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

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

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