On November 2nd, 1999, a man walked into work at a Xerox building in Honolulu, took out a semi-automatic pistol, and opened fire. By the time he was in police custody, seven of his coworkers were dead.
The shooter, Byran Uyesugi, had been working at Xerox for 15 years before the shooting, and had reportedly worried that he was going to get fired. He also possessed a large collection of firearms, and had talked openly about carrying out a mass shooting if his job were to get terminated. Uyesugi also claimed that his co-workers had harassed him, and that he felt ostracized in the workplace. After a standoff with police and a month-long trial, Uyesugi was found guilty of first degree murder and second degree attempted murder.
The victims were Jason Balatico, Ford Kanehira, Ronald Kataoka, Ronald Kawamae, Melvin Lee, Peter Mark, and John Sakamoto.
The murders occurred in a general atmosphere of uncertainty and paranoia: three years after the Sand Island hostage crisis, six months after the Columbine shooting, and two months away from the Y2K scare. In retrospect, the shooting can be easily seen as a singularly tragic event, but that was not evident at the time.
The Xerox murders stand as the worst mass shooting Hawaii has ever seen — in a state with the least amount of gun violence in the country — and it remains a shocking reminder of how guns and mental health issues are not just mainland problems.
It is difficult to remember the Xerox murders, and powerfully tempting to want to forget them. But there is value in summoning the courage to face even the most horrific acts. It’s an innately human virtue to use tragedy as a tool to understand why such terrible things happen, and to learn how to stop them from happening as much as we possibly can.
On Wednesday, October 30th at 9:00 p.m. KHON2’s Brigette Namata will take viewers on a deep dive of the Xerox murders in a five-part series. She will cover the murders, the surrender, the trial, the victims, and the lasting effects of the shooting.