The Lehigh Permanente Quarry on the edge of Cupertino’s tree-lined suburbs stood as a holdover to a time when orchards and mining drove the South Bay’s economy — well before anyone thought of calling the place Silicon Valley. The quarry pounded out 1.2 million tons of cement per year just four miles away from Apple, the richest company in Cupertino and the world.
But on Oct. 5, 2011, death swept across Cupertino’s sea of single-family homes, top schools, and shopping malls. By the end of that bloody Wednesday, the reaper would have claimed a trio of veteran quarrymen and the town’s most famous son in a pair of separate tragedies that united the old, polluting cement plant with the $153.3 billion iPhone leviathan.
Shareef Allman, a 49-year old truck driver, showed up mad to a 4:15 a.m. safety meeting at the quarry that day. In San Jose where Allman lived in an apartment complex on Renaissance Drive, he was known as a community and religious activist who worked with at-risk African-American youth. He even had his own show called Real 2 Real on CreaTV, San Jose’s public access channel, where he once interviewed Jesse Jackson about the power of gospel music.
But that day Allman was upset that his union shop steward wasn’t going to represent him and his bad safety record anymore; mad that he was moved from the day shift to nights; and pissed off about the $10 he chipped in for a coworker’s going away party.
Allman didn’t show this when he first entered the trailer where the meeting was held. He said hi to everyone like nothing was wrong, grabbed a cup of coffee and left for a couple of minutes.
He came back with a .40-caliber handgun and a .223-caliber assault rifle, and shot two rounds into the ceiling.
“You think you can fuck with me?” he raged, and then fired on his colleagues — many of them people he’d worked with for years.
“Everyone was jumping under the table,” quarry worker Mike Ambrosio told the Mercury News. “Some sitting at the table were shot in the stomach.”
Ambrosio was shot in the arm, but survived by playing dead.
Working at the Permanente Quarry was a family affair, and Allman’s bullets hit workers that were bound by blood as well as profession. Allman killed Ambrosio’s cousin, Manual Piñon, 48. Piñon’s brother Jerry had just finished his shift moments before the shooting started.
Longtime safety leader John Vallejos, 51, died in that trailer, while his brother Jesse was among the six wounded. Mark Munoz, 59, was the third worker killed that morning. He had trained many of the other victims in their jobs and was looking forward to his retirement in three years.
After the smoke cleared, Allman fled the blood-soaked trailer and the quarry. He ditched his brown Mercury sedan and four guns at an Arco Station, and tried to take a woman’s car at gunpoint from a Hewlett Packard parking lot at 7 a.m. The woman refused. Allman shot her. The woman survived, and Allman melted away into the suburbs again.
A few miles north, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was nodding in and out of consciousness in his English country-style manse in Palo Alto. With his combination of ego, drive, and uncanny design sense, Jobs was able to disrupt the music and telephone industries almost simultaneously, but even the iTunes store at its peak couldn’t put pancreatic cancer out of business like it did to Tower Records. Jobs was dying. He didn’t have much time left.
He offered his goodbyes to longtime Apple employees over the phone and said what he could to his family gathered at his side. Sometime during that already tragic morning for Cupertino, Jobs uttered a verbal triptych, thrice chanting, “Oh wow” before succumbing to unconsciousness.
In Cupertino, the 215-pound Allman eluded capture as bands of militarized police clad in army surplus cammies combed through every backyard and carport searching for him. Schools and businesses were on lockdown. Streets were closed. Apple employees could only look at the hillside quarry through their HQ’s western windows as they and everyone else in Cupertino were ordered to shelter in place.
Steve Jobs died at 3:00 p.m. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the news with a press release. Whether they knew it or not, Jobs’ followers risked possible death to leave flowers and candles at Apple’s main campus at 1 Infinite Loop, halfway between Allman’s path from the quarry to the HP lot where he was last seen.
“I’m a Cupertino resident,” Peggy Fang said with tears streaming down her face as she left a bouquet of flowers at Apple’s HQ. “I have a good life because of Apple stock. It’s very sad.”
A group of Chinese computer science students left an Apple logo made from tea candles on the pavement near a fleet of satellite trucks from local and national news networks. Others scrawled their condolences on the walkway. “You were loved! You will be missed!!!” read one message written inside of a red heart.
The escalation of tragedy that could have happened with so many Jobs admirers coming to Cupertino to mourn their dead techie king never materialized, thankfully. Allman took his own life during a shootout with three young deputies when he was found hiding behind parked cars on the 900 block of Lorne Way in Sunnyvale at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. In the end, Allman died just one block over from the space where Apple would soon build its new spaceship-like campus, a pharaonic monument to Steve Jobs’ memory if not his mortal remains.
Special thanks to Tom Lesondak for walking me through that day.