Guest Entry by CaliGirl9!
It was just another day in California’s Silicon Valley on November 14, 2008, when 47-year-old Jing Hua Wu, a Chinese national who had worked in the Bay Area as an engineer for over 10 years, was fired “with cause” from his job at SiPort as a product test engineer. These are difficult times for the tech industry, and no doubt Wu’s sudden unemployment wasn’t the only one suffered in the Bay Area that day.
Following his firing on that that unseasonably warm fall day, Wu requested a meeting with the 56-year-old CEO of SiPort, Inc., Sid Agrawal, the 47-year-old Vice President of Operations Brian Pugh, and the head of human resources, 67-year-old Marilyn Lewis. The trio agreed to meet Wu later that afternoon, and in a conference room at SiPort’s headquarters on 2996 Scott Boulevard in Santa Clara, Wu pulled a 9 mm handgun and calmly dispatched his former supervisors with a bullet to each person’s brain. Wu then nonchalantly walked out to his silver Mercury Mariner SUV and drove off as if it were any other day.
Unfortunately for Wu, everyone in the complex heard the gunshots and saw him return to his vehicle. Two of the three 911 calls released by Santa Clara County reveal that the callers were able to identify Wu by name and describe his clothing and vehicle. Santa Clara police and fire and rescue were on scene nearly immediately, but it was too late. Wu was nowhere to be found, and there were three dead people in a conference room.
Wu’s freedom was short-lived; he was arrested the next morning in nearby Mountain View. The 9 mm handgun was found in the trunk of his rental car. Wu was booked into the Santa Clara County jail mental health ward, and ultimately arraigned on November 19 for three counts of murder, three related gun counts and one special circumstances count for allegedly killing multiple people. This is a possible death penalty case, though no decision has been made according to deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen. The DA will take into considerations Wu’s prior record as well as the wishes of the victims’ next of kin. Wu’s next court appearance is on December 18.
Sid Agrawal was an American success story. An Indian American father of two, Agrawal earned a technical bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur in 1974. He immigrated to the United States in 1975 to complete his education at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, earning his M.S. in electrical engineering in 1977, and finally completing his education at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, earning his MBA in general management in 1984.
Wu was also quite the American success story and has done quite well for himself during his time in the United States. He and his wife Jie Zheng Wu, parents of three young sons, managed to collect numerous investment properties starting in 2004, including vacant lots and rental properties, in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas (yes, that same Hot Spring Village sold via late night infomercials starring Erik Estrada, aka “Ponch” from CHiPs), owns two rental properties in Vancouver, Washington and in California, and also owns his family home in Mountain View. There are a total of 19 investment properties owned by Wu and his wife, with those investments said to be worth $2.4 million, though of course some are no doubt now in negative equity with the recent real estate crash.
Upon his arrest, Wu claimed he didn’t have the money for an attorney and a pair of public defenders were assigned to his case. A media report claimed that Wu had earned $110,000 in 2008, and that SiPort had fired him with a generous severance package and the promise of positive letters of reference. Authorities are pouring over Wu’s portfolio to verify that he is truly financially destitute and cannot afford his own counsel.
Thus far there are no “answers” regarding SiPort’s specific reasons for firing Wu (could he have been distracted by “managing” his far-flung investment properties; could he have been in over his head with overwhelming negative equity and not performing his job up to standards?) nor has Wu’s counsel offered the reason for killing Agrawal, Pugh and Lewis. There were no signs that Wu was a violent person—his neighbors described him as quiet and a family man though co-workers did describe Wu as a bit disheveled and as someone who kept to himself. There were no red flags telling Sid Agrawal, Brian Pugh and Marilyn Lewis that their lives were in danger by agreeing to a meeting with a recently-fired employee.
Could this tragic case be a harbinger of things to come? Remember the term “going postal” in reference to the United States Postal Service workplace killings in the early to mid-1980s? The slang term’s original meaning refers to sudden extreme uncontrollable anger to the point of violence in a workplace setting. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed in 20 instances of workplace violence. According to an article in Inc.com, workplace murders increased by 13 percent in 2007—a total of 610 homicides. In an article posted on TruTV’s website, worker-on-worker violence is the second most common form of workplace violence (criminal acts such as the Murrah Federal Building bombing and the 9/11 attacks are number one), and tend to be clustered in service or retail settings. The typical violent worker is a white male, aged 25 to 50, a loner with a history of violence and a fascination with weapons. Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder appear to be directly linked to workplace violence.
Is there a way that employers can do a better job of screening prospective employees for possible mental illness? In today’s politically correct times, such screenings are looked upon as a violation of someone’s privacy. There is no doubt more people are going to be losing their jobs in all industries and workplaces in today’s troubled economic times. What’s the answer? Metal detectors at every place of employment? Locked doors? Armed guards onsite when people are given their pink slips?
Just how many workplace killings like this one will take place in 2009?
I sure hope I am wrong about being concerned about this type of crime …
Thank you so much, CaliGirl9! Sprocket
Fewer people die on the job
Tech engineer kills three bosses at Silicon Valley start-up after being sacked