Co-workers and acquaintances of a disgruntled Cupertino cement plant employee suspected of shooting nine people this morning, killing two, said that he appeared to be happy up until he opened fire at a plant meeting this morning.
The initial shooting was reported at about 4:30 a.m. at the Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant at 24001 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara County sheriff’s Lt. Rick Sung said.
The suspect, Shareef Allman, showed up for an early morning meeting, then left briefly before returning and allegedly opening fire on his fellow employees in the meeting, Sung said. Allman then tried to carjack a woman while fleeing and shot her too, he said.
People who had met Allman said he seemed friendly and warm.
“He was probably the last one I’d ever think would do this,” a truck driver from the nearby Steven’s Creek Quarry who had met Allman in passing said of him.
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 this morning’s events.
“He seemed really nice,” Weltz said. “He had a smile on his face.”
The two met approximately six months ago and exchanged hellos, he said.
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 shooting took place was held to discuss safety procedures such as proper climbing techniques and transportation of materials, according to Weltz, who said this morning he was trying -- without success -- to contact employees who were at the meeting.
One of those employees, Weltz said, jumped out of a window during the shooting. The employee was picked up by his family members, who drove him away from the scene. That man was not injured, he said.
“You go to work at a place like this with your head together. Things like this never happen,” Weltz said.
Lehigh CEO Dan Harrington said in a statement, “We are shocked and saddened by this morning’s events.”
Harrington said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I have committed the company’s resources to assist our affected employees during this difficult time.”
Two people died and six others were injured in the shooting at the cement plant, Sung said.
Allman fled the worksite 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. When she refused, he shot her once, according to Sung.
The woman was taken to a hospital to be treated for her injuries, which are not considered life-threatening, Sung said.
A Mercury sedan associated with Allman was later found at an Arco gas station at the intersection of Wolfe and Homestead roads, he said.
Sung said sheriff’s deputies have since evacuated more than a dozen employees from the cement plant and are continuing to search for Allman, who is considered armed and dangerous and is believed to still be in the area.
He is described as a black man in his late 40s who is about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds, and is believed to be armed with a rifle and handgun, Sung said.
Law enforcement officials from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Gilroy are assisting the sheriff’s office in the search, he said.
Cupertino Union School District officials said schools in the area remain open this morning but students are being held inside classrooms as a precaution while the gunman remains on the loose.
Employees at Apple, which has its headquarters in Cupertino, were also been told to stay inside their offices during the search this morning, an employee said.
Along with working at the cement plant, Allman apparently also was a producer at the San Jose public access TV channel CreaTV and an author who wrote a book, “Amazing Grace,” that addressed domestic violence issues.