SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A gunman burst into a special needs classroom Monday and killed a teacher and an 8-year-old student, the latest wave of violence to horrify a community that is still torn by the 2015 terror attacks.
And while the latest killings are not terror related - police say domestic violence spurred Cedric Anderson, 53, to fire the deadly shots Monday - it is no less painful to San Bernardino's people.
“You have somebody that goes to a school, where you have children there to learn, and you traumatize them in way (that's) just unconscionable," said Travis Walker, who spent 20 years with San Bernardino police and is now the chief of the Cathedral City (Calif.) police department. The latest shooting comes 17 months after the massacre and attempted bombing at the Inland Regional Center, which became the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil between September 2001 and June 2016.
The slain boy in Monday's attack was identified as Jonathan Martinez, who died after being airlifted by helicopter to Loma Linda Medical Center, the (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun reported. The boy was in his classroom at North Park Elementary School when he was mortally injured.
Police responding to a call at 10:27 a.m. found Anderson, 53, and his wife, teacher Karen Elaine Smith, 53, dead, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. Anderson had fired a .327 revolver and hit not only his wife, but Jonathan Martinez and another child.
Anderson, according to police, did not say a word before he pointed his weapon and began firing. He reloaded and then shot himself.
The second injured child’s identity has not been released. He was taken away by ground to an area hospital and was listed in critical but stable condition. Burguan said there were two aides and 15 children in the classroom at the time of the shooting. North Park has about 500 students.
"We believe this to be a murder suicide," Burguan tweeted.
The two children were standing behind Smith at the time of the shooting, Burguan said. "We have no reason to believe the students were targeted," he said. After a pause, the chief noted, "Not that that makes it any better."
Officials are unsure how many shots were fired, said San Bernardino police Lt. Mike Madden.
“This is a tragic incident that has befallen our city,” Madden said.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a statement thanking first responders and offering prayers for the victims. "As a mother and grandmother, today's senseless violence is a tragedy no parent should ever have to face," DeVos said.
San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Dale Marsden said office workers followed the normal procedures for admitting someone to campus, including verifying Anderson's identification.
"The person was confirmed to be who they said they were, they were known by staff and so that person was admitted to campus," Marsden said.
He offered assurances to parents who might be frightened to bring their kids to school in the coming days and asked for their patience.
Schools spokeswoman Maria Garcia said the shooting was the culmination of a domestic dispute.
Anderson, who had a history of arrests involving domestic violence, weapons charges and drugs, gained entrance to the school by telling office workers he was there to drop something off for his wife, Burguan said.
According to preliminary investigations, Burguan said, the couple had been married several months ago but were separated, possibly estranged. On Facebook, Smith posted information about her wedding at the Bethesda Temple Church in Los Angeles on January 28. As recently as March 4, Anderson was still posting photographs of the two of them smiling and hugging.
There were gasps from reporters as they learned about Jonathan's death during a Monday afternoon press conference, reporter Fernando Hurtado of Circa said via Twitter.
Police said youngsters were being bused to the campus of California State University, San Bernardino, "to be accounted for."
They were later being moved to Cajon High School to be reunited with parents and "for safety," Burguan said.
Authorities were bringing in sandwiches and movies for the children while they waited, police department spokeswoman Vicki Cervantes said. "Trying to make a bad situation better," she said.
News of the shooting caused parents to panic and rush to the school.
Jaime Meinhardt lives 10 minutes from North Park, but got to the area, she said, in three minutes flat, running red lights and swerving around other cars. Road closures forced her to park a short distance from campus and run to the school, where she spotted her 10-year-old son, Anthony, being loaded onto a bus.
Meinhardt screamed his name and he waved back. "I was flipping out, freaking out," she said.
The school will be closed for the next two days, police said. The killings in the San Bernardino terror attacks in 2015, one of the worst in the nation's history, is still relatively fresh on the minds of many residents. Fourteen people were killed and more than 20 wounded when a married couple stormed into a seminar and Christmas party for county workers. The shooters were later killed in a shootout with police.
Sharie Anderson said she was among the lucky parents on Monday. Though Anderson waited at the school for an "uncomfortable" hour, children were being released by grade and her 5-year-old son, Raja, was part of the first group to be released.
Raja had no idea what happened and happily munched on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich afterwards with his mother. "He just knows police came and helped him," Anderson said.
San Bernardino resident Rosslyn Overstreet, who also rushed to Cajon High School to pick up her 18-year-old daughter, Joanne, said, "I'm really a nervous wreck about what happened."
While the shooting happened at the elementary school, Overstreet — as well as other high school parents — were determined to get their children out of school.
"I'm still in shock," Overstreet said. "I know it can happen, but you never think about it happening at your kid's school or around your neighborhood."
The county behavioral health department dispatched teams of therapists and psychologists to talk to students and staff.
Carey Davis, San Bernardino's mayor, told reporters that he’d received a phone call from a White House official expressing concern on behalf of President Trump. “He has offered his aid in any way possible to help in this situation," Davis said.
Marx reports for the (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun; Bacon reports for USA TODAY. Desert Sun reporters Kristen Hwang and Colin Atagi contributed to this report
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