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Sheriff Laurie Smith explains exactly what happened Wednesday morning that lead to a massive manhunt in Cupertino and Sunnyvale.
Coworkers and acquaintances of a disgruntled Cupertino cement plant employee suspected of shooting ten people this morning, killing three, said that he appeared to be happy up until he opened fire at a plant meeting.
The initial shooting was reported at about 4:15 a.m. at the Lehigh Southwest Cement Plant at 24001 Stevens Creek Blvd. Some 15 hours later the Santa Clara County Sheriff said the massive effort to find Shareef Allman had come up empty.
As night fell in the South Bay, Smith said the search of a Sunnyvale neighborhood would wrap soon. She said SWAT officers had searched extensively but could not find Allman. She told residents to lock their doors, but said investigators did not believe Allman was in the area. She noted it took ten minutes to put a dragnet around the area. It was possible that he got out during those first minutes.
In all 10 people were shot and three people were killed.
During her 7 p.m. news conference Smith identified the dead as:
Allman, showed up for an early morning meeting, then left briefly before returning and allegedly opening fire on his fellow employees in the meeting, according to police.
Three hours later Allman dumped his car and tried to carjack a woman while fleeing and shot her too, he said. An intense manhunt followed in a nearby Sunnyvale neighborhood. SWAT members and armored cars went house to house in the neighborhood near Homestead and Wolfe roads. People who lived there were told to stay inside.
Police located his car and four weapons, according to Smith, but she said he was still considered armed and dangerous.
People who knew Allman described him as 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.
Charles Bryan, a 50-year-old Salinas resident who was working as a subcontractor for Lehigh for the past few weeks, said Allman seemed normal on Monday, but on Tuesday "seemed sour." He was not acknowledging his coworkers and was "walking around with blinders on," Bryan said.
"This is just really weird," he said. "People die occasionally in our field but people don't come to work and kill people."
Another coworker of Allman's, who did not want to be named, said "he's a nice guy ... from what I've heard he was great to work with."
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.
Allman lives with his teenage daughter in San Jose. Police had an officer armed with a rifle guarding the door to their home midday Wednesday. Sheriff Smith said that Allman had a minor criminal record that included a conviction in 1996.
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."
Three people died and six others were injured in the shooting at the cement plant, according to Sheriff Laurie Smith.
Law enforcement officials from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Gilroy assisted the sheriff's office in the search, he said.
Cupertino Union School District officials said schools in the area remained open but students were being held inside classrooms as a precaution while the gunman remained 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. He was seen in a YouTube video interviewing Jesse Jackson.
Authorities set up two phone lines in connection to the shootings.
Bay City News contributed to this article.