SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA/AP) — School officials said they had no indication that the San Bernardino school shooter was “agitated.”
“The staff knew of this newlywed couple. They knew nothing about the crisis they were in,” San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Dale Marsden said at a news conference Tuesday.
Special-needs teacher Karen Smith kept her personal life to herself. According to Marsden, no one at the school knew she had recently separated from husband Cedric Anderson. So the staff let him go to her classroom at North Park Elementary School after he checked in at the front office Monday.
Shortly after, Anderson shot and killed Smith and one of her students, 8-year-old Jonathan Martinez, before turning the gun on himself in a classroom full of kids.
A second student, a 9-year-old boy, was wounded. He was stable and in good spirits, watching cartoons in his hospital bed Tuesday morning, according to Marsden.
“No indication that the person was agitated,” Marsden added.
In the weeks before Monday’s violence, Smith told family members Anderson tried to get her to move back home and threatened her, San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. She didn’t take him seriously and thought he was just seeking attention, he said.
Anderson and Smith had married in late January but separated in mid-March after Anderson accused her of infidelity, prompting Smith to move out, Burguan said.
Just weeks before the shooting, Anderson had professed his love to Smith in a series of social media posts, including one that called her an “angel.”
Smith’s mother, Irma Sykes, said her daughter had been friends with Anderson about four years before they got married.
“She thought she had a wonderful husband, but she found out he was not wonderful at all,” Sykes told the Los Angeles Times.
“She left him and that’s where the trouble began,” Sykes said. “She broke up with him, and he came out with a different personality. She decided she needed to leave him.”
Anderson, a self-proclaimed pastor whose Facebook profile is filled with Bible quotes and religious references, had been unemployed but previously held jobs as a maintenance worker, police said.
He had joined the Navy in 1982 and re-enlisted as a reservist from 1987 until 2003, working as a builder, according to military records.
Anderson had been arrested four times since 1982, though none resulted in convictions, Burguan said.
Those arrests included one in August 2012 on suspicion of spousal battery and another in May 2013 on suspicion of brandishing a knife, said Torrance Police Sgt. Ronald Harris.
In a 2013 restraining order, another woman accused Anderson of threatening her with a butcher knife and trying to smother her with a pillow. He was never prosecuted.
When investigators searched his Riverside house Monday, they found a note but would not call it a suicide note.
“It made reference to the relationship and fixing things. And then it also made reference to feeling dishonored and moving forward with no regrets or something of that nature,” Burguan explained.
Smith was remembered Tuesday by one school parent as “nothing but good” with the patience and understanding to handle special-needs students.
“She was an excellent teacher,” said Marie Cabreras, who has two young children at North Park and also has an older daughter who was Smith’s student for two years at a nearby high school.
“She loved on kids. Her whole life was surrounded around kids and helping them, and helping them build a future,” said Cabreras.
Teachers hugged one another and wiped away tears as they returned to the school Tuesday afternoon to retrieve their belongings. The school was to remain closed for the remainder of the week.
Ruben Gutierrez, whose 7-year-old grandson Jeffrey Imbriani was friends with Martinez, said the shooting was “just beyond words.” Gutierrez brought his grandson back to the school on Tuesday to show him how community members were coming together after the shooting and to reinforce that the school is safe.
“You know, it’s not a scary place to be, and just kind of help him process more and re-experience what happened to hopefully make this as healthy and experience as can be given the circumstances,” Gutierrez said.
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