San Jose councilmember mourns friend lost in VTA shooting
San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez learned that a childhood friend died during Wednesday's mass shooting at a VTA light rail yard. Photo by Vicente Vera.

    San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez waited to hear back from a childhood friend following Wednesday’s shooting at a Valley Transportation Authority light rail yard—a VTA overhead lineman at the light rail for close to 10 years.

    His shift ended around 8 a.m.,  an hour and a half after reports of the shooting.

    “I was sending him text messages and giving him a phone call. I didn’t hear back from him,” Peralez told San José Spotlight. “We’ve seen these incidents happen all across the country, and when it happens close to home, you may actually know somebody with a friend, loved one or coworker (affected).”

    Later that afternoon, Peralez discovered his friend, 40-year-old Michael Rudometkin, was among the nine fatal casualties.

    “My dad and I were just planning another golf day reunion with Mikey, and now that will never happen again,” Peralez wrote in a recent Facebook post. “My family and I have lost a long time great friend and there are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family.”

    As law enforcement and government officials reported updates on the still-unfolding situation Wednesday morning, family and friends of VTA workers were left waiting for hours on the status of their loved ones.

    Peralez was among them.

    Violence broke out shortly after a union meeting at the Guadalupe Light Rail Yard at 100 West Younger Avenue in downtown San Jose. The shooter, identified as 57-year-old VTA technician Samuel Cassidy, killed nine people before turning the gun on himself.

    One victim transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in critical condition died late Wednesday. County officials identified all nine victims earlier in the day.

    The investigation is still active and local officials are receiving assistance from the San Francisco branch of the FBI.

    Peralez, a downtown councilmember since 2015, said his friend’s family had desperately been waiting for answers about his condition for hours on Wednesday. They headed to a center that was set up by the Red Cross on N. First Street to provide support for victims and their families, anxiously awaiting any updates. Their worst fears were confirmed when they learned at the center that Rudometkin was among the casualties.

    Peralez posted an image of himself with Rudometkin from four years ago where the pair is smiling with Peralez’s father during a golf trip.

    San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez pictured with his father and friend Michael Rudometkin. Photo courtesy of Raul Peralez’s Facebook page.

    “(Nine) families are feeling this same sense of loss tonight and our entire community is mourning as well. It has been personally tough to find the right words and I will be spending some much needed time amongst family and friends tonight,” Peralez added.

    The councilman later sent an email to his district confirming his friend’s loss.

    “It is with deep sadness that I share that a personal childhood friend of mine was among the perished, breaking my heart even further than it already was,” he wrote. I feel the same grief and agony that the families of the victims are experiencing right now, and am painfully aware that any words I share will not bring their loved ones back.”

    He added that a tragedy like this cannot happen again in San Jose.

    “Anyone who lives, works and visits my hometown—or any town—should be able to do so without fearing for their lives. They should be able to kiss their family goodbye and head to work or school in the morning knowing they will be able to go home safely that night,” he wrote.

    Peralez told reporters gathered at the county government building Wednesday that VTA workers who witnessed the violence, victims and their families will need help for years to come.

    “These families are going to need support, so we should be ensuring that we’re providing it,” Peralez said.

    Light rail service is suspended until further notice, but VTA is deploying additional buses to bridge any transit gaps.

    A candlelight vigil is planned for the victims at 6 p.m. Thursday at San Jose City Hall.

    Anyone directly connected to VTA or this incident should call the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s support line at (408) 299-2311. A reunification center with counselors is available at 70 West Hedding Street. A family assistance center opened at noon Wednesday at the Red Cross, 2731 N. First Street in San Jose.

    To learn how you can help the victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting, click here.

    Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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