writes (Oct. 5, 8 p.m.):
Cupertino quarry shooting suspect who killed 3, wounded 7 still on loose
By Bruce Newman, Lisa Fernandez, Mark Gomez and Sean Webby
Mercury News Posted: 10/05/2011 11:11:07 AM PDT Updated: 10/05/2011 04:29:40 PM PDT
The pre-dawn safety meeting at the Cupertino cement plant began routinely—15 men gathered in a small trailer, some sipping coffee against the 4 a.m. chill—when, police say, Shareef Allman pulled a gun from his waistband and began shooting.
Taking a stance he had practiced often at shooting ranges with his .40-caliber handgun, Allman methodically moved down the line of coworkers, firing at each one until they fell, then moving to the next as if he were taking target practice, authorities say. When he was done, three lay dead, and six more were injured. [LA replies: It’s amazing more weren’t killed.]
Allman, 47, then disappeared into the darkness in his 1999 Mercury hatchback, triggering a massive manhunt just a few miles away in a residential neighborhoodnear Homestead and Wolfe Roads. He retrieved a rifle he had brought with him to the Lehigh Hanson Permanente Cement Plant, apparently intent on settling grievances over his safety record as a truck driver at the plant.
Shortly before 7 a.m., Craig Corfield, a tennis pro who lives in the neighborhood across the street from what will eventually be the new Apple headquarters, heard three loud bangs. “I didn’t know they were gunshots, but I thought, ‘That sounded funky,’” Corfeld said. “Ten minutes later I heard sirens, and five minutes after that I walked out of our garage and there were helicopters everywhere.”
According to police, Allman attempted to commandeer the car of a woman in the parking lot of a Hewlett Packard campus on Homestead Road, shooting her in the arm, but failed to get her car. By 7 a.m., he had melted into the neighborhood along the Cupertino-Sunnyvale border, where for the rest of the day, sheriff’s deputies and SWAT teams from around the South Bay roamed the streets in heavily armored vehicles, searching every house and yard. Some schools shut down and other were locked down, even after the final bell.
By late afternoon Wednesday, the massive manhunt still had not led to an arrest. Police recovered a shotgun, handgun and two assault rifles, some from his abandoned car. But Sheriff Laurie Smith said Allman was still at large, and presumably heavily armed.
Allman’s neighbors at Stonegate apartments describe Allman as a likeable, sharp-dressed guy, a single parent who goes to church and works out a lot. Several said he was a former semi-professional boxer. Neighbors said they never saw him do anything violent. All were shocked to hear he is a suspect in a mass shooting.
Neighbor Albert Salazar, 51, says he’s known Allman a long time. He spoke to him three days ago and didn’t notice anything unusual. They talked about growing up under hard circumstances and how they turned their lives around.
“It makes no sense,”
Salazar said. “Nobody can understand what happened. He must have snapped. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it was him this morning.”
Wayne Riley went to high school with Allman’s daughter. “He was a good parent. He was always doing something to take care of his kids,” Riley said. “I do not know what happened.”
A lot of his neighbors used to watch the community TV show he produced on San Jose’s cable CreaTV, and saw him as a successful entrepreneur.
In a videotaped interview with CreaTV, Allman talked about his book.
“It’s fiction but deals with people I’ve met throughout my life,” Allman said in the interview. “I’m a father and raised a daughter from birth, and growing up in that type of environment and seen men abuse women, I said I can do something as an individual to make a difference.”
As a host of Real 2 Real, Allman would interview divergent groups, said Suzanne St. John-Crane, and encourage them to get along.
The single father of a 17-year-old daughter, Allman wrote a book called “Amazing Grace,” intended to empower women against domestic violence.
Two Lehigh employees told this newspaper that Allman, an African-American, had complained about racial bias at work, where he was a heavy equipment operator, and his fear that he might be about to lose his job.
Rose Douglas, a neighbor of Allman’s at the Stonegate apartment complex on Renaissance Drive in North San Jose, said he had been upset recently because he had been moved from the day shift to the night shift, which interfered with his plans to spend more time with his daughter.
Allman’s ability to elude a massive dragnet baffled police, who used canine teams, helicopters and armored vehicles in their search. Santa Clara Police Sgt. Ray Carreira said Wednesday morning that police believe they had Allman “contained” in the area of Homestead and Tantau. Police, with guns drawn, were seen moving house to house, including one on Lorne Way. .
That was where Grace Chu of Fremont was trying to go for a baby-sitting assignment with her grandson. When she arrived around 8 a.m., she couldn’t get past the police blockade, so she called her daughter. “She’s right in the middle of it,” Chu fretted. “I’m a little worried. She didn’t even know what was going on when I called her.”
Many residents in the area received reverse 911 calls warning them to stay indoors, and authorities cautioned that Allman had little to lose.
Schools in the area scrambled to keep their students safe and inform parents whether to keep the children at home. By late afternoon, with Allman still on the loose, many schools were sorting out what they would do Thursday morning if the manhunt continues.
Laurelwood Elementary School evacuated at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday and the school remained on “code blue” alert, according to teacher aide Eric Guzman. Good Samaritan Preschool on Homestead Road had children in lockdown with a staffer posted at every door, school director Loretta Wong said. “All the children who are here are safe,” she said.
Other Cupertino Union School District schools remained opened because many of the children were already on their way to school when the news was breaking and their parents might have left for work, said spokesman Jeremy Nishihara. School, he said, “Is the safest place for them to be.”
Outside the cement plant, relatives of workers gathered, hoping to find out if their loved ones survived the shooting. At midmorning, with dozens of family members anxiously awaiting word, one woman screamed and fell over backwards in a faint.
Mercury News staff writers Tracey Kaplan and Joe Rodriguez contributed to this report. Contact Bruce Newman at 408-920-5004.