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Fired Technician Kills 7, Wounds 5 in Silicon Valley

February 17, 1988|MARK A. STEIN and MARK ARAX | Times Staff Writers

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — A computer technician, fired from his job two years ago for sexually harassing a female co-worker, burst into the company's Silicon Valley offices Tuesday afternoon and opened fire with a shotgun and a hunting rifle, killing seven people and wounding five others, including the female employee, police said.

All of the dead, two women and five men, were believed to be employees of the firm, Electro-magnetic Science Lab. As of late Tuesday, none of them had been identified.

The gunman, identified as Richard Wade Farley, 39, of San Jose, barricaded himself inside the two-story office building for nearly six hours before surrendering to SWAT team negotiators. More than 30 frantic employees, who had dodged bullets by hiding under desks and inside closets and offices, were rescued from the building.

"Some guy walked in and started blowing people away," said Gary Wood, a technical illustrator at the company, a prime Navy subcontractor.

The gunman, wearing a fatigue-type jacket with pockets overflowing with ammunition and carrying a shotgun in one hand and a 30.06 deer rifle in the other, telephoned police from inside the building to say that he had shot three people on the first floor "and as many on the second floor," Sunnyvale Public Safety Capt. Hal Scott said.

That began five hours of negotiations with the gunman, who apparently was infatuated with a younger employee, Laura Black, police said. Black had spurned Farley's romantic advances for several years and recently obtained a court order restraining him from bothering her, officers said.

Black apparently was suing Farley for sexual harassment and he faced a court date this morning in the case, police said.

Shortly after 8:40 p.m. a remorseful Farley put down his weapons on the second-floor and walked backward with his hands above his head out of the building, which is located in a large industrial park in Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose.

SWAT team hostage negotiators from the Sunnyvale Public Safety Department said Farley agreed to surrender after they promised him a Diet Pepsi and a Number 26 submarine sandwich--turkey, ham and cheese--from a local delicatessen.

Black, police said, was the object of Farley's rage.

"He had a fixation basically on her (Black)," said Lt. Ruben Grijalva, who negotiated with Farley for five hours, breaking contact only a few times for 5 or 10 minutes.

"He said he was losing sleep at night because of her. He felt this was his only way of getting back at her," the lieutenant said. "He knew that she was not attracted to him and did not want to see him, but he was persistent. He said it wouldn't end until she went out with him or he died."

Seven Bodies Found

SWAT team members found seven bodies at the scene, one in a parking lot on the north side of the building, two in the building's stairwell on the first floor and four on the second floor. Five others, including Black, were taken to area hospitals with injuries.

Black, 26, who apparently had been trapped on the second floor with Farley, was listed in stable condition after surgery at Stanford Medical Center for a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Also taken to Stanford was Gregory Scott, 39, who was in good condition with flesh wounds to the face.

Richard Townsley, 44, was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center with gunshot wounds to the chest, arms, legs and hand. He was in stable condition. The others, whose injuries were believed to be minor, were not identified.

Farley, a computer technician who was fired by the firm two years ago after Black complained of sexual harassment, walked into the first floor of the building at about 3 p.m.

Grijalva speculated that Farley's motive for the shootings was "to show her, to show the people that laughed at him. He did not want to be considered a wimp."

Grijalva said he asked Farley why he was so enamored of Black, described as "a beautiful girl and a very talented engineer," and Farley responded that "He liked her smile."

But there was a dark side to his fixation.

"He was somebody who was apparently infatuated with her, followed her around and even terrorized her," Lt. Tom Moore said. "He followed her to ballgames, he followed her to the store."

Also Had Handguns

In addition to the shotgun and high-powered rifle, police said, he carried a 9mm automatic handgun, a .38-caliber semi-automatic handgun and a fifth unidentified weapon.

Police said Farley had hundreds of rounds of ammunition with him. A mobile home belonging to Farley was found in the parking lot outside the office complex with loose ammunition and several cans of a flammable liquid inside.

The gunman began randomly shooting for 15 to 20 minutes, hitting at least three people on the first floor. Then he walked to the second floor office where Black worked. Police said she saw him coming and slammed the door shut. Farley apparently shot Black through the door.

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