CUPERTINO -- Months before three men were killed and several others injured by a colleague who showed up to work at the Lehigh cement quarry with a grudge and a cache of firearms, employees warned management that gunman Shareef Allman was a loose cannon with the potential to hurt someone or worse, according to civil lawsuits filed against the company.
Attorney Jessie Serna, who is representing the widows and family members of slain workers Mark Muñoz, 59, and Manuel Pinon, 48, said both men knew Allman had an ax to grind with them and it was no secret.
"At first I thought that nobody knew except our guys, but it turns out the whole company knew what was going on with Allman," Serna said. "He packed guns in his car and wanted to make sure everybody knew it, but they did nothing."
That lawsuit is one of two filed since the October 2011 shootings, which claimed the lives of Muñoz, Pinon and John Vallejos, 51, and saw six other men wounded in a predawn attack by Allman as workers prepared for a weekly safety meeting at an onsite trailer.
The suits -- which are scheduled to go back before a judge for further motions next month -- seek unspecified damages.
Allman, 47, had barricaded exits with plywood and peppered his coworkers with bullets while yelling profanities, according to police reports. He later shot and wounded a woman while trying to commandeer her car, then holed up in a crawlspace beneath a Sunnyvale home overnight before being killed in a confrontation with police the next morning. According to a coroner's report, while he was struck by eight bullets fired by officers, the fatal wound was a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
According to a report from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, Allman, who is black, had "problems in recent years with management and specific employees regarding his performance, various safety violations and the resulting disciplinary measures," and believed he was being singled out for discipline because of his race.
The lawsuit filed by Serna, as well as one on behalf of those injured at the quarry, holds that Allman had a history of making intimidating, sometimes racially charged statements and gestures that left his colleagues in fear.
Incidents cited in the lawsuits include Allman boasting about keeping a gun in his glove compartment, going to the shooting range often and referring to himself as "Mike Tyson's boxing sparring partner."
Serna's suit states that Muñoz and Pinon in particular were threatened by Allman, who had said he would kill Muñoz and severely harm Pinon, and they approached management around the end of summer, then again a week before the shooting. The second suit states that on Oct. 3, two days before the slayings, union shop steward Michael Ambrosio -- who was shot in the arm and is among the plaintiffs named -- told management that workers were scared of Allman and something needed to be done, suggesting they transfer Allman to another department if they didn't want to fire him.
The suit states the manager "just laughed out loud and said, 'Nothing is going to happen' or words to that effect."
While Serna said the concerns fell on deaf ears, the second lawsuit, filed by attorney Arthur Navarette, alleges that the complaints were ignored because managers, too, feared the muscular, 5-foot-8, 255-pound Allman.
His suit states that Allman had been written up 10 to 12 times, but Lehigh "failed to take any effective action against Allman."
Serna said that makes the company responsible for Allman's actions.
Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. representatives issued a statement last week that said it intends to vigorously defend itself against the allegations, but could not comment further.