On Monday, gun violence in the United States once again took center stage. Following school protocol, 53-year-old Cedric Anderson checked in at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, California. He told school personnel he needed to drop off an item with his estranged wife, Karen Elaine Smith. At about 10:27 a.m., he walked to her classroom – which had about 15 special needs students from first to fourth grade – and turned his gun on Smith. He then shot and killed himself, according to the New York Times. Two students stood behind Smith – an unnamed 9-year-old student who is in stable condition and 8-year-old Jonathan Martínez, who died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Diane Abrams, who also worked in the special needs class, told the Los Angeles Times that Jonathan was an “8-year-old boy full of life. He was so special to teach. … He was curious to learn. He’d say, ‘Ms. Abrams, am I being an all-star?’” As the internet sent their condolences to Martínez’s family, his little league team also paid tribute to him with a vigil.
As parents of students scrambled to find their children, many brought up questions about the school’s security. Elisabeth Barajaz, whose daughter belonged in Smith’s class, felt furious that the school couldn’t give her answers sooner. Knowing that she’d likely have to put her daughter in therapy to deal with the trauma of seeing her teacher killed, Elisabeth couldn’t stop wondering, “How did he get in?” Mark Coronado, a 45-year-old dad whose children previously attended the school, heard too many sirens and headed to the school to help. He, too, feels the security on campus is lacking. Almost two years ago, he remembers needing to confront a dad who came to pick up his child and carried a knife to school.
For its part, San Bernardino City Unified School District Supt. Dale Marsden said the school’s personnel followed procedure, asking Anderson for ID when he asked for permission to enter the school. The staff knew Anderson, who had married Smith in January. For the school district, this tragic event will require adjustments to their current system. “As with any policy, we want to take all things that we learned… and revise any work that we do,” Marsden said.
North Park Elementary serves about 500 students, more than half of whom are Latino. The school will remain closed for at least two days, and it has already started making plans to provide counseling and support services for their young students during these harrowing times.
Update, April 11 at 5:30 p.m.: Jonathan’s cousin, Brianna Lopez, began a GoFundMe campaign to help his family pay for funeral arrangements. Donate here.