"Family comes first."

That's what Sid Agrawal wrote in an e-mail to someone just over an hour before he was shot to death on Friday.  This story is so tragic, not to mention shocking that it happened so close to us here in the South Bay--the suspect was arrested just blocks away from the new 99 Ranch that Garry and I went to on Saturday.  My deepest sympathies to the families of all involved in the killings.

Suspected gunman arrested in 3 deaths at Santa Clara chip startup

There was no indication that Jing Hua Wu posed any danger when he walked into the offices of his Santa Clara employer Friday, a few hours after he'd been fired. So there was no reason for three top company officials to refuse his request for a meeting.

But some time after Wu and the three executives went into a room to talk, police say, the 47-year-old engineer pulled a 9 mm handgun and shot all three dead.

Nineteen hours later, a Bay Area manhunt ended when police cars swooped into the parking lot of a shopping center at El Camino Real and Grant Road in Mountain View. Wu was unarmed and made no attempt to struggle, police said, when officers piled out of the cars at 10:45 a.m. Saturday and handcuffed him in front of the Home Consignment Center store.

The shootings caused "genuine fear in the community," said Santa Clara police Chief Stephen Lodge at a news conference Saturday afternoon, adding that it was a relief "to be able to take him into custody."

Authorities said Wu would be booked on suspicion of three counts of homicide for the Friday afternoon slayings at SiPort, a small semiconductor company at 3255 Scott Blvd.

Police identified the victims as Marilyn Lewis, 67, of San Jose, who was the company's head of human resources; Brian Pugh, 47, of Los Altos, who was vice president for operations, and Sid Agrawal, 56, of Fremont, who was the company's co-founder and chief executive.

"These were truly three innocent victims, just doing their jobs," Lodge said. "That's what makes it such a tragic event."

Wu, a test engineer who worked at SiPort less than two years, was "let go" Friday morning because of his performance, a company spokeswoman said. Early police reports indicated he was laid off, but the spokeswoman said that was not the case.

Later in the day, sometime after 3 p.m. Friday, Wu returned to the business and asked to speak with the three executives, according to Lodge. Citing statements from other employees who were in the offices at the time, police said Wu was dressed casually and gave the executives no reason to be concerned.

"He must not have been acting too strangely for them to agree to the meeting," Lodge said.

Only Wu knows what was said during the meeting, the chief added, because only he and the victims were in the room. But other employees heard the shots and saw Wu leave the offices and drive away in a silver sport-utility vehicle. They called police at 3:53 p.m. Officers arrived within minutes and found several workers cowering in fear. The three executives were dead.

Wu had no history of violence or mental illness, as far as police know, Lodge said.

All-night search

Police worked through the night to find Wu, who apparently never returned to his home in Mountain View. Lodge would not say what led officers to the spot where Wu was captured Saturday morning or what Wu had been doing there.

Officers found the silver SUV near the spot where Wu was arrested, but they were still searching for the gun Saturday night.

Shocked neighbors said Wu was a friendly man who has lived for the past 11 years on Emerson Lane, a quiet Mountain View cul-de-sac, with his wife and three sons — a 2-year-old and two 6-year-old twins.

"He's been a very good-natured, calm, even-tempered guy," said Jim Pollart, who lives a few houses down from Wu. "I can't imagine what could have caused him to do this." Pollart said his family socialized a lot with Wu's family at the community pool and clubhouse.

On Sundays, Wu and his wife, Pollart said, often rode the light-rail train to the farmers market in downtown Mountain View.

"They're nice folks. Nice people," Pollart added. "I think we'll never make sense of it."

Meanwhile, friends of the three slain executives were reeling with grief.

"They were all just really solid, nice people," said SiPort board member Drew Lanza. "This whole thing is really sad."

Lewis, who lived in San Jose, worked at NeoScale Systems before joining SiPort in November 2006. No one answered the phone at her home Saturday. In an online profile, she wrote: "As is customary in a startup industry, I wear multiple hats "... facilities, HR, recruiting, payroll, etc."

Pugh, who was married and had two children, grew up in San Jose and later moved to San Diego, before returning to the Bay Area to work at SiPort about a year ago.

"He's a very detail-oriented, numbers person. He was a very loving family man," said Robert Boles, an architect who was working on a remodeling project at Pugh's home. A woman who answered the door at Pugh's home Saturday said she was too upset to talk.

Immigrant from India

At Agrawal's two-story English Tudor home in Fremont, a steady stream of visitors came to pay their condolences Saturday to the sons and the widow, who was too distraught to speak to reporters. Outside the house, a huge pile of shoes lined the exterior entryway.

Friends said Agrawal came to the United States from India with big dreams in the 1970s — and by most accounts he succeeded.

"We all had dreams of higher studies and coming to America," said Sanjay Mittal, who had known Agrawal since his days in college at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur.

Ambitious with an entrepreneurial spirit, Agrawal worked at Adobe Systems, Intel and Bell Labs, and he started a handful of companies on his own — some more successful than others, in fields from networking to data storage and semiconductors.

His latest venture appeared to be doing well, friends say. Specializing in chips for hybrid digital radio, the company was attracting the interests of venture capitalists — and Agrawal seemed excited about its prospects.

"He was pretty happy. I remember him telling me the products were starting to work," said Mittal, who also owns a software company and was planning a trip to Brazil with Agrawal and his wife. "He worked very hard. We have to. You work late hours and travel a lot, whatever it takes to succeed."

Beyond his business interests, Agrawal had sophisticated tastes. He collected a variety of art, once even traveled to Cuba for a particular piece, and enjoyed good wine. "I remember I had to carry a piece of art for him from India," said Arya Bhattacherjee, who has known the Agrawals for more than two decades.

But Agrawal's biggest source of pride was his family — his wife, Asha, and two sons, Ankur and Ashish. Friends said Ankur is a freshman at Harvard University, while Ashish graduated from Harvard and is studying medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.

"He was a very honest, very gentle, a very straightforward individual, a real family man," said Steve Fields, a contractor who worked with Agrawal and exchanged e-mail with him Friday afternoon. Fields wrote to tell Agrawal that he couldn't finish a particular job because a family matter had come up.

At 2:23 p.m., Agrawal e-mailed back: "It's OK, family comes first."