CUPERTINO (CBS SF) — A disgruntled employee opened fire at a meeting at a Cupertino limestone quarry on Wednesday, killing three people and injuring seven others including a woman carjacked a few miles away, authorities said.
The gunman – identified as 47-year-old Shareef Allman, a San Jose resident who worked as a haul truck driver at the quarry – was still being sought Wednesday night. However, law enforcement said they had ended a massive daylong search of an area along the Cupertino-Sunnyvale border for Allman.
The shootings at the Lehigh Southwest Cement Permanente Plant at 24001 Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino occurred around 4:15 a.m. during a meeting at the facility to discuss safety issues.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said that two men were pronounced dead at the scene and a third man died later at a local hospital.
She identified the men killed as 48-year-old Manuel Pinon of Newman (Stanislaus County,) 51-year-old John Vallejos of San Jose and 59-year-old Mark Munoz of San Jose. Smith said some of the seven other people wounded were hospitalized in critical condition.
PICTURES: Cupertino Quarry Rampage
At a news conference, the sheriff said that Allman was disgruntled at his employer, but she did not know exactly what the issue was. She indicated that a total of 15 employees were in the meeting when the gunfire erupted, nine of whom were struck by bullets.
KCBS’ Mike Colgan, Matt Bigler, and Margie Shafer Report:
Allman fled the work site after the shootings and shortly before 7 a.m., he allegedly attempted to take a woman’s car at gunpoint in a Hewlett-Packard company parking lot near the intersection of Homestead Road and Tantau Avenue in Cupertino. When the HP worker refused, he shot her once but the injuries were not life-threatening, according to the sheriff.
A Mercury sedan associated with Allman was later found at an Arco gas station at the intersection of Wolfe and Homestead roads. Authorities said they had recovered a shotgun, a handgun and two assault rifles from Allman’s vehicle.
Surveillance video from the gas station showed that Allman – described as a black man about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 215 pounds – was armed with a rifle and handgun when he fled there, Smith said.
Sheriff’s deputies, believing he was still in the area, then went door to door with guns drawn searching for Allman. Police from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Gilroy assisted the sheriff’s office in the search.
At one point, police believed they had Allman cornered at a house about 300 yards north of Homestead on Quail St. across the street from Hewlett Packard’s offices. That turned out not to be the case and SWAT teams then conducted more house-to-house searches in the area.
Authorities finally reopened Homestead Road and allowed neighborhood residents to return to their homes late Wednesday after calling off their search for the night, but they urged anyone with information about Allman’s whereabouts to call a tip line at (408) 808-4500.
“We’re asking the public to be safe and give us any information that they have,” Smith said.
Along with working at the cement plant, Allman also was a contributing producer at the San Jose public access TV channel CreaTV and an author who wrote a book, “Amazing Grace,” that addressed domestic violence issues.
Ironically, Allman had a misdemeanor conviction for disturbing the peace – plea bargained down from domestic violence – for an incident that occurred in San Mateo on Aug. 9, 1992, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. Allman served two days in jail and underwent 48 hours of domestic violence training after that conviction.
A video posted on YouTube showed Allman interviewing the Rev. Jesse Jackson outside a memorial for the late musician Walter Hawkins for a piece for CreaTV. In the video, Allman talked with Jackson about the positive and transformative messages of gospel music.
“I hope what he gave all of us we take out to our community and use it to better ourselves and our community,” Allman said about Hawkins during the interview.
Allman was not a paid employee, according to CreaTV Executive Director Suzanne St. John-Crane, just one of a number of producers that submitted content for the channel.
“We’re shocked and devastated and feel for the families of the victims,” said St. John-Crane, who called Allman a calm, gentle person. “This is not the Shareef we knew, at all.”
The shootings also rattled Allman’s neighbors in the Renaissance Drive appartment complex in San Jose where he lives, said resident Paulette Conner.
“He’s always had a smile on his face,” said Conner, 57, who has known Allman for five years. “I’ve never known him to have any violent tendencies. Never. Ever.”
Conner said Allman occasionally griped to her and others over the years about his job, including his various shift changes and some co-workers, but she never imagined that he could do something violent. She said Allman is a local fixture who has been heavily involved in San Jose’s black community.
“He is very kind, sociable person and a really good father,” Conner said. “I’ve never known him to be a mean person.”
The president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP said Allman “was a nice man, a brilliant man, a proud man, a man who spoke of black pride.”
Pastor Jethroe Moore II added that Allman was an evangelist, who was known throughout churches in the Bay Area, and was doing everything he could to change the perception of a positive role model in the black community, and encouraging an emphasis on family and strong father figures.
Business records obtained by the Associated Press showed that in 2004, Allman started a youth development organization called Helping Hands Changing Hearts, which listed its location as Allman’s home address. However, the IRS automatically revoked the organization’s exempt status as a nonprofit for failure to file proper tax forms for three consecutive years, records showed.
“There is no logical way to explain what has happened today from what we know of him. Our community is devastated and hurt,” Moore said of Allman, who he has known for 15 years.
Co-workers and acquaintances of Allman also said that he appeared to be happy up until he opened fire at the plant meeting.
“He was probably the last one I’d ever think would do this,” said a truck driver from the nearby Steven’s Creek Quarry who had met Allman, but did not want to be identified by name.
Mike Weltz, a representative for Operating Engineers Local 3, which represents about 30 Lehigh employees, nine of whom were at the meeting, said that he was stunned by the incident.
“He seemed really nice,” Weltz said. “He had a smile on his face.”
According to Weltz, Allman has been working at the quarry for at least 15 years and had just returned from a four-week vacation.
The once-weekly meeting where the shootings took place was held to discuss safety procedures such as proper climbing techniques and transportation of materials, according to Weltz.
Irving, Texas-based Lehigh Hanson CEO Dan Harrington said in a statement, “We are shocked and saddened by this morning’s events.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Harrington said. “I have committed the company’s resources to assist our affected employees during this difficult time.”
The quarry was issued its first permit in May 1939, according to Santa Clara County documents.
The Associated Press reported that the site has been subject to a number of environmental violations over the years, and has been subject to noise and other complaints from residents who live nearby.
Lehigh makes about 1.2 million tons of cement per year, and its products are involved in a number of major construction projects including the seismic upgrades to the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the AP.
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