Click on the logos below to view our ratings:


Each lawyer in this firm has more than 25 years experience practicing criminal defense in Gainesville, Florida and surrounding areas, including Alachua, Levy, Bradford, Union and Gilchrist Counties.

(352) 378-1107

1800 N. Main Street
Gainesville, FL 32609
Fax (352) 378-0103
Visa / MC Acceptedcredit

Blog and News

"Current news and information concerning criminal law"

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Archives
    Archives Contains a list of blog posts that were created previously.

January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy Kills Five School Children, Wounds Thirty Others - Today In Crime History

Posted by on in Today In Crime History
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 18935
  • Print

On this day, January 17, in the year 1989, at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, Patrick Purdy shot and killed five schoolchildren, and wounded 29 other children and one teacher, before committing suicide.  This event became known as the Cleveland School massacre.

On the morning of January 17, 1989, a person called the Stockton Police Department and warned of a death threat against Cleveland Elementary School.   At noon that day, Patrick Purdy, a mentally disturbed drifter, with a significant criminal history, set his van on fire with a gasoline filed beer bottle after parking it behind the school.  Purdy then moved to the school playground and began shooting an AK-47 from behind a portable building.   He shot more than 100 rounds in three minutes killing five children and wounding thirty others including one teacher.

All of the fatally wounded victims were Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants.   Purdy then took his own life by shooting himself in the head with a pistol.  Investigators would later discover that he wore a flak jacket that bore the words "PLO," "Libya," and "death to the Great Satin" [sic].   Purdy had also carved the words "freedom", "victory", "Earthman", and "Hezbollah" on his rifle.

Investigators would learn that Purdy had attend Cleveland Elementary School sixteen years earlier.  A 1987 police report described Purdy as suffering from "mild mental retardation."   They would find no evidence of a specific hatred of Cambodians or Vietnamese, instead those who know Purdy described him as a person that hated everyone.  

''He did not leave us a message,'' the chief investigator said . ''Without that we'll never know exactly why he did what he did.  In a way, he beat us because we'll never know.''

Sources and more information:

Slaughter in A School Yard, Time Magazine

The Desert News, January 18, 1989

Five Children Killed As Gunman Attacks A California School, New York Times, January 18, 1989

Killer Depicted as Loner Full of Hate, New York Times, January 20, 1989

Tagged in: murder suicide

Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.