Examining Workplace Homicide
The Xerox Murders
There are those who believe they are immune from workplace homicide, thinking that it could never happen at their place of employment or in their particular field of work. Yet, occupational homicide is a worldwide phenomenon that has no boundaries, can target anyone regardless of their socio-economic status, race, gender, job position, geography or field or work. Therefore, no one anywhere is immune from occupational murder, although there are those who are less at risk than others based on variables such as job location, type, time in which they work, etc. For example, there is less risk for a person to fall victim to occupational homicide that works in a white-collar position in a suburban corporate office from nine to five, as opposed to a convenience store clerk working in the late evening in a bad neighborhood. However, sometimes in the least likely of places the unexpected could transpire.
In November 1999, a deadly shooting spree occurred in Honolulu at a Xerox Corporation warehouse. No one ever expected such large-scale violence in a state known to have the lowest murder rate in the nation or in a company that had never experienced a workplace homicide in its 50-year history. But, it did occur and the horrific incident became known as Hawaii's largest mass murder case.
Little is known about Byran Koji Uyesugi's childhood, except that when he was young he was fascinated with guns and was a member of his high school rifle team. To many he was considered good-natured, quiet and somewhat withdrawn, which may explain why, at 44, he remained unmarried. He was also known to have several hobbies, such as collecting rare goldfish, guns and cigars.
Byran's father, Hiro Uyesugi, knew his son had more problems than others may have realized, the largest being difficulty controlling his anger. An ABC News article entitled No Motive in Hawaii, reported that Byran had such a problem with his temper that he was arrested in 1993 for kicking in an elevator door and threatening his supervisor. The charges were later dropped, but Byran was ordered to seek psychological help to gain more control of his behavior.
A violent temper wasn't his only problem. According to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, some of Byran's colleagues at the Xerox Engineering Systems office, where he worked as a copier repairman for fifteen years, began to worry because he was leaving threatening notes to some of his co-workers. They also believed he had a low tolerance for stress and feared he would one day break down and do something reckless. That prediction came true on November 2, 1999.
Byran brought a 9 mm handgun and ammunition when he went to work that day shortly after 8 am. After entering the building, Byran walked up to the second floor and began to fire his gun. Moments later, two Xerox employees fell dead. Byran then headed for the conference room of his workplace, where he knew a "team" meeting was taking place. In the room was gathered members of his work group, seven of which he gunned down.
ABCNews.com stated in their article that a witness claimed that Byran calmly waved goodbye to those employees he shot. Another witness further claimed to have seen Byran smiling at the time of the murders. In total, he fired twenty rounds and took seven lives before fleeing the scene of the crime in a green company van.
George F. Lee wrote in his article, 7 Dead in Nimitz Hwy. Xerox Shooting, that shortly after Byran fled, SWAT teams and helicopters converged on the area, evacuating the building and sealing off several blocks in the downtown area. According to the story, a parking attendant saw Byran leaving the warehouse area before the police arrived and that he appeared calm and was not speeding.
Byran managed to elude police for approximately two hours after the shootings. Finally, a jogger spotted Byran sitting in the front seat of a van in the upscale neighborhood of Makiki Heights. The police were immediately notified and called to the scene.
ABCNews.com reported that police cordoned off an area of half-mile around the van in order to prevent any more unnecessary deaths in the event of a shootout. They also enlisted the help of Byran's brother Denis, who helped the police talk his brother into surrendering. After several hours, Byran surrendered to police and was taken into custody.
Following his arrest, investigators obtained a permit to search Byran's home. During the search they found a stash of seventeen guns, some of which were not registered. Police also learned that he attempted to purchase another gun in 1993, but his permit was denied because he had been arrested for destruction of property and threatening a supervisor.
Shortly after Byran's arrest, he was charged with first-degree murder, the category that covers multiple killings in the state of Hawaii. In August 2000, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole. According to an article by Ben DiPietro entitled Xerox Repairman Sentenced, Byran was also ordered to pay $70,000 restitution to the families of the slain victims. DiPietro wrote that Byran felt justified for the murders because he was merely trying to prevent being fired.
The increasing problem of workplace violence and homicide will not be controlled until it is taken more seriously by companies and organizations whose workers are most at risk. Most organizations only examine the problem after something tragic has occurred or victims' lawsuits have focused the attention on financial ramifications. One solution is for the various groups that have studied the problem and suggested practical solutions to find a louder voice. Some of the those solutions could be expressed in public service advertising and information on the subject in print and on the Web.