Three people, including a teacher and an 8-year-old boy, died in an apparent murder-suicide at a school in San Bernardino, California, police said, dealing another shock to a community still reeling from a terrorist attack two years ago that claimed the lives of 14 people.
Police say the gunman, Cedric Anderson, 53, entered a classroom at North Park Elementary School, raised a large calibre revolver, and, without saying a word, opened fire on the teacher, Karen Elaine Smith, also 53, who was his estranged wife.
Police said they arrived at the scene to find that Anderson had turned the gun on himself, as well.
Fifteen students and two aides were also in the room, a special education class. Two were near Anderson when she was shot and were struck by the gunfire. One of the students, 8-year-old Jonathan Martinez, was airlifted to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries. The second student, a 9-year-old boy whose name was being withheld, was in stable condition at a hospital, police said.
Captain Ron Maass of the San Bernardino police said the children are not believed to have been targets but rather they were "unfortunate recipients of injuries". The incident comes as school shootings have faded from the headlines but remain a concern for parents and school administrators. There have been a dozen incidents involving the discharge of a gun at US schools and colleges this year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that tracks gun violence, although this appeared to be the first murder.
The shooting is reminiscent of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, when a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members before killing himself. But for the San Bernardino community, the flashback was to 2015, when two terrorists opened fire at the Inland Regional Centre there, killing 14 and wounding 22.
Joshua Smith, Smith's 30-year-old son from a previous relationship, said that his mother was a "genuinely loving and caring person". Anderson, he said, was "paranoid and possessive". The behaviour led his mother to leave Anderson just months after the couple married in January.
"She loved life, her career, and especially her children," said Joshua Smith, one of Karen Smith's four children. "It seems surreal that she is gone, that I will no longer hear her voice and that she won't see her granddaughter grow up. It hurts, but I know she is with God now."
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Anderson had a criminal history that included domestic violence, weapons and drug charges. It's not clear if any of those charges involved Smith. Anderson's recent Facebook posts centered on religion and his relationship with Smith. "Date Night!!!" he wrote above a photo of him smiling with Smith. In other posts, he called her "an angel" and "a pure spirit".