VTA Shooting Victim Stories: Lars Kepler Lane – Folks Called Him 'Kep'

On Saturday, Lars Kepler Lane would've turned 64. "Kep," as he was called, was murdered in Wednesday morning's mass shooting at the VTA rail yard where he worked for about 20 years. Maria Medina reports. (5-28-21)

Video Transcript

KEN BASTIDA: Well, investigators have seized a cache of weapons and ammunition from the VTA shooter's San Jose home. And we're also learning the suspect set a time-delayed fire in his own house before the shooting. And while searching his home, investigators recovered a dozen firearms with high capacity magazines, 17 Molotov cocktails, and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition. The bomb squad also blew up a suspicious device that turned out to be a fake.

JOSEPH PIAZZA: We've been removing ammunition from the residence for about the past two days. The new estimate is roughly 25,000 rounds of ammunition in various calibers.

DOUG SUH: I didn't expect him to have all the stuff inside though. I thought he is a normal person. So I just found out, I was a little scared.

KEN BASTIDA: Investigators say the gunman left rounds of ammunition to slow cook in a pot on his stove that sparked the fire at his home at the same time that he started shooting his co-workers.

- One of the nine victims of Wednesday's mass shooting was just days away from his 64th birthday. Tonight, KPIX 5's Maria Medina spoke with the youngest son of Lars Kepler Lane at his dad's favorite spot.

MICHAEL KEPLER: He was so happy. He was always just so joyous and wonderful.

MARIA MEDINA: Michael Kepler Lane named after his father Lars Kepler Lane or Kep for short, spoke to us at his father's home under the gazebo that was Kep's happy place. What did he mean to you?

MICHAEL KEPLER: Everything.

MARIA MEDINA: The last time Michael saw his father was just this past Monday to help him with work in his backyard.

MICHAEL KEPLER: That's kind of where we left it.

MARIA MEDINA: And just the day before, Michael and his girlfriend Nicole Tong had taken out his dad and wife Vicki to dinner for his upcoming birthday.

MICHAEL KEPLER: He could not have had a better time, but that was-- that was who my dad was. He just-- there wasn't a moment-- he didn't leave anything on the table when it came to joy and happiness for any moment.

MARIA MEDINA: On Wednesday morning, Michael says he was on his way to work when he learned about the mass shooting at his dad's job, the VTA rail yard where he'd worked for 20 years.

MICHAEL KEPLER: One glimmer of hope that someone had seen my father after the fact. And I put so much weight and belief in that, that I really did think that that was true. I thought it was going to be OK up until the very moment that the sheriff told us that it wasn't.

MARIA MEDINA: After hours of waiting for answers, Michael and eight other families learned they'd lost someone in the shooting by a man described as a disgruntled employee.

MICHAEL KEPLER: My dad was in his work station, and it seemed like that he was trapped. He was-- he was cornered by a man with guns. So he had no escape, he was targeted. I assume if he did actually target my dad, it was out of jealousy for everything that my dad was and how beautiful, and wonderful, and loved my dad was.

NICOLE TONG: He learned Mandarin to talk to me, you know. Like he would-- he would cook Chinese food for me. He would do anything to make me feel comfortable and feel like he's my family.

MARIA MEDINA: In the last few days, Michael says family, friends, Kep's co-workers, even neighbors, have surrounded them with support and stories about his father. How he impacted each of them with his smile and warmth. A light so bright that it can never be extinguished.

MICHAEL KEPLER: It was that bright, and I'm going to miss having him here to be there for me because he's been there for every moment of my life.

MARIA MEDINA: And Michael says his dad talked about retiring, and that might have happened sometime in the next year. In San Jose, Maria Medina, KPIX 5.

KEN BASTIDA: And we're hearing from other families of the victims. Tonight, the family of Michael Rudometkin is sharing their memories of the fallen VTA worker. 40-year-old technician lived in Santa Cruz with his wife Gloria. She had this to say tonight. "Mike was a genuinely likable, nice person. He was there for his friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers day and night with a smile and an open heart."

And from his parents Gary and Rose. "Michael was the kind of guy that would give his last penny and shirt off his back."

- His sister Janelle and brother-in-law Alfredo also sharing their thoughts saying, quote, "We will miss him dearly, and we are so thankful for the community's support."