SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — The man who fatally shot his estranged wife and a student in her San Bernardino elementary school classroom before killing himself had threatened her when she moved out of their house, authorities said Tuesday.
Karen Smith told those closest to her that she didn’t necessarily take the threats from her new husband seriously but thought Cedric Anderson was reaching out for attention, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told reporters.
“It appears that he had been making efforts to contact her and to have her come back home and she was resistant to that,” Burguan said. “And I don’t know if that just reached a boiling point, or what that was. Nor do we know exactly why he chose to do this at the school.”
Anderson, 53, walked into the special-education classroom Monday and opened fire with a .357 Magnum, targeting his wife but also hitting two of her students. One boy died and another is in stable condition. He then turned the gun on himself.
The couple had married in January and separated in mid-March, with Smith leaving to stay with family, Burguan said. Anderson had accused her of infidelity, but police said they had not confirmed anything.
“Those closest to her said that she had mentioned that his behavior was odd, and that she was concerned about his behavior, and that he had made some threats toward her,” the police chief said. “He did not make a specific threat to shoot her.”
Investigators found a note that made reference to the relationship, feeling dishonored and “moving forward with no regrets,” Burguan said. But outside the context of the shooting, nothing about the note would have been alarming, he said.
Some six weeks earlier, Anderson was a newlywed calling his wife an “angel” in one of many social media posts professing his love. What appears to be Anderson’s Facebook page features the declarations amid statements of religious devotion before his last public post on March 15.
“She knows when to ignore me,” Anderson said with a laugh in a video posted Feb. 27. “Well, it makes a happy marriage.”
Anderson had posted that he “loved being married to Karen Smith-Anderson!” and shared a photo of the two of them on March 4 during what he called a date night.
Smith’s mother, Irma Sykes, said her daughter had been friends with Anderson for 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.
“He had other motives,” Sykes said. “She left him and that’s where the trouble began. She broke up with him and he came out with a different personality. She decided she needed to leave him.”
She did not elaborate further. Sykes said her daughter was a dedicated teacher who took up the profession about 10 years ago after her four children grew up.
The shooting at North Park Elementary came 15 months after a terror attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others at a meeting of county employees. Husband-and-wife shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were later killed in a gunbattle with authorities.
School district officials said classes would resume Monday. School staffers knew Anderson, who followed the proper protocol and got into the school through the front office by saying he had to drop something off for Smith, officials said.
Marissa Perez, 9, said she got under a table as soon as she saw the gunman enter her classroom.
“She keeps telling me, `My teacher got shot, my friend got shot,”‘ her mother, Elizabeth Barajas, said as she clutched her daughter’s blood-stained sweatshirt.
Marissa said the shooter didn’t speak as he began shooting. One of her friends was hit, she added, pointing to her abdomen.
Jonathan Martinez, 8, died after being airlifted to a hospital. A 9-year-old boy, whose name was not released, also was wounded but was in “good spirits,” the police chief said.
After hundreds of students were evacuated from the school, panicked parents had to wait hours before reuniting with their children.
Holly Penalber, whose 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter attend the school, called it “every parent’s worst nightmare.” She said the long wait was “frustrating but also understandable.”
An overflow crowd gathered at sunset at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in San Bernardino to mourn and pray for the victims and survivors.
“Sometimes all we can do is cry. And today is the day for that,” Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said. “We’ll get up again. We’ll move on. We’ll become stronger. But today is the day to cry.”
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