the description of the page.
“He would greet you with his bright shining smile and warm wishes…He will be missed by so many. Especially his wonderfully close family. His wife Nicole, step-son Kyle, father Leonard, mother Edna, Sisters Julie and Luci and his three beautiful children Nate, Gavin and Avery,” it added.
The Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco confirmed Megia’s death with the Asian Journal and that he was of Filipino descent, saying they “stand ready to extend assistance.”
“The Consulate General in San Francisco extends its condolences to the families of the victims of the mass shooting in San Jose on 26 May 2021,” the Consulate said in an email to the Asian Journal. “The Consulate shall coordinate with authorities in San Jose and monitor developments.”
The gunman, identified as 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy, worked at the light rail facility and had reportedly written in detail about how he hated his workplace.
He began firing at colleagues during a shift change and killed himself as law enforcement came on the scene on Wednesday morning, according to Santa Clara County Sheriff Deputy Russell Davis.
Cassidy had been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after returning from a trip to the Philippines on August 8, 2016, during which they found a black memo notebook describing his ill feelings toward the VTA as well as “books about terrorism and fear and manifestos,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
“He…was targeting certain people. He walked by other people,” Kirk Bertolet, a worker at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), said in a CNN interview on Wednesday night. “He let other people live as he gunned other people down.”
In addition to Megia, the other victims of the shooting have been named by the Santa Clara County medical examiner’s office: Abdolvahad Alaghmandan, 63; Adrian Balleza, 29; Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35; Lars Kepler Lane, 63; Timothy Michael Romo, 49; Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40; and Taptejdeep Singh, 36.
Alex Fritch, 49, the ninth victim of the shooting, died at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) extended its condolences to the loved ones of Megia, who was the AFSCME assistant superintendent.
“Sadly, our AFSCME family lost a member in the tragic shooting, Assistant Superintendent Paul DelaCruz Megia, a father of three (Nate, Gavin, and Avery) who risked his life while trying to keep his staff safe,” it said in a statement released May 27.
AFSCME 1902 Executive President Alan Shanahan, for his part, said the organization stands in solidarity with the VTA victims.
“The members of AFSCME Local 1902 stand in solidarity with our fellow VTA members as they deal with this travesty in the workplace,” he said.
“Each day, public servants such as those in VTA serve the public with pride, and it is deeply saddening that some of our brothers do not get to go home to their families,” he added.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said those who knew the suspect for years “expressed generalized concerns about his mental health.”
“This is a horrific day for our city,” Liccardo said. “And it’s a tragic day for the V.T.A family.”
The Filipino Americans of Northern California Organization (FANCO) also shared their statement regarding the shooting, emphasizing the need for mental health resources for employees.
“I think anybody that does these mass killings have a lot of resentment and anger in their psyche,” FANCO President Maria Marsella said in an interview with Asian Journal. “It would be great if employers could make it part of their benefits to give employees a health account. We are imperfect people, so we need to seek help.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom condemned Wednesday’s incident, describing the “numbness” and “sameness” to yet another mass killing.
“And that numbness I think is something we’re all feeling. All of us gathered here today, looking at the scene, listening to governors, mayors, chiefs speaking in similar tone and terms, expression of condolences. All the right emotions and perhaps the right words, but it begs the damn question: What the hell is going on in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us?” the governor said.
For his part, President Joe Biden issued a statement on the shooting, urging Congress “to take immediate action” to end gun violence in America.
“Enough,” Biden said in a statement. “Once again, I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners, to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America. Every life that is taken by a bullet pierces the soul of our nation. We can, and we must, do more.”
Biden said he “yet again” ordered the lowering of the flag at half staff; weeks after doing the same thing for previous shootings, namely in Atlanta, Georgia, Boulder, Colorado, Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Indianapolis, Indiana.
The president issued a statement regarding gun violence in April, calling it an “epidemic” and “international embarrassment.”
In the statement, Biden urged the Attorney General and his team to identify “immediate, concrete actions” he can take without having to go through Congress including the control the production of “ghost guns” — weapons with no serial numbers to trace and require no background checks for buyers — and treating them as firearms under the Gun Control Act, changing the treatment of modified pistols with stabilizing braces under the National Firearms Act, allowing states to adopt extreme risk protection order laws like red flag laws more easily.
“This is an epidemic, for God’s sake,” Biden said. “And it has to stop.”