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Cupertino shooting: Gunman was unhappy at work, filed a grievance over suspension

October 6, 2011 |  8:14 pm

First came the deadly shooting rampage at a Cupertino quarry. Then a 24-hour search for the gunman that left neighbors trapped inside their homes while SWAT teams and search dogs swarmed their community.

By Thursday morning, the crisis had come to an end when Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Shareef Allman, 49, after encountering the armed suspect on a street in suburban Sunnyvale.

Family and friends grieve over the dead and wounded.

But questions remain over what prompted Allman – a single father who friends say preached nonviolence and was a role model for young African American men – to go on a shooting rampage, killing three and wounding seven others.

Authorities said Allman, whom they described as a disgruntled worker, arrived for a 4:15 a.m. safety meeting Wednesday at the Lehigh Permanente Plant. He left, came back and opened fire on his co-workers with a rifle and handgun.

A short time later, Allman shot a woman in the leg in a Hewlett-Packard parking lot a mile away while trying to take her car.

The dead were identified as John Vallejos, 51, Mark Munoz, 59, both of San Jose, and Manuel Pinon, 48, of Newman.

Friends of Allman, a driver at the quarry for 15 years, said he had told them that co-workers were trying to undermine him because of his race. Company officials denied the allegation.

A union official, however, said that Allman had been upset that he was suspended for three weeks due to a driving accident and was challenging the action.

“He was not happy with the length of suspension,” said Bill Hoyt, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Union, Local 287, in San Jose, which represents drivers. “The business agent agreed and there was a grievance filed.”

Allman fled After Wednesday’s shootings. He eluded authorities until deputies on routine patrol encountered him Thursday morning.

Cynthia Mose, 47, of Sacramento said she has known Allman for 25 years and drove to the Sunnyvale neighborhood early Thursday hoping to get a chance to talk to him. “I was hoping I could get him to surrender,” she said.

Asked what would provoke him to such a violent act, Mose said “I guess he figured he didn’t have no alternative. I guess he decided to take things into his own hands. This is the outcome.”

She said Allman told her that his “job was really racist … and they were trying to get rid of people.”

Community activist Walter Wilson, another friend, also said that Allman felt that some workers at the plant “were doing systemic discriminatory practices.” But Wilson and others described Allman as a peacemaker.

Allman served as a mentor and role model for young African American men, said the Rev. Jethroe “Jeff” Moore II, the head of the Silicon Valley NAACP and a friend. Allman raised his 17-year-old daughter on his own and she was the love of his life, Moore said.

Now, like the children of Allman’s victims, she is fatherless.

“That’s what’s mindboggling,” Moore said. “For my own selfish reasons I wish he had been taken alive so we could at least have had some conversation or explanation.”


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--Maria L. La Ganga in Cupertino, Lee Romney in Oakland and Sam  Quinones in Los Angeles