by Laurie Kotka
On a warm spring Monday, with just a little more than a month left until the start of summer vacation, elementary school students at North Park School in San Bernardino started their day like any other. By 9:00 a.m., the chatter of students had started to subside at the sound of the bell and their day began. Nearly an hour and a half later by 10:27 a.m., the mirthful scene was shattered by the sound of gunshots.
This afternoon, San Bernardino Lieutenant Michael Madden, Public Information Officer, stated that at 10:27 am, San Bernardino police received initial calls reporting an active shooter entered a classroom at North Park and opened fire. Within 4 minutes, police responded and arrived at the school located at 5378 N. H St. in San Bernardino.
Madden cited the suspicion of a murder-suicide and confirmed the deaths of special education teacher Karen Elaine Smith (53) and the assailant, Cedric Anderson (53) who appeared to have taken his life by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A North Park school official indicated the man was visiting the teacher and that the attack resulted from a domestic dispute.
Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the two had been estranged for at least a month and married for a short while longer. Burguan also stated that Anderson had a history of domestic violence and weapons charges.
Eight-year-old Jonathan Martinez and a second student (9) were standing behind the teacher as Anderson entered the room, drew a large-caliber revolver and shot Smith.
The two students were also wounded in the attack. Both boys were air lifted to an area trauma center.
Jonathan Martinez did not survive his injuries. The other child, presently unidentified, is currently listed in stable condition.
Maria Garcia, San Bernardino City Unified School District spokeswoman, stated that following the San Bernardino terrorist attacks in December 2015, the school district closely reevaluated security planning. Garcia explained, “Especially after December 2nd we actually took a closer look at all of our campuses and what we can do to increase student security and campus safety. The majority of our principles have participated in lockdown training … They know exactly what to do and what they need to do to keep students safe.”
School district superintendent Dale Marsden stated the shooter entered the school, checked in, presented his ID at the front office, and said that he had something to drop off for his wife. Marsden also stated Anderson was known to school staff.
Immediately following the shooting, North Park was placed on lockdown as first responders secured the school. Once clear, students and teachers were evacuated and transferred to Cajon High School. News reports and social media flooded with images of teachers leading the children, hand-in-hand, guarded by armed police officers, away from the scene.
The North Park Elementary website displayed an emergency alert and stated the threat had been “neutralized.” The alert also affirmed students were evacuated and transferred to Cajon High School, located about a mile away at 1200 W. Hill Drive. Parents and guardians were asked to present a picture ID at pick up.
Meanwhile parents raced to the elementary school as well as the high school to find their children. Some panicked parents tried to push into the school to find their children. A witness recounted one parent trying to access the high school. As he was turned back by police, he hugged the officer who in turn hugged him back.
Parents and loved ones waiting fearfully in prayer and in tears were relieved as most students had been released by 2:30 p.m.
The team at Eat, Pray, Vote continues in prayer for peace and strength for the families and friends of Jonathan and Karen and the unidentified victim, the community’s youth as they also heal from this violence, the first responders, and the unity of the San Bernardino community.