Firing prompts killings at Silicon Valley tech firm

uptated: Wu has been arrested

A firing at a tech firm apparently drove one employee over the edge on Friday. Police say fired tech employee killed three people at a Santa Clara, Calif. chip company, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The victims at SiPort included chief executive Sid Agrawal and vice president of operations Brian Pugh, as well as a third unidentified woman (update: Marilyn Lewis, human resources manager). The alleged shooter, Jing Hua Wu, 47, of Mountain View, Calif., is still at large and being hunted by a massive police dragnet. Wu reportedly drove off in a silver sport-utility vehicle.

The shootings took place just before 4 pm, when Wu, an engineer who was laid off either Thursday or Friday morning, opened fire. SiPort makes digital radio chips. It raised $20 million in venture capital last year.

Layoffs are difficult enough to deal with, but this is devastating for all the families involved and the company as well. Workplace shootings happen across the country, but this is the first time in a long while that they have taken such a violent course in Silicon Vally. It’s a tragic reminder that there is always a human side to an economic downturn.

Agrawal had 25 years of experience at startups and tech companies. He held positions at Adobe Systems, Intel and Bell Labs, Alliance Semiconductor, Layer Five Networks and Synaptics. Likewise, Pugh had 25 years of experience in chip businesses. He had previously worked at Samsung and IBM.

SiPort was founded in 2004 and got its first round of funding in 2005.

The police ask that anyone who spots Wu keep their distance and call the Santa Clara police immediately at (408) 615-4700. If Wu is in another city, witnesses should call 911.

Update: Wu has been arrested. Below the fold is an announcement by the company about the killings, released at 8:30pm PST Saturday evening:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SIPORT HONORS EMPLOYEES, VICTIMS OF RECENT TRAGEDY

Sid Agrawal, Brian Pugh and Marilyn Lewis were Integral Part of SiPort Family

Santa Clara, CA. November 15, 2008. SiPort would like to offer heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims who were fatally shot yesterday afternoon. The three victims were Sid Agrawal, CEO; Brian Pugh, vice president of operations; and Marilyn Lewis, human resources manager.

“The entire SiPort staff and board are in mourning. We are a close-knit team of engineers and entrepreneurs who built this company together. We are devastated by the loss and our hearts go out to the families and friends of Sid, Brian and Marilyn,” said Aiman Kabakibo, CEO and company founder.

Sid Agrawal joined SiPort as CEO in 2004 and is credited with helping secure funding for the company, building out the executive staff and forming connections with early customers. He is known for his intelligence, approachability and warmth, as well as a leadership style that emphasized mentoring.

Brian Pugh served as vice president of operations and was responsible for transforming SiPort into a full-fledge, world-class manufacturing operation. He attended Stanford University and was known as a brilliant, high-energy engineer.

Marilyn Lewis served as the HR manager and was the glue that held the company together. She managed a variety of human resource and administrative functions including recruiting, payroll and vendor management. Marilyn joined the company in 2005 and was a key contributor to the growth of SiPort.

“All three people were extremely well liked and will be sorely missed. We are a team of entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists who enjoy working with each other very much. We grieve along with their families and friends,” said Kabakibo.

The alleged killer, Jing Hua Wu, is under arrest by the Santa Clara Police Department. Wu was terminated individually and not as part of a general layoff. In fact, SiPort has never had a general layoff in the history of the company. The company added to its staff in 2008 and anticipates continued growth.

SiPort wishes to express its appreciation to the Santa Clara Police Department and their colleagues elsewhere for their outstanding police work and for the compassion and support they have shown SiPort employees and families.

The SiPort management and board have met through the weekend to reach out to the victims’ families and its employees, and to ensure continuity of its operations. Further information on contributions to the families of the victims will be forthcoming.

About SiPort

SiPort is a wireless chip company based in Santa Clara, California. Founded in 2004, SiPort manufactures all its products in its Santa Clara facility.

###