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The man accused of slaying three managers of a Santa Clara semiconductor firm in 2008 testified today he wanted to commit suicide in front of the managers but his gun went off as one of them thrust a chair at him. Jing Hua Wu, a former engineer for SiPort, Inc., said while discussing his firing with the managers on Nov. 14, 2008, he produced a 9mm pistol, declared he would shoot himself and then turned his attention to Brian Pugh, the firm’s vice president of operations. “He pushed the chair toward me so I had to protect myself,” Wu testified while holding his hands up in a defensive position. “At that point I felt that my gun went off,” he said. “I think the (gunshot) hit the lower half of him.”
Wu, 51, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Pugh, SiPort CEO Sid Agrawal, 56, and human resources manager Marilyn Lewis, 67, inside Agrawal’s office. The charges also include special-circumstance allegations sought by prosecutors and if he is convicted, Wu could be eligible for the death penalty. Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny claims that Wu allegedly shot Pugh in the top of the head, his chest and buttocks, Agrawal once in the side of the head and once in the neck and Lewis once in the side of her head. Wu, a native of China who speaks English, took the stand for the second straight day this morning, speaking in Mandarin Chinese with an interpreter sitting beside him translating. His defense attorney Tony Serra told the jury in January he would argue that the political persecution and brutality Wu faced as a boy growing up during the Cultural Revolution in Communist China in the 1960s and Wu’s mental illness contributed to the shootings. Serra asked jurors to consider Wu’s “mental diseases and defects” at the time of the homicides and convict him of the less-serious charge of manslaughter.
Wu today recounted his actions on the day of the shootings after SiPort managers decided to terminate him from his $125,000-a-year job as a testing engineer for the high definition radio chips maker, sold to Intel in 2011. Wu said that he entered the SiPort office that day, armed with his gun in his pocket, to clean out his cubicle and that he felt thirsty, short of breath and “very awful at the time.” While in his cubicle, he said that Lewis followed him, sat in a chair on wheels at the entrance to his cubicle and refused to allow him to pass to use the restroom so he pushed her in the chair out of his way. “I felt that it was a bad element, like in the Cultural Revolution that I was being watched,” Wu said. Lewis, he said, followed him on his way to the restroom, refused to allow him to use it and “then she said ‘let’s go to Sid’s office,’ or talk to Sid,” he said. By the time they got to Agrawal’s office, “my thoughts were a mess and couldn’t figure out where I was,” Wu said. “I felt that I had been wronged.” He said he went into the office with Lewis, who informed Agrawal that Wu had pushed her.
Agrawal seemed to motion for them to close the door and Wu said he was surprised to see Pugh, his direct supervisor who recommended he be fired, also sitting in the office. Wu said he then started to have suicidal thoughts. Serra told Wu to look directly at the jury and asked him, “Did you have a plan to kill anyone?” “I absolutely did not,” Wu replied. Wu said that he begged for three months more work, to which Agrawal said that business was not going well at the firm. He said he put his head down and pleaded for a month and a half of added employment. “I asked again, I begged again,” Wu said. “I felt that I was so stupid. I felt ashamed. I felt that I was a dog begging for a bone. I was in a lot of pain. I was extremely desperate.” Wu, who was known as “Gene” at the office, remembered taking out his 9mm handgun and stating to them “I was going to die in front of you.” “I recall that Sid said ‘Gene, Gene, Gene, don’t do this,’ or ‘you don’t need to do this,'” Wu said. “He said ‘you should calm down.’ I don’t know his exact words.” “I said something to the effect ‘I will end up in jail anyway,'” Wu said. “Because I think pulling out a gun in public, that is not allowed.” Then, Wu said Pugh told him “Gene, Gene, Gene, you have kids,’ something like that. Then my heart broke because my children are something I can’t think about.” “I said ‘shut up,’ but he continued to speak. I continued to face Sid up until I told Brian to shut up. I turned to face (Pugh). He had a chair in his hands.”
Holding the gun while shielding himself, Wu said he remembered the first shot, then someone grabbed his shoulder, he heard Lewis call his name, felt the he was bring pushed down and “then I heard a bang, bang,” he said. Wu answered “I don’t remember” to questions from Serra about whether he shot Pugh, Agrawal or Lewis. “I never had any thoughts of about killing anyone, not only that day but in my whole life,” Wu said. The next thing Wu said he remembered was being on the road in his rented SUV and nearly getting into an accident with a white pickup truck. He said he went to his bank, withdrew $20,000, purchased things for his youngest son’s birthday party and then spent the night in his SUV. The next day, he said he was about to call police to turn himself in when several officers pulled up and arrested him outside a Smart and Final store in Mountain View. Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny was set to begin cross-examining Wu this afternoon.
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