The flags above Cupertino City Hall are at half-staff today to honor the memory of four men who died a year ago this day—three in a violent and shocking manner, and one whose death was foreseen, but still rocked the world.
The three men; John Vallejos, Mark Munoz and Manuel Pinon, all employees of Lehigh Southwest Cement, were gunned down early in the morning by another quarry employee, Shareef Allman. Seven more people were shot that day by Allman. Our condolences to the families who still live with aching memories of the loss of their loved ones.
Steve Jobs lost his battle with cancer that same day. The news reverberated around the world, and is still talked about by people who never met the man but feel they knew him through Apple’s products.
But here at home, in typically quiet, peaceful Cupertino, the day broke with helicopters flying over the quarry area, residents wondering aloud what the fuss was.
As a journalist, reporting and writing about events such as these are part of the job, but this day was unusual even for the team at Patch. We’re a small, but mighty team and though other news outlets were able to send an army out to cover the breaking news at the quarry, which had moved on to a Sunnyvale neighborhood near Hewlett-Packard, we linked arms and held on tight because the day started early and didn’t end until the next day.
The following are the recollections of the day through our lens, the lens of a reporter.
I’m not sure how I first learned of the shooting at the quarry, but Pam Marino, our longtime Patch contributor and Cupertino resident was guest editing for vacationing L.A. Chung, editor of Los Altos Patch.
Pam was the first person I contacted.
Pam Marino: “You texted at 7:13 a.m. the answer to my question of why there were so many helicopters: ‘Shooting at quarry...don't have details.’ I immediately responded, ‘I'll head over.’
What we learned was that an employee had opened fire in a break room at the quarry and fled. Police at that point didn’t know where he was or how many were injured or dead.
I called my then-editor, Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar, to tell her what was happening and ask her help in manning Cupertino Patch—all we knew at this point was a gunman was on the loose and could be anywhere. Then I posted a brief article with basic information, and Priyanka put all Patch editors on notice that we had a huge breaking news story.
Next I headed out to Homestead and Wolfe Roads where the gunman was believed to be hiding out. (I later related this story to one of my brothers who wanted to know why I would go to a neighborhood where an armed gunman was in hiding. I laughed and told him, “I don’t know. I just did it. It’s my job.”)
Pam was walking her dog when she heard the helicopter commotion.
“After I heard from you there was a shooting, I head back to home, and in my grubby clothes I was wearing I grabbed my camera and notebooks, and drove right over to the intersection. The morning is kind of a blur. I think after one of the mini-press conferences I had enough info to rush back to my house and write up a breaking news story about what was known to that point.”
Because Allman started the shooting at the quarry, then shot a woman in the H-P parking lot and was believed to be hiding in a neighborhood, police were swarming the area and two command stations were set up; one close to the quarry was later moved, and then one near the neighborhood where Allman was hiding. While SWAT teams and sniffer dogs scoured the Sunnyvale neighborhood, I called in updates to Priyanka when I could on an iPhone that ironically was dying and couldn’t hold a charge for more than two hours.
The search for Allman lasted all day and into the night.
To be continued…