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Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Suspect | Haq had "chip on shoulder," ex-boss says

Seattle Times staff reporter

PASCO — In the summer of 2004, Naveed Afzal Haq moved from the Tri-Cities to Seattle in hopes of finding an engineering job. Haq searched for a month without success, then — with his cash running low — he settled for a $9-an-hour telemarketing job in Tukwila.

Even there, Haq had no success. He was fired from Seattle Specialties Inc. after just four hours on the payroll.

"This was quite a shock to me," wrote Haq in a letter to the state Employment Security Department. "I wanted to do a good job. ... It was just too hard for me to comprehend everything in a short period of time with so little training."

This ill-fated attempt at telemarketing was yet another setback in the troubled life of Haq, who is now 30. On Friday, police allege, he exploded into violence, declaring he was a Muslim angry at Israel as he carried out a handgun attack at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, killing one woman and wounding five.

At the time of his move to Seattle, Haq's life appeared like it might be taking a positive turn. He had just graduated from Washington State University with an electrical-engineering degree.

But Haq had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that made work difficult. And though he had only a brief stint with Seattle Specialties, a marketing/promotions company, the experience was a source of great frustration for Haq.

Fired on Aug. 4, 2004, he was accused of deliberately failing to follow instructions — misconduct that prompted a state administrative-law judge to order him disqualified from collecting at least 10 weeks of unemployment benefits.

The misconduct involved the way Haq reported his telemarketing calls. When he didn't reach prospective customers, he often pressed a key on his computer that erroneously reported them as not wanting what he was selling, according to documents filed in the case.

The employer also cited Haq for returning five to seven minutes late from his morning break and 20 minutes late from his lunch break.

Thomas de Winter, owner of Seattle Specialties, said in an interview that Haq "had a real chip on his shoulder."

"He didn't take instruction well," de Winter said. "He proceeded to make a huge deal of the thing in unemployment court. ... He was a hothead."

Haq said in his letter to the state that he was confused by the job, and all his errors were accidental.

"I have learned now that I'm not a good salesman on the phone," he wrote Nov. 13, 2004. "I also am not very good at talking fast most of the time. When I do talk fast, I sometimes fumble and say things that I don't mean."

Angered by the denial of his unemployment benefits, Haq filed an appeal in Franklin County Superior Court: "During my first hearing, I was relatively unprepared for the sales people's skillful presentation. However, now I am ready to rebut their unjust and false allegations."

The case, however, was eventually dismissed.

In the two years that followed, Haq continued to grapple with mental illness, according to Larry Stephenson, a Kennewick attorney speaking on behalf of Haq's parents, Mian and Nahida Haq, of Pasco.

Last year, Haq, who was raised a Muslim, also explored a new religious faith. He began to study the Bible with members of the World of Faith Church in Kennewick and was baptized.

Haq's parents were aware of his baptism, according to Stephenson, and took it as one more sign of their son's search for direction in his life. In recent months, Haq again appeared at prayer services at the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities, which his father had helped found.

A family friend of the Haqs', Muhammad Kaleem Ullah, attended the service for Pamela Waechter, who was killed in Friday's attack.

"It was a somber experience," Ullah said afterward. "It's a tragedy and learning lesson for all of us. This should not have happened."

Seattle Times staff reporter Joe Mullin contributed to this report.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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