Scores of families, friends await word on loved ones after San Jose mass shooting

·3 min read
SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 26: People leave a gathering point for family members and VTA employees on May 26, 2021 in San Jose, California. A VTA employee opened fire at the yard, with preliminary reports indicating nine people dead including the gunman. (Photo by Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)
People leave a gathering point for family members and VTA employees in San Jose, California. (Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)

Hours after the mass shooting in San Jose on Wednesday, Bagga Singh waited at a Red Cross center with other family members to learn the fate of his cousin, 30, a train operator and father of two small children.

Singh, a resident of Union City, said a location tracking device showed his cousin’s phone was still in one of the buildings where the shooting occurred. He and other family members have called it several times, and it just rings, he said.

He said his cousin was one of several relatives, immigrants from India, who work for the transit agency, but the cousin was the only one on duty Wednesday morning.

“We’re just waiting for news,” Singh said. No one, not even the hospitals, can provide any information, he said. He said the family hoped his cousin might be with law enforcement being interviewed.

“There is nothing we can do,” he said. “We are here together to help each other.”

Scores of family members and friends of victims sought answers Wednesday after a gunman killed eight people at a San Jose light rail yard and was soon found dead with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said. All those shot were employees of the Valley Transportation Authority, and late Wednesday, the shooter's motive remained unclear.

The mass shooting took place in downtown San Jose, amid a cluster of public buildings, including those for the San Jose police and Santa Clara sheriff’s departments. Both were able to respond quickly, and officers could still hear shots being fired when they neared the VTA rail yard, according to Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

Santa Clara County quickly set up a reunification center a few blocks from the massacre. Family members waiting there were moved in the afternoon to a Red Cross chapter several miles away in an industrial section of San Jose.

Chavez visited the reunification center early Wednesday and said family members were "hurting" but getting help and support.

She described VTA employees as a tight-knit family, where everyone knows one another.

Kasey Halcon, director of victim services for the county district attorney, said that VTA employees and family members trickled into the reunification center all morning.

“There is a lot of grief and a lot of uncertainty," Halcon said. "There is also a lot of community support."

Bagga Singh waits outside a Red Cross center with other family members to learn the fate of his cousin.
Bagga Singh waits outside a Red Cross center with other family members to learn the fate of his cousin, 30, a train operator who might have been at the site of a mass shooting in San Jose. (Maura Dolan/ The Times)

Waiting outside the Red Cross, Singh said his cousin’s wife was with other family members inside the Red Cross, but they planned to send her home while they continued the vigil.

“It’s tense, you know, very tense,” he said. Some people were crying, he said.

“Missing, you know, is like a big problem,” he added.

His cousin, whom Singh declined to identify by name, has worked for the VTA for several years, he said. “He is a very hard worker.”

Earlier, Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke to several family members inside the county reunification center. Newsom said many were in pain.

“They are waiting to know if their loved ones are alive," Newsom said. "They are dialing their loved ones, and they can’t find them.”

Newsom described them as “desperate to find out if their brother, their son, their dad or their mom is still alive.”

“The fact that they can even stand up and support one another is remarkable,” Newsom said.

A vigil for the victims was being planned for Thursday at 6 p.m. outside San Jose City Hall.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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