SAN FRANCISCO – A UPS employee armed with an assault weapon opened fire Wednesday in one of the company’s San Francisco packing facilities, killing three co-workers before fatally shooting himself, as the employees fled frantically into the streets to yell “shooter!” and the police swarmed in, authorities and witnesses said.
In the midst of a barrage of shots, some workers sought refuge on the roof of the four-story facility, while others ran outside and hit the glass panes of a bus, witnesses said.
“They were screaming, ‘Go! Go! Go!'” said Jessica Franklin, 30, who drove to work when the bus made a regular stop in the front of the UPS facility. “If they got on the bus, they were all ducking.”
Two other United Parcel Service employees were injured in the shooting, which led to a massive police response in one of the industrial districts, at about two km from the centre of San Francisco, Assistant police chief Toney Chaplin told reporters.
UPS spokesman Steve Gaut said the shooter was an employee of the company. A San Francisco Police Department official identified him as Jimmy Lam of San Francisco, but had no immediate details about his background, noting the name is common in the San Francisco Bay Area, and finding information requires significant record searches.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Officers, UPS employees, and witnesses described chaos as shots rang out during a morning meeting, directors were sent on their delivery routes.
The police have not yet released the victims’ names, but family and friends identified one of the people killed as 46-year-old Mike Lefiti, a UPS driver.
Lefiti’s cousin, Mack Toia, told KGO-TV he was at the UPS facility waiting to pick up Lefiti when he heard shots. He left his car and saw his cousin sprawled out on the concrete behind a gate, Toia said.
“The agents were right on the scene. I got to touch him, but I couldn’t hug him,” Toia said. “They pushed me away because they tried to revive him.”
Toia said he was able to tell Lefiti he loved him.
Co-worker Isaiah Miggins said he saw Lefiti, known as “Big Mike,” as he arrived for work just before 9 o’clock in the morning, a few minutes before the shooting began. “He was a cheerful man. Always happy,” Miggins said.
On social media, heartbroken family members of Lefiti, remembered him as a warm, spirited man devoted to his children and family. A photo on his Facebook page shows Lefiti in his brown UPS uniform holding a trophy. He posted pictures of his UPS truck and an award for 15 years of service to the company in 2015.
Neighbor Raymond Deng said he heard up to eight shots.
“They were all in rapid succession,” said Deng, a 30-year-old tech worker who lives across the street from the warehouse. “It was like tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat.”
The police arrived in minutes.
“This was a terrible scene,” Chaplin said. He said that the officials, two victims outside, and others inside and pulled the wounded to safety if they are confronted with the shooter, who was armed with an “assault gun.”
“The suspect put the gun to his head and discharged the weapon,” Chaplin said, adding that the police did not fire shots.
Chaplin said the police have not determined a motive and were interviewing the families of the victims and witnesses to piece together what led the shooter to act.
Mayor Ed Lee condemned the violence and praised the authorities for a “very proactive.”
“It could have been worse,” he said. “Lives were saved today.”
It was not immediately clear how many employees were in the facility, but UPS said the warehouse work 350 people. The shooter and the victims were employees, UPS said in a statement.
UPS driver Marvin Calderon told KNTV that he recognized the shooter as a colleague, but did not know him personally.
“I started running like crazy, like I never before,” Calderon told the TV station.
After the gunfire, auto shop owner Robert Kim said he saw “a multitude of UPS drivers” running down the street screaming “shooter, shooter.”
Deng watched from his window in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco, as the employees fled the building. He said that another group of about 10 people gathered on the roof and kept their hands to wave for help.
“I saw police officers going from the ramp and then storm the buildings,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
The shooting happened on the same day a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia, injury the USA. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and a number of others.
AP writers Janie Har, Sudhin Thanawala and Linda Wang in San Francisco and Mike Balsamo contributed reporting from Los Angeles.