Police on Thursday continued to investigate what led San Francisco resident Jimmy Lam to fatally shoot three of his colleagues at a UPS facility Wednesday and injure two more before he turned the gun on himself.
But at least two employees of the warehouse said the atmosphere at the packaging and sorting facility was tense before the shooting because management and staff do not get along due to unending pressures and an at-times hostile work environment.
“If someone did have some mental problems, it’s a tough place to work even if your head is screwed on straight,” said Joseph Cilia, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 2785, who had no idea what motivated Lam. “Something’s underneath, something buried that no one knows about. Something bad.”
Police said that at around 9 a.m. Lam killed Mike Lefiti, Benson Louie and Wayne Chan outside of the UPS warehouse at 320 San Bruno Ave. and wounded two other UPS employees. He then shot himself, according to police.
The shooting was one of the most violent events in recent city history and prompted at least one elected official, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, to call for stricter gun controls.
Louie, 50, a San Francisco resident, had worked for UPS for 17 years. The full-time driver had two children, according to his union.
Tom Nash, who runs a UPS drop-off site in the Sunset, saw Louie, who was a volleyball coach, every day.
“He was a very outgoing, happy-go-lucky guy,” said Nash. “Just one of those guys you couldn’t help but like.”
Chan, 56, also a city resident, had worked for the company for 28 years and also had two children.
Lefiti, 46, of Hercules, had been with the company for 17 years. A memorial was set up Wednesday night near his old route at a Diamond Heights shopping center by the many people he saw daily.
Lam, 38, had worked for UPS for 18 years.
On Thursday, the warehouse was back to full operations, said Kim Krebs, a company spokesperson, who added that Lam’s motive remains unknown.
“The whole thing is incredibly tragic,” said Krebs. “UPS is kind of an extended family for a lot of the employees and our hearts really go out to the victims families.”
Lam was described by one employee, who asked to remain anonymous, as a “quiet guy — did his job as far as I know.”
Lam lived in the Richmond District — his home was searched late Wednesday by police — and he had recently asked to reduce his overtime hours at the facility.
In 2010, he was convicted of a DUI and completed a diversion program, according to court records. Then, in 2013, he was charged again with a DUI, but the case was dropped. He had no other criminal record.
Vincent Smith, 46, who works at the UPS warehouse cleaning trucks, described the workplace environment as “hostile” and has been off work for seven weeks do to physiological stress.
“Part of it is because you have management that are improperly trained or one or two people who are taking improper action to show favoritism,” said Smith. “I can’t speak for what actually happened yesterday. I can tell you it is a hostile work environment to some degree.”
Cilia, whose union has about 300 members in San Francisco, said working for UPS is a high-stress job but would not go as far as calling it a hostile workplace.
Cilia didn’t want to speculate if or why anyone might have been targeted, but he did say that something may have snapped inside of Lam, who had two sons.
Another warehouse employee, who did not want to give their name for fear of reprisal, said the workplace is distressing.
“Before this there was problems with management, how they talked to people and treated people,” they said. “He’s not the only one. I think he’s not the only one on edge.”
Another company spokesperson disagreed with that characterization Thursday.
“I would dispute that,” said Susan Rosenberg. “[I would] say we have a very successful and engaged workforce.”
Rosenberg added that there are a number of avenues given to employees to report harassment and unfair working conditions.
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