Several cars were lined up outside the home Taptej Singh Gill (in photograph above) on Sherman Drive in Union City, California on the morning of Thursday, May 27, the day after the 36-year-old Sikh-American man was killed in the mass shooting in San Jose.
Relatives and friends were coming in to meet the grieving family. Women were cooking while wiping their tears. There were people hugging, trying to comfort each other and trying to make sense of the senseless tragedy that had befallen their family.
Taptej’s younger brother Karman Gill was busy like many in the household, either attending to the phone, trying to play with his cousin’s children, and checking up on the guests.
“He was a hero,” Taptej’s father Sarbjit Gill told indica News, tears rolling down his face. “He left us, he left his two young children.”
Samuel Cassidy, 57, an employee at the Valley Transportation Authority light rail facility in San Jose, fired 32 times from two semiautomatic handguns, killing nine coworkers before killing himself.
Taptej was trying to help a woman, his colleague, find a hiding place when he was shot.
““He did not care about his life and would put his life in danger,” the distraught father said. “He was very honest, never after money. I pray to God for his peace.”
Taptej migrated to the United States in 2004 along with his parents from Ludhiana in Punjab, India. Taptej was the second eldest in the family and was the main breadwinner of the family. He was treated like a big brother and was close to his father.
Taptej, who had a diploma in mechanical engineering, enrolled at Chabot College in Hayward to enhance his career, and joined VTA as a light rail operator.
Taptej was a teetotaler and a vegetarian, his family members said. He loved his job and was happy with his life, family and children, 4-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. He was religious and would pray twice daily. His wife, Harmanpreet Kaur, is a nurse and works in Fremont.
“He would say I will take early retirement; we could live six months here and six months in India,” Sarbjit Gill said. “I would tell him, it’s good here and we have more opportunity here, and he would say there is no limit to material desires in life.”
He broke down as he said: “This house, he bought; he worked hard and bought this house.”
Taptej’s younger brother Karman lives in Maryland and works with the Walden University.
“He was just six years older than me but always behaved like my half dad,” Karman said about his brother, his eyes moist.
“He always made sure I am on the right path and as an elder brother he used to support me and I never had to worry about anything. He used to take care of the family, I never had to worry about anything, and instead of going to my dad I used to go to him for help or anything needed.”
Taptej also has an elder sister, who is married.
“All of us are still in a shock,” Karman said. “Just on Sunday and we were talking about cricket and starting a league, and he said come home. He used to play cricket, loved volleyball, too. He was an outdoor person.”
Taptej’s uncle Sukhwant Dhillon said Taptej was totally a family person.
“He used to call me every day… He lost his life saving other peoples’ lives. He could have saved himself but he and his supervisor were trying to save other people,” Dhillon said.
Bhupender Gill, Taptej’s cousin, said he always used to talk about going back to India someday. “He was like a big brother to me,” Bhupender said.