A killer who opened fire at a California elementary school in 1979 thinks she may be to blame for the succession of school shootings in the U.S. that followed.
Brenda Ann Spencer, now 56, has spent the last 40 years in prison at the California Institution for Women. Authorities arrested Spencer when she was 16, after she shot at children, teachers, a school custodian, and a police officer at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, on January 29, 1979.
According to court documents, Spencer used a .22 caliber rifle that he father gave her for Christmas to carry out the crime. As children lined up and waited for the school gates to open for the day, Spencer fired at them, injuring eight students.
According to the San Diego Unified School District, when school principal, Burton Wragg, tried to intervene and get the children to safety, Spencer shot and killed him. She then shot and killed school custodian Mike Suchar, and shot responding San Diego police officer Robert Robb in the neck, wounding him.
The shooting stopped when a security guard drove a large garbage truck in front of the elementary school, blocking Spencer’s line of sight.
Spencer fired thirty shots in total, then ran to her home across the street from the school, and barricaded herself inside. The teen lived in an unkempt, dilapidated home with her father, littered with alcohol bottles. Police later said Spencer had no alcohol or drugs in her system when the massacre occurred.
While barricaded inside the home, Spencer spoke to a reporter by phone and explained she simply wanted to “liven things up” on a boring Monday.
“I just did it for the fun of it. I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day. I have to go now. I shot a pig (cop) I think and I want to shoot more…They [the kids] looked like a herd of cows standing around; it was really easy pickings.”
The bizarre statement would later become the inspiration for the song, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” a 1979 hit by the Boomtown Rats.
Spencer eventually surrendered after authorities offered to buy her a meal at Burger King. She was later charged and convicted of assault with a deadly weapons and two counts of felony murder. A judge sentenced her to to 25 years to life behind bars.
Spencer has since been denied parole number numerous times over the course of many years, according to USA Today. Loved ones of the victims never failed to show up at the killer’s parole hearings to remind her that her actions left a lifetime of scars on innocent people.
During one of her parole hearings, Spencer acknowledged what she did was wrong and told the parole board she felt partially responsible for the mass school shootings in the U.S.
“With every school shooting, I feel I’m partially responsible. What if they got the idea from what I did?”
During another parole hearing, Spencer claimed she carried out the brutal shootings because she wanted to die, and thought if she chose an elementary school, police would show up and shoot her.
Spencer: “Because I knew that if I fired on the school the police would show up, and they would shoot me and kill me. And every time I had tried suicide in the previous year I had screwed it up.”
Commissioner: “Why did you have to shoot the people at the school?”
Spencer: “I wasn’t specifically aiming at people. I was shooting into the parking lot.”
Spencer claimed her violent tendencies were a result of being sexually molested by her father, Wallace Spencer. It’s a claim the man adamantly denied. She later gave a written statement and claimed that Wallace Spencer started fondling her when she was 9, then sexually assaulted her almost every night.
When her parents divorced, Spencer, still a child, was made to live with her father after he was granted full custody of her and her two siblings. Peers at her school said after her parents divorced, the once “happy tomboy” became sullen, depressed and began listening to Alice Cooper music, according to New York Daily News.
Neighborhood children added that Spencer started skipping school, doing drugs, shooting animals, and stealing things.
Months before the shooting, a school psychiatrist said Spencer should be hospitalized because she’s a danger to herself and others. Spencer told the parole board that her father refused to let her seek help.
“My dad told them that nothing was wrong with me and everything was fine, and leave us alone.”
Despite her plea for forgiveness and tales of a sordid childhood, Wilfred Suchar, son of Michael Suchar, doesn’t want Spencer to be freed and have the opportunity to hurt anyone else. He said the custodian’s mother never recovered from her son’s death.
“My question is, will there be another boring Monday for her?”
According to the California Department of Corrections, Spencer is eligible for parole review in September 2021.
[Feature Photo: Brenda Spencer via AP/Nick Ut]