Worker Rams Ibm Building, Sets Fires — (San Jose Mercury News)

SSRI Ed note: Good employee for 11 yrs takes Prozac for 6 mo, quits, goes to work, rams his car into building, sets manager's house on fire. Chemical fumes blamed.

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San Jose Mercury News (CA)

March 5, 1993

Author: JOANNE GRANT AND E.A. TORREIRO,, Mercury News Staff Writers

An IBM employee on medical leave smashed his car into a building at the company’s South San Jose facility and set a fire this morning before driving to his former manager’s home and torching it, police and IBM representatives said. The 11-year employee, John Kleder, 41, drove his red Chrysler Le Baron through the door of Building 28, tossed an open gas can onto the floor, told people to leave, then set the fuel on fire before driving off, according to IBM spokesman Gerry Marmion.

Next, Marmion said, Kleder apparently drove to the Allen Avenue home of his former manager, Edward A. Barrall, and set it ablaze.

Los Gatos police arrested Kleder after his car slammed into a sound wall on northbound Highway 280 near the Saratoga Avenue exit.

He was to be turned over to fire investigators and booked into the psychiatric unit at Valley Medical Center, police said.

Barrall said he had placed Kleder on leave for medical disability, which he described as paranoid schizophrenia. Since then, the man has made periodic phone calls, and, since a similar fire last year, the Barralls have been afraid to take vacations or leave the house for extended periods of time, Barrall said. Kleder blamed Barrall for the loss of his house, his wife and his three children, said his mother, Audrey Kleder. He had been married for 15 years, she said. His wife had obtained a restraining order against him and he had moved in with his mother in Saratoga, she said.

Audrey Kleder said her son had been depressed for several months and had been taking the medication Prozac but quit about six weeks ago. She said her son had been harassed at work, where there was a rumor that he was gay. He especially held a grudge against his boss, she said.

”He needed help and he did not get it,” Audrey Kleder said. “I really think the chemicals he was working with (at IBM and, at one time, at United Technologies) might have caused his mental problems because he was a good boy up until then.”

Don Moxon, an engineer at IBM, said he heard a tremendous bang at about 9:30 a.m. “It sounded like a bomb going off” in the building housing 1,200 workers, he said. “I didn’t know what had happened.”

Moxon, 46, ran out of his office and headed toward the foyer, where he spotted flames shooting toward the ceiling. “People are yelling and screaming; people are running every which way,” he said, describing the scene.

Moxon said he slipped out a side door and headed to the front of the building in time to see a red car pulling away. He and another engineer chased the car to get the license number.

Kleder was a senior lab specialist at IBM and had worked there since 1982. He went on medical leave in May 1991, Marmion said.

Barrall, the former manager, worked in the building where Kleder allegedly set the fire this morning, Marmion said. Employees managed to put the blaze out before firefighters arrived, and most were sent home for the day while smoke and fumes were cleared from the building, he said.

When firefighters responded to the Allen Avenue fire, they found the house fully in flames, department radio personnel said. The fire went to a second alarm before being declared under control.

Barrall’s wife, Mary Ann, said she was getting dressed this morning when she heard the doorbell ring twice, followed by banging noises. She began walking toward the front of the house and heard glass breaking. Worried about what might be happening, she escaped through the back door with one of the couple’s cats. The other cat died in the fire; the family’s 17-year-old dog was overcome by smoke but was resuscitated.

Barrall said the fire last March caused $25,000 damage and kept them out of the house until July. Fire officials estimated today’s fire caused $190,000 damage.

Copyright (c) 1993 San Jose Mercury News
Record Number:  9301170138