Some three dozen people gathered outside of the United Parcel Service facility at 320 San Bruno Ave. on Monday for a memorial service honoring the three drivers who were shot and killed on Wednesday morning after another man, dressed in the familiar brown uniform, went on a shooting spree.
Michael Lefiti, 46, Wayne Chan, 56, Benson Louie, 50, died on June 14 at the hands of gunman Jimmy Lam, 38, who killed the three employees before fatally turning his gun on himself. Lam was also a driver who had been with the company for some 18 years.
“Today, even this beautiful summer day feels dark and cold,” said Rev. Richard Smith of the Mission’s St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, addressing a crowd of the victim’s friends and coworkers along with members of the media.
The interfaith service was organized by the Archdiocese of San Francisco Restorative Justice Ministry, and was led by Smith and other faith leaders from local Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish congregations.
“Each of these men should have had many more years to laugh and to learn to relish life and share memories,” said Rabbi Katie Mizrah, of the Shalom Jewish Community Center. “We pray for the healing of our society which is so broken. May we live to see a time when gun violence is a rare exception, rather than the tragic and absurd new rule of our day.”
Dressed in a brown uniform and armed, Lam entered the UPS facility on Wednesday morning where some 350 people are employed. Although the shooting is still under investigation, employees on the scene said Lam opened fire on the third floor.
It is unclear why he targeted Lefiti, Chan and Louie or the two other employees who were injured in the shooting.
Flowers, candles and letters written to the slain men were pinned to a fence outside of the facility’s entrance. Friends of the victims said they struggled to comprehend what motivated what they deemed a senseless crime.
“[Lefiti] would always be the one to say, ‘hey dude, what’s going on, it’s not that serious.’ He went to church. Hes got a wife and babies,” said Nina Ramos, a long time friend of Lefiti. The father of five was of Samoan descent and was affectionately known as “Big Mike.”
“We all have our issues with our loved ones but you don’t go take it out on the world,” she said about Lam.
Ramos said that she herself was a victim of a violent crime, and that Lefiti had helped her overcome her own trauma through his willingness to lend an ear and give advice.
“I couldn’t work because I was so scared to be around people. He would tell me, ‘you can do it.’ So I got a job at 7-Eleven just to be around people, and he told me ‘it’s ok, you got it girl,” said Ramos, adding that she would miss the big man’s “big hugs.”
“He came to 7-Eleven every morning for a cup of coffee,” she said.
In a fundraiser set up for Chan, family members remembered the slain man as a “smiling goofy family man, [a] chummy community member with an infectious personality.”
Louie, an employee with the company for 17 years, was “ a devoted son, loving husband, proud father, selfless friend and dedicated volleyball coach and mentor,” according to a GoFundMe page set up in his honor.
“They apparently lived their lives according to the way god calls us to live – injecting much love and care and concern and cheerfulness in the everyday routine situations of life,” said Rev. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “We give thanks to them and let us learn from them.”
Emotions ran high as some attendees sunk their heads and listened through tears as the faith leaders spoke about forgiveness and compassion. Current UPS employees held four white candles adorned with rosaries and bearing the names of each of the victims, including Lam’s.
“We pray that their living and passing will be a benefit to us in some way – that our young ones will learn from this tragic episode,” said Imam Al Amin, of the San Francisco Muslim Community Center. “We should be working to bring about healing, be it mental health healing, physical healing, addressing the needs of people who are not as fortunate as others.”
“We hope that this will be an opportunity to bring us closer together in service of the interest and the needs of human beings all over this city,” he added.
While many of those grieving declined to comment, one of the coworkers of the victims said that the incident had indeed brought the company’s employees closer together.
“As a group we have been reaching out to each other a lot more, even through social media. I’ve texted a number of people and I’ve learned way more names in this company than I ever have,” said Chris, who has worked at UPS for 21 years.
He declined to give his full name, but said that he has worked with some of the victims for 15 plus years and has been shaken by the incident.
“I think we are all more aware of each other’s humanity,” Chris said. “ We didn’t really realize how much we rely on each other and care about each other until this happened.”
The victim’s families have set up fundraisers for each of the three men to help them cover burial expenses. Follow the links to contribute to the funeral funds for Michael Lefiti, Benson Louie and Wayne Chan.