SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (CBS/AP) — A teacher was shot to death and 8-year-old student died of his wounds Monday in a murder-suicide at a San Bernardino elementary school that spread panic across a city still recovering emotionally from a terrorist attack at a community center just 15 months ago.
The shooter, identified as 53-year-old Cedric Anderson, died of a self-inflicted gunshot, police said. A second wounded student, a nine-year-old boy, was in critical but stable condition.
Anderson entered a special-needs classroom at North Park Elementary School aroundwhere his wife, Karen Eliane Smith, was teaching class and opened fire, hitting Smith and two other students standing behind her, according to San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.
“The children we do not believe were targeted. The suspect had come to the classroom to visit,” police Capt. Ron Maass told reporters.
The 600 other students at the school were bused to safety at California State University’s San Bernardino campus, several miles away. Television news footage showed students, escorted by police officers, walking off campus hand-in-hand.
As word of the shooting spread, panicked parents raced to the school, some in tears, some praying as they anxiously sought information about their children.
They were told to go to a nearby high school where they would be reunited with their children.
As the buses pulled away, some parents stayed alongside, waving and trying to recognize their children inside. Many said their children were too young to have cellphones. Others said the phones rang unanswered.
Jeanette Gordon, who lives near the elementary school, said she sensed something bad had happened as soon as she heard the blare of sirens filling her neighborhood.
As she waited to be reunited with her 11-year-old daughter, she passed the time pacing nervously and texting on her phone.
“I can’t wait to see her. I can’t wait to see a lot of the kids, all of them,” Gordon, 41, told The Associated Press. “I’m just trying to stay calm. It’s for my daughter. I have to stay calm and pray.”
She said she knew her daughter was safe because she had heard from others that authorities had already contacted parents of the wounded children.
A few minutes after buses began leaving the elementary school, they began arriving at the university, where students were seen bounding out of their doors.
Officials said they could be there for several hours as police interview them.
“It’s frustrating for us as parents but also understandable,” Holly Penalber said of the long wait, which most parents seemed resigned to.
Penalber’s 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter attend the school. She called Monday’s shootings “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
San Bernardino, a city of 216,000 people about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, was the site of a December 2015 terror attack that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others at a meeting of San Bernardino County employees. Husband-and-wife shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were later killed in a gunbattle with authorities.
Monday’s shooting was the latest tragedy for a city that has struggled in recent years with more than its share of them. Once a major rail hub and citrus producer, San Bernardino filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after struggling to pay its employees despite steep cuts to the budget.
An outlying suburb of Los Angeles, it was hit hard when the Great Recession sent housing prices tumbling. As the city struggled with economic problems that forced layoffs of police and other government workers, violent crimes, particularly homicide, began to rise.
In the past year, however, the city seemed to be making a recovery. Burguan, who won national praise for the way his department responded to the 2015 shootings, announced last year he was hiring additional officers.
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