Massacre refers to the killing of five
schoolchildren in Stockton, California on January 17,
On that date, an unknown person
phoned the Stockton Police and warned of a death threat
against Cleveland Elementary School. Later that day,
Patrick Purdy, a disturbed drifter and former Stockton
resident, opened fire on the school playground with a
Chinese-made Type 56 semi-automatic rifle, killing five
children and wounding twenty-nine others and a teacher.
The fatalities, Raphanar Or, Ran Chun,
Sokhim An, Oeun Lim and Thuy Tran, were all Cambodian
immigrants, except for Tran who was born in Vietnam.
Purdy, who had carved the words "freedom", "victory",
and "Hezbollah" on his weapon, and "PLO", "Libya", and "death
to the Great Satin" (sic) on his flak jacket,
then took his own life by shooting himself in the head
with a pistol.
The multiple murders at Stockton
received national news coverage and spurred calls for
regulation of semi-automatic weapons. In California,
measures were taken to first define and then ban assault
weapons, resulting in the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons
On the Federal level, Congress
struggled with a way to ban weapons like Purdy's
military-style semi-automatic rifle without also
including semi-automatic hunting rifles. In the end,
Congress defined "assault weapons" as semi-automatic
weapons with certain military-style secondary features
such as flash suppressors, bayonet lugs, and pistol
These were banned in the Federal
assault weapons ban, enacted in 1994, which expired in
2004. President George H. W. Bush signed an executive
order banning importation of assault weapons in 1989.
President Bill Clinton signed another executive order in
1994 which banned importation of most firearms and
ammunition from China.
To punctuate the complexity of the
issue, neither California's Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons
Act nor the Federal assault weapons ban would have
prevented Purdy from legally purchasing the weapon he
used to commit his crime.
Patrick Purdy, a mentally disturbed flophouse habitue
with a penchant for toy soldiers, thought Asians where at the root of
all his problems.
In January 17, 1989, he decided it was time for
resolution. He left his flea bag motel wearing the customary army
fatigues with "Death to the Great Satin" (a typo or perhaps a
strange fixation with fancy evening wear) scribbled on his sleeve and
headed for the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California.
In the next six minutes the the lethal drifter opened
fire in the schoolyard with an AK-47 killing five youngsters of
Southeast Asian descent and wounding 29 children and a teacher. Purdy,
24, ended the attack by turning his gun on himself.
Arson investigator Marty Galindo was at a nearby car
wash when he got a radio call of a vehicle fire near Cleveland
Elementary School. Purdy, in what detectives later said was a diversion
attempt, had stuffed his station wagon with fireworks and set the car
ablaze moments before he walked onto the campus and opened fire.
"I can still smell the gunpowder. That's what I
remember most -- the gunpowder. There were bullet casings everywhere.
And I remember walking by a little girl's shoe, it couldn't have been
more than a few inches long, that was sitting there on the ground. There
was flesh on it. It had to have been cut off. I walked around the corner
of a building and saw all those kids down. It was surreal. This was
supposed to be where kids are playing games, happy," Galindo said.
When the smoke settled, Michael Jackson, the Peter Pan
of auto-erotica, descended on the school to spread goodwill (and maybe
something else) among the surviving kids. Four of the dead children were
Cambodian, one was Vietnamese. Most were born in Thailand in refugee
camps as their parents fled the genocidal regime of Cambodian ruler Pol
Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
The Cleveland School massacre
was an incident of mass murder that occurred on January 17, 1989, at
Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, United States. The
gunman, Patrick Purdy, who held a long criminal history, shot and killed
five schoolchildren, and wounded 29 other schoolchildren and one teacher,
before committing suicide. His victims were predominantly Southeast
On the day of the shooting, an anonymous person phoned the Stockton
Police Department and warned of a death threat against Cleveland
Later that day, just before noon,
Patrick Purdy, a disturbed drifter and former Stockton resident, started
his attack by setting fire to his car that he had parked behind the
school. He then moved to the school playground and began firing with a
Chinese-made Type 56 semi-automatic rifle from behind a portable
building. Purdy fired more than 100 rounds in three minutes killing five
children and wounding thirty others including one teacher.
All of the fatally shot victims and
many of the wounded were Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants. Purdy, who
had carved the words "freedom", "victory", and "Hezbollah" on his weapon,
and "PLO", "Libya", and "death to the Great Satin" (sic) on his flak
jacket, then took his own life by shooting himself in the head with a
1. Rathanar Or, age 9
2. Ram Chun, age 8
3. Sokhim An, age 6
4. Oeun Lim, age 8
5. Thuy Tran, age 6
Patrick Edward Purdy was born on
November 10, 1964 in Tacoma, Washington. His father, Patrick Benjamin
Purdy, was a staff sergeant in the Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis
at that time of his son's birth. His mother was Kathleen Toscano. When
Patrick was two years old, his mother divorced her husband after he had
threatened her with a weapon, and Kathleen moved with her son to South
Lake Tahoe and later to the Sacramento area. He attended Cleveland
Elementary School from kindergarten through second grade.
Patrick's mother remarried, though was
again divorced five years later. Albert Gulart, Purdy's stepfather, said
Patrick was an overly quiet child who couldn't cope with things and
according to his aunt, he was an alcoholic during his childhood. When
Purdy was thirteen, he once struck his mother in the face and therefore
was permanently thrown out of her house. Purdy began living on the
streets of San Francisco for a while, before being placed in foster care.
Purdy was adopted shortly after, and
settled with his foster family in the West Hollywood area. There, he
became a drug addict and went to high school only sporadically.
On September 13, 1981 Patrick's father
died in a traffic accident and the family filed a wrongful-death suit in
San Joaquin Superior Court against the driver of the car, asking for
$600,000 in damages, though the suit was later dismissed.
Purdy also accused his mother of
taking money his father had left him, using it to buy a car and making a
trip to New York, an incident that deepened the animosities between them.
Purdy had a long criminal history,
which began during early adolescence. In order to support his drug
addiction, he became a prostitute, which resulted in his first arrest in
1980. He was later arrested in 1982 for possession of marijuana and drug
dealing, in 1983 for possession of an illegal weapon and receipt of
In October 1984 he was arrested for
being an accomplice in an armed robbery, and spent 32 days in the Yolo
County Jail. In 1986 his mother called police when he vandalized her car,
after she refused to give him money for drugs.
In April 1987, he was once more
arrested for firing a semi-automatic pistol at trees in the Eldorado
National Forest. At the time, he was carrying a book about the white
supremacist group Aryan Nations, and told a County Sherriff that it was
his "duty to help the suppressed and overthrow the suppressor."
Later in jail he tried to commit
suicide twice, once by hanging himself with a rope made out of strips of
his shirt, and a second time by cutting his wrists with his fingernails.
A subsequent psychiatric assessment found him to suffer from mild mental
retardation, and to be a danger to himself and others.
In the fall of 1987, he began
attending welding classes at San Joaquin Delta College and complained
about the high number of Southeast Asian students there. In early 1988
he worked at Numeri Tech, a small machine shop located in Stockton, and
from July to October as a boilermaker in Portland, Oregon, living in
Sandy, where he had relatives. He also bought the Chinese-made AK-47
derivative used in the shooting there on August 3.
In October 1987 he left and drifted
between Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, South Carolina, and
Tennessee searching for work. He eventually returned to California where
he rented a room at the El Rancho Motel in Stockton on December 26.
After the shooting the room was found decorated with numerous toy
Police stated that Purdy had problems
with alcohol and drug abuse and had developed a deep hatred for
everybody. His hatred was especially directed against Vietnamese and
other Asian immigrants, stating that they take away jobs from native-born
Americans, while he himself struggled to get along.
According to his friends, who
described him as nice and never violent towards anyone, Purdy was
suicidal at times and upset and mad about the fact that he failed to "make
it on his own".
Steve Sloan, a night-shift supervisor
at Numeri Tech described him as a "real ball of frustration" who "was
angry about everything", while another one of Purdy's former co-workers
noted: "He was always miserable. I've never seen a guy that didn't want
to smile as much as he didn't." In a notebook, found in a hotel where he
lived in early 1988, Purdy wrote about himself in a self-loathing
perspective: "I'm so dumb, I'm dumber than a sixth-grader. My mother and
father were dumb."
The multiple murders at Stockton
received national news coverage and spurred calls for regulation of semi-automatic
weapons. "Why could Purdy, an alcoholic who had been arrested for such
offenses as selling weapons and attempted robbery, walk into a gun shop
in Sandy, Oregon, and leave with an AK-47 under his arm?" Time magazine
asked, ignoring the fact that the weapon used was not an AK-47. They
continued, "The easy availability of weapons like this, which have no
purpose other than killing human beings, can all too readily turn the
delusions of sick gunmen into tragic nightmares."
Purdy was able to purchase the weapons
because the judicial system had not convicted him of any crime that
prevented him from purchasing firearms. Neither had Purdy been
adjudicated mentally ill, another disqualifying factor.
In California, measures were taken to
first define and then ban assault weapons, resulting in the Roberti-Roos
Assault Weapons Act. On the Federal level, Congress struggled with a way
to ban weapons like Purdy's military-style semi-automatic rifle without
also including semi-automatic hunting rifles. In the end, Congress
defined "assault weapons" as semi-automatic weapons with certain
military-style secondary features such as flash suppressors, bayonet
lugs, and pistol grips. These were banned in the Federal assault weapons
ban, enacted in 1994, which expired in 2004. President George H. W. Bush
signed an executive order banning importation of assault weapons in
1989. President Bill Clinton signed another executive order in 1994
which banned importation of most firearms and ammunition from China.
"He was not talking, he was not yelling, he was
very straight-faced, it did not look like he was really angry.....it was
as if he was concentrating on what he was doing."
A survivor tells of the blitz.
Patrick Purdy was, no so amazingly, a loner and a
drifter. He had slowly been building up a shitty record with the police
on drugs charges, robbery and burglary, and was forced to leave his home
town, (Stockton, Califoria) because of these charges. He moved to Sandy,
Oregon, where he lived quite peacefully with relatives.
Then one day Purdy decided it was time to go home.
He bought himself an AK-47 assault rifle over the
counter of a local store. He caught a bus back to Stockton.
Purdy paid a visit to his old school, the Cleaveland
Elementary School on January 17, 1989.
At 11.40 am Purdy parked his car outside the school,
got out, set it alight, and walked through the front gate armed with the
AK-47 and two handguns. He strode like a man on a mission into a
classroom and proceeded to randomly shoot at the children sitting behind
their desks. While Purdy was reeling of bullets his car exploded outside.
Seemingly finished with the classroom kiddies Purdy calmly walked back
outside and let loose with the AK-47. Survivors say he was firing the
weapon in wide swoops, causing maximum carnage, in all directions. After
130 shots of the automatic rifle Purdey pulled one of his handguns from
his waistband and blew a large portion of his head off.
The entire homecoming only took one and a half minutes
but in that time Purdy managed to kill five kiddies and injure thirty-nine,
six of those seriously.
When the police entered his hotel room after the spree
they found an army of toy soldiers around the room. Purdy had been
staging his own little war over the past few days.
On the day of his fame, Purdy dressed in camouflage
clothing (nutters clothing if ever there was any) and had painted
"PLO", "Libya" and "Earthman" on the front
of the jacket. To this day no one has a clue what "Earthman"
was all about. On the back of the jacket he had written "freedom"
and "Death to the great Satin". Poor bastard couldn't even
spell 'Satan'. Anyway the phase was taken from the Hezbollah group (a
pro-Iranian group) and he had also scratched Hezbollah into the AK-47.
Purdy had fitted his new weapon with a bayonet.
He bragged about being in 'Nam', despite only being 8
years-old when the U.S. pulled out.
All the kids killed were asian.
In April 1987 he tried to hang himself while in prison.
He also attempted to slash his wrists with his fingernails.
After the attempted suicide he was placed in a mental-health
unit, where he was judged a danger to himself and others. But he was
"I'm so dumb, I'm dumber than a sixth grader."
Makes you feel almost sorry for the poor bastard.
The Wacky World of Murder
Five Children Killed As Gunman
Attacks A California School
The New York Times
Wednesday, January 18, 1989
A young drifter dressed in military fatigues opened
fire with a semiautomatic rifle at children playing outside and others
inside an elementary school today. Five children between 6 and 9 years
old, all of them refugees from Southeast Asia, were killed and more than
30 people were wounded, about half of them critically, before the gunman
shot himself to death.
The gunman, 24-year-old Patrick West, originally of
Stockton, had an ''extensive criminal history'' but the police had ''no
idea'' of a motive, said Lucian Neely, a Deputy Police Chief in this
agricultural city 65 miles east of San Francisco.
''He was just standing there with a gun, making wide
sweeps,'' said Lori Mackey, who teaches deaf children at the Cleveland
She said she ran to her classroom window when she
heard what she thought were firecrackers, and saw a man standing in the
schoolyard, spraying gunfire from what turned out to be a Russian-designed
AK-47 rifle. There were 400 to 500 pupils from the first to third grades
playing at the noontime recess.
She said that when she realized what was happening,
she took her 10 pupils into a rear room where they could not be seen.
''He was not talking, he was not yelling, he was very
straight-faced,'' she said of the gunman, whom she described as about 5
feet 10, with short blonde hair. ''It did not look like he was really
angry; it was just matter-of-factly.''
She added: ''There was mass chaos. There were kids
running in every direction.''
Mr. West's criminal record was mostly in the Los
Angeles area and included narcotics and weapons violations and
soliciting for sex, Chief Neely said.
A 'Loner' and 'Alcoholic'
Mr. West, who sometimes used the name Patrick E.
Purdy, had lived most recently in Lodi, about 15 miles northeast of here.
Before that he lived in Sandy, Ore., a small town 25 miles southeast of
Portland, where he purchased the AK-47 on Aug. 3., said Police Chief
Fred Punzel of Sandy.
Chief Punzel said Mr. West had lived with an aunt and
uncle in Sandy for several months until October and the aunt, Julie
Michael, ''told me he was a loner, and as a child he was an alcoholic.''
He said Mr. West also had apparently lived in Texas, Memphis, Tennessee
and Connecticut since leaving Oregon.
The gunman, dressed in battle gear and wearing a flak
jacket, parked his car near the school, then set it on fire before
entering the school grounds through a gap in a fence at about 11:40 A.M.
He had two handguns and the AK-47, the police said.
He opened fire on the west side of a group of
portable classrooms, then moved to the east side and continued firing
across the blacktop where children were playing toward the main building
about 250 yards away, Chief Neely said. He was no closer than that when
he shot himself in the head.
About 60 rounds were fired; in some cases, the
bullets went completely through the main school building and came out
the other side to fall spent on the L-shaped school's front lawn, Chief
As the police cleaned up the carnage, a large handgun
and the AK-47 were lying on the ground near a pool of blood. Written on
the pistol's handle was the word ''Victory.''
15 Wounded Critically
Bruce Fernandes, a spokesman for the San Joaquin
County Office of Emergency Services, said six people were killed,
including the gunman, and 30 wounded, most of them pupils. Another
Deputy Police Chief, Lucian Neely, said at least 15 of the wounded were
in critical condition.
Mr. Fernandes said the wounded were evacuated to
eight hospitals in the area. Two helicopters and a fleet of ambulances
were pressed into service to transport the victims.
Chief Neely identified the dead children as Raphanar
Or, 9; Ram Chun, 8; Thuy Tran, 6; Sokhim An, 6, and Oeun Lim, 8. Thuy
Tran was from Vietnam, the others from Cambodia.
Three of the children who died were shot while in the
yard, and the other two were inside the school, Chief Tribble said. He
said at least one teacher was injured.
Pupil Describes Shooting
''There were a dozen students lying on the ground,''
said Cheryl Torres, who rushed to the school where her 11-year-old
daughter, LeAnne Sundstrom, is a pupil. ''It was very frightening.''
Ramon Billedo 3d, a student, described seeing a
''I just saw him fall down,'' Ramon said. ''His head
hit the ground. The teacher grabbed him and dragged him inside the other
''Some kids were outside and some man came over here
shooting like crazy,'' said Ricardo Rivera, 10, a fifth grader. ''A few
kids got shot.''
Another pupil, Roberto Costa said the shooting
started during his reading class. ''The bullets were hitting the walls,''
he said. ''Everybody got scared.''
'I Tried to Get a Pulse'
Brian Griggs was visiting a friend across from the
school when he heard gunfire and ran to the scene.
''I tried to get a pulse, couldn't get a pulse,'' he
said referring to a pupil. ''I was hoping an ambulance would show up. It
seemed to take forever.''
The school, about four blocks from the University of
the Pacific, is in a middle-class residential area. Several churches are
The AK-47 is a Russian design, but Chinese versions
are available in many gun stores for about $300. It is capable of firing
about 600 rounds per minute on full automatic.
Lieut. Fred Nixon of the Los Angeles police described
the AK-47 as a ''military assault rifle. You use it for one purpose and
one purpose only - to kill a human being.''
How Rifle Can Be Bought
Under Federal law, the purchase of a fully automatic
rifle requires a 4- to 6-month background check by the authorities. But
a semiautomatic rifle can be bought over the counter by completing a
standard form stating that the applicant has no criminal record, among
Chief Punzel said that the AK-47 and other
semiautomatic rifles can be easily converted into automatics.
There have been a number of shootings in schools
across the country in the last year.
Last May 20 a young woman named Laurie Dann went on a
rampage at Hubbard Woods Elementary school in Winnetka, Ill., killing an
8-year-old boy and wounding five other children. She fled to a nearby
home where she wounded a man, then killed herself.
Last Sept. 26, a man walked into Oakland Elementary
School in Greenwood, S.C., and opened fire with a gun in a crowded
cafeteria and in a third-grade classroom. Two 8-year-old girls died, one
at the scene and the other a few days later. Nine other people were
wounded, including two teachers.
The gunman was charged with murder and is awaiting
On Dec. 16, a teacher was killed and another was
wounded in a shooting spree at Atlantic Shores Christian School in
Virginia Beach, Va. A 16-year-old student at the school was charged.
On Jan. 5, a 16-year-old ninth-grader was fatally
shot in the schoolyard of Henderson Junior High School in Little Rock,
Ark., by a 19-year-old man.
After Shooting, Horror but Few Answers
Robert Reinhold - The the New York Times
They fled the killing fields of Cambodia to bring up
their children in the peaceful, fertile fields of the San Joaquin Valley
of California. But today the thousands of Southeast Asian refugees who
have settled here could only wonder in horror why a young American would
walk into a schoolyard and open fire with an assault rifle.
There were few answers in the initial investigation
of the shooting, which killed five children and wounded 29 others and a
teacher Tuesday at recess at the Cleveland School. The killing ended
when the gunman, Patrick Edward Purdy, shot himself in the head with a
The initial police accounts portrayed a deranged
young man, once a pupil at the Cleveland School, who nursed an obsession
with guns and the military.
'We May Never Know'
''Why he did this we may never know,'' said Capt.
Dennis Perry of the Stockton Police Department, who is in charge of the
investigation. ''He obviously developed a military hangup.''
When the police searched Mr. Purdy's latest residence,
Room 104 of El Rancho Motel on the edge of Stockton, they found 100 or
more small plastic toy figures of soldiers, tanks, jeeps and weapons.
They were on the shelves, on the grates, even in the refrigerator. On
the stock of his bayonetted rifle were carved the words ''Freedom,'' ''Victory''
and ''Hezbollah,'' the Shiite Moslem Party of God. On the camouflage
shirt he wore over his flak jacket were other references to the Middle
East, one of them misspelled: ''P.L.O.,'' ''Libya'' and ''Death to the
There was no evidence that Mr. Purdy had any special
animosity toward Asians. The Cleveland School, in a neighborhood into
which the refugees have trickled since 1980, is 68.6 percent Asian. The
dead and wounded included children of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese and
Age Is Uncertain
Mr. Purdy, a sometime welder, gave his age as 26 on
his driver's license, but as 24 and 27 in other official records.
The dead were identified as three Cambodian girls,
Ram Chun, 8 years old, Sokhim An, 6, and Oeun Lim, 8; a Cambodian boy,
Rathanan Or, 9, and a Vietnamese girl, Thuy Tran, 6.
Twenty-nine other children and a teacher, Janet Geng,
37, were taken to seven local hospitals. By this afternoon, nine
children had been released; Miss Geng and the other 20 children were
still in the hospital.
The Stockton Unified School District ordered all
schools opened as usual today. Overnight, workmen patched the 60 or so
bullet holes in the south wall of the brown stucco building and scrubbed
out bloodstains. But only about a quarter of the 970 pupils showed up.
Those who did were greeted by psychologists and
nurses trained in treating grief. Interpreters were brought in to help
the children and parents who spoke little English. The children were
urged to express their feelings and draw pictures of what they saw.
''The youngsters need to be in a place where they
feel safe,'' said the school superintendent, Mary Gonazales Mend. She
called the incident ''everybody's worst nightmare.''
This afternoon the Cleveland School's principal, Pat
Busher, went to an apartment complex where many Cambodians live to
reassure parents that the school was safe. ''We need the children
back,'' she said.
'Nobody Knows Why'
But some experts doubted that the Asian community
could quickly overcome the horror. The Cambodians, about 5,000 of whom
have settled in this agricultural region, have had a particularly hard
time adjusting to American life and learning English. Many work in
menial jobs in fruit packing plants, cotton mills, gardens and
restaurants, and many are on the welfare rolls.
At the Cambodian Community of Stockton, a social
service agency about a mile from the school, a teacher, Elena Pehlke,
was trying to calm fears.
''He was an alcoholic,'' she told her class in
measured English, ''a very unhappy person. Nobody knows why.'' She then
began a discussion of the gun control debate in response to a question
about how a deranged man could easily buy a military weapon in America.
Grief in Another Town
Another community was also reeling as a result of the
schoolyard rampage: Sandy, Ore.,a logging and farming town of 4,000
people in the shadow of Mount Hood, not far from Portland. It was there,
in a store called the Trading Post, that Mr. Purdy apparently bought the
Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifle.
Local sportsmen gathered today to commiserate with
Clair Cooper, the owner of the store, who signed the firearms
transaction record last August and accepted $349.95 from a customer he
said he had never seen before.
Mr. Cooper, who took his phone off the hook and
glowered at strangers in his store, said he rarely stocked the weapon
and ordered one last summer only because a few customers had asked for
it. In the future, he said, he would sell the gun only to customers who
ordered it in advance.
Suspect's Arrest Record
In Stockton, the Police Department was trying to
piece together the life and final days of the 150-pound, 5-foot 10-inch
Mr. Purdy. He had a record of at least five arrests in California,
dating to 1980.
He attended the Cleveland School from kindergarten to
third grade. His parents later divorced. His father, Patrick Purdy, was
struck and killed by a car about five years ago. His mother, now named
Kathleen Toscano, has not been located.
He spent the first half of this year in his hometown
of Stockton working at manufacturing jobs, then visited his aunt, Julie
Michael, in Oregon.
Chief Fred Punzel of the Sandy Police Department said
Mrs. Michael ''just fell apart'' when she heard the news about her late
brother's son. According to local press accounts, she last heard from Mr.
Purdy when he sent her a Christmas card with a Connecticut postmark.
Today the curtains were drawn at the Michael house
and a note taped to the front door, written on an envelope in a shaky
hand. The note, signed by Mr. Michael, begged that no one disturb his
wife. ''Pat Purdy did not live here,'' it said, ''he only stayed with us
for two weeks.''
Mr. Purdy apparently returned to Stockton on Dec. 26
and took a room at El Rancho Motel.
Two Minutes of Shooting
On Tuesday, just before noon, he arrived at the
Cleveland School in his 1977 Chevrolet station wagon, burned the car
with a Molotov cocktail in a Budweiser bottle and walked onto the
crowded school grounds. There he opened fire.
He shot at least 106 rounds. ''He was not aiming as
much as spraying,'' said Captain Perry.
''I thought it was firecrackers,'' said Ms. Geng, the
teacher who was wounded, in a bedside interview at St. Joseph's Medical
Center as she was about to enter surgery for a shattered femur. ''I did
not see his face - just a gun going off in front of me.''
Children began to crumple. The shooting lasted about
two minutes. Then Mr. Purdy put the pistol to his right temple and fell
dead against a school wall.
In the chill of the morning after, a few parents
brought their youngsters to school, among them Manuel Garcia, an
electronics technician. ''She did not want to come to school,'' he said
of his daughter, Denise, a kindergartner. ''My wife almost talked me out
of it, but the more I thought about it, it was probably a good idea to
bring her in to cope with it all. I wasn't even there, and I'm scared.''
Killer Depicted as Loner Full of Hate
By Robert Reinhold - The the New York
Friday, January 20, 1989
The 24-year-old man who opened fire on children in a
schoolyard here Tuesday was a troubled loner full of hate who could not
keep a job and had alcohol and drug problems, according to the portrait
that is emerging from investigators and family members.
But nothing in the picture so far gives a good clue
to what led the man, Patrick Edward Purdy, into the murderous rampage at
the Cleveland Elementary School. He killed five Indochinese children and
wounded 30 other people with an AK-47 assault rifle before committing
''He did not leave us a message,'' the chief
investigator, Capt. Dennis Perry of the Stockton Police Department, said
today. ''Without that we'll never know exactly why he did what he did.
In a way, he beat us because we'll never know.''
Investigators disputed suggestions that Mr. Purdy
nursed a special dislike for Asians, saying that interviews with family
members and co-workers showed he disliked everybody, particularly
authority figures like police officers.
He Drifted From Job to Job
''Through his lifetime, Mr. Purdy developed a hate
for everybody,'' Captain Perry said. ''He was a loner, had no friends,
no particular girlfriends. As far as dislike for any one race, that is
not a pattern that shows up.''
Federal records show that Mr. Purdy, sometimes using
the alias Eddie Purdy West, had bought five new pistols since 1984, a
period in which he was drifting from job to job in many cities. His most
recent purchase was the 9-millimeter Taurus brand semiautomatic pistol
that he used Tuesday to kill himself with a shot in the right temple.
An autopsy showed no signs of intravenous drug use,
no tumors of the brain or thyroid. A toxicological report on possible
drug or alcohol use was not expected until next week.
The 9-millimeter pistol was purchased at the Hunter
Loan pawn shop in Stockton on Dec. 28, 1988, and picked up after the
required 15-day waiting period Friday, four days before the shooting.
A Long Arrest Record
He bought the assault rifle last Aug. 3 in Sandy,
Ore., using the alias Patrick E. West. Apart from the use of the alias,
the purchase was legal, since Mr. Purdy has never been convicted of a
felony. Conviction of a misdemeanor does not disquality a person from
purchasing a weapon in California.
But he had a long arrest record, dating to 1980 when
he was arrested in Los Angeles on charges of soliciting a sex act from a
police officer. Two years later he was arrested on a charge of
possession of hashish or marijuana in Los Angeles County. The record
does not show which of the two substances he was charged with possessing
and the police said they did not have the disposition of the cases.
30 Days on Reduced Charge
In 1983, the police in Beverly Hills, Calif.,
arrested him on charges of possessing a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor;
he was convicted and put on probation. The same year, the Los Angeles
County Sheriff's deputies arrested him on a charge of receiving stolen
property. The charge was dismissed for lack of evidence.
On Oct. 1, 1984, Mr. Purdy was arrested in Woodland,
Calif., on charges of attempted robbery and criminal conspiracy. He
pleaded guilty to reduced charges of being an accessory to a felony and
served 30 days in jail.
His most recent arrest occurred in April 1987 when he
was apprehended in El Dorado County, Calif., on the Nevada border, where
he was charged with firing a 9-millimeter pistol in the El Dorado
National Forest and with resisting arrest.
District Attorney Ron Pepper said that Mr. Purdy
acted in a bizzare manner, telling officers that it was his duty ''to
overthrow the suppressers.'' Mr. Pepper said that Mr. Purdy kicked
deputies and kicked a window out of a patrol car.
He was originally jailed in a section for intoxicated
prisoners where he attempted suicide by hanging and then by trying to
cut his wrists with toenails and fingernails, Mr. Pepper said.
Mr. Purdy was then taken to the county psychiatric
health center, Mr. Pepper said. A spokesman for the center declined to
comment on Mr. Purdy's examination, citing patient confidentialiy.
A Danger to Others
Mr. Purdy pleaded guilty to both charges and spent 45
days in the county jail.
The El Dorado County probation report described him
as a danger to himself and others.
Mr. Purdy had been drifting around the country, never
holding a job for long, for several months. He frequently clashed with
He worked as a security officer in Glendale, Calif.,
near Los Angeles, leaving after an incident in which he failed to act
when somebody was being beaten up, Captain Perry said. He next showed up
in Key West, Fla., working as a laborer at a nursery and a construction
company until the summer of 1984.
That fall, he returned to California, working near
Sacramento, and then taking courses in welding in Stockton, where he had
attended the Cleveland School as a youngster. For the first month of
1988 he worked here at the Numeri Tech Machine Shop and later at the FR
He Worked in Connecticut
Last summer he drifted north to the Portland, Ore.,
area, where he took occasional work in the shipyards through the
boilermakers' union, then traveled to Texas in a vain search for work,
spent a month working at the DuPont Company in Memphis, and then a month,
from mid-November to mid-December of 1988, at the Thames Cogeneration
Company in Windsor, Conn., before returning to Stockton He was born in
Fort Lewis, Wash., on Nov. 10, 1964, according to the birth certificate
the police found in his automobile. Mr. Purdy spent a youth full of
turmoil. His father, Patrick Benjamin Purdy, was divorced from his
The elder Mr. Purdy served on active duty in the Army
for more than three years, all of it in the United States, after
entering the service in April 1963, The San Diego Union reported today,
quoting a spokeswoman at the Army Reserve Personnel Center in St. Louis.
Mr. Purdy spent most of his last year in a hospital for psychiatric
evaluation, then was put on temporary medical disability for five years
before being honorably discharged in 1971, the spokeswoman told the
newspaper. Other newspapers in California had quoted members of Mr.
Purdy's family as saying he served in the Army in Vietnam and was
discharged on mental grounds.
SEVEN SLAIN AT SCHOOL
30 REPORTED SHOT BEFORE STOCKTON GUNMAN KILLS SELF
17 January 1989, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
A gunman opened fire on the campus of a Stockton
elementary school today, killing six people and wounding approximately
30, then apparently turned the weapon on himself, police said.
Deputy Police Chief Ralph Tribble would only say there
were "multiple injuries . . . that included some adults and
children . . . and we have some fatalities there."
KILLER HAD ATTENDED THE SCHOOL 15 YEARS AGO
TOY SOLDIERS FOUND ALL OVER MOTEL ROOM
18 January 1989, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
The gunman who opened fire on an elementary school
playground, killing five children and wounding 30 youngsters and a
teacher, had attended the school 15 years earlier and may have had
"delusions of grandeur" about terrorist groups, police said
Police began compiling a bizarre portrait of the
gunman, 26-year-old Patrick Edward Purdy, saying he had placed dozens of
toy army men throughout his motel room and may have had "some kind
of military hang-up."
6 DIE IN SCHOOL ATTACK
MAN KILLS 5 CHILDREN, SELF; 30 HURT
18 January 1989, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER
A young drifter clad in combat gear methodically
sprayed elementary school children with bursts from an automatic rifle
Tuesday before taking his own life. Five students died and 29 students
and a teacher were wounded.
The gunman was identified by police as Patrick Edward
Purdy, 26. Officials said he also was known as Patrick West, in addition
to a half-dozen other aliases. He was described by authorities as a
drifter with an extensive criminal background.
THE NAGGING QUESTION: WHY?
GUNMAN'S TROUBLED LIFE GAVE NO HINT OF CARNAGE TO COME
18 January 1989, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Patrick Edward Purdy was a petty criminal and drifter
whose life was stuck in neutral. But nowhere was there a hint he would
one day become a mass murderer. The sparse portrait of Purdy that
emerged this morning reveals a young man who had a troubled childhood,
frequent run- ins with the law, and chronic difficulty finding his place
in the world, according to relatives and police records.
CHILDREN RETURN TO SCHOOL AFTER GUNMAN'S RAMPAGE
18 January 1989, THE PHOENIX GAZETTE
Stunned elementary school pupils returned to classes
today, one day after a young drifter with a long criminal record opened
fire on a schoolyard jammed with laughing children, killing five and
wounding 30 before committing suicide.
Patrick Edward Purdy, wearing a military flak jacket,
a shirt bearing the word ''Satan'' and earplugs, killed himself with a
bullet to the head after firing about 60 rounds from a Soviet AK-47
assault rifle at hundreds of youngsters enjoying recess Tuesday at
Cleveland Elementary School.
HE WAS KID ALCOHOLIC, POLICE HEAR
18 January 1989, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
The 26-year-old drifter with a long criminal record
who launched a mute, murderous assault on a California elementary school
yesterday was described by his aunt as a loner and childhood alcoholic,
Patrick E. Purdy purchased an AK-47 rifle in this
Portland suburb several months ago, then returned to his hometown of
Stockton, Calif., where he used the gun to kill five children and wound
29 others, along with a teacher, at Cleveland Elementary School before
taking his own life.
EVEN FAMILY MAY NEVER KNOW MAN'S MOTIVE FOR CALIF.
19 January 1989, BEACON JOURNAL
A broken home, a history of childhood drinking and a
criminal record might have been warnings. But authorities said
WednesDAY, they may never know why Patrick Purdy attacked a schoolyard
full of children with an assault rifle.
Purdy, a loner who often worked as a welder in his
travels around the country, apparently lived in a bizarre fantasy world
involving the military and the Middle East.
SCHOOL GUNMAN REPORTEDLY HATED VIETNAMESE
19 January 1989, St. Paul Pioneer Press
A drifter who opened fire with an assault rifle on a
crowded schoolyard, killing five children of Southeast Asian refugees,
hated Vietnamese immigrants and believed they were robbing native-born
Americans of jobs, a former co-worker said.
Patrick Edward Purdy, who wounded 30 others at
Cleveland Elementary School before committing suicide Tuesday, was
"seething" when he spoke about Vietnamese workers, Steve Sloan
CHILDREN RETURN TO SCHOOL AFTER KILLINGS
WHY MAN OPENED FIRE ON PUPILS STILL NOT KNOWN
19 January 1989, LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER
STOCKTON, Calif. -- Children returned to class to
confront their fears with help from psychologists yesterday, just one
day after a gunman fascinated by toy soldiers killed five children at
the school he attended as a boy.
Blood was washed from the pavement overnight, and
bullet holes were patched at Cleveland Elementary School, where experts
said it was important that pupils, mostly children of Southeast Asian
refugees, deal with the trauma immediately.
'BEST FRIEND' CLAIMS DARK MOODS MADE SCHOOL
GUNMAN'S LIFE HARD LONER WAS NICE, NEVER VIOLENT, WOMAN SAYS
19 January 1989, THE PHOENIX GAZETTE
A woman describing herself as the best friend of a
schoolyard killer whose clothes and guns bore radical Islamic slogans
says his struggle to cope plunged him into dark moods ''where he didn't
want to live.''
''He had a bizarre attitude, kind of paranoid,'' said
Kelley Riley, whom residents of the area described as Patrick E. Purdy's
frequent companion in late 1987 and early 1988. ''He wanted to make it
on his own (as a welder) but he couldn't. He'd get upset at things. He'd
get mad at himself.
PURDY HAD TRIED SUICIDE IN JAIL
20 January 1989, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Less than two years before this week's rampage at a
Stockton elementary school, Patrick Edward Purdy tried to hang himself
in a Lake Tahoe area jail cell and was deemed a danger to himself and
others, according to police and court records.
Purdy, who killed five students and wounded 30 other
students and one teacher before fatally shooting himself in the head
Tuesday, fashioned a rope out of a T-shirt and tried to hang himself
after being taken into custody April 28, 1987, on weapons charges.
POLICE DISCOUNT RACE MOTIVE IN SCHOOL KILLINGS
20 January 1989, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Patrick Edward Purdy, who this week killed five
Southeast Asian refugee children in a gun attack at a school playground,
was consumed by an indiscriminate and apparently escalating hatred for
all people, police officials and others familiar with the troubled young
drifter said yesterday.
Though Purdy was known to make surly comments about
the Southeast Asian refugees flooding into this city, a police
investigator said it appeared that race played no role in Purdy's
selection of targets.
FIVE ATTEND FUNERAL FOR STOCKTON KILLER
PURDY'S MOTIVE REMAINS A MYSTERY
21 January 1989, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Five people showed up for Patrick Edward Purdy's
funeral Friday -- a short, somber service in Lodi for the man who took
his life and with it the secret of what drove him to shoot 35 children
and one adult at a Stockton school earlier this week.
''This is not just the loss of a grandson," Julia
Chumbley, his 63-year-old grandmother said Friday afternoon, hours after
the private, family service at a funeral home had ended. "There's
more to it than that."
PURDY TESTS SPOT CAFFEINE AND NICOTINE
26 January 1989, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Patrick Purdy was on nothing stronger than coffee and
cigarettes when he opened fire with an AK-47 outside an elementary
school, killing five children before committing suicide, authorities
Toxicology reports performed on the body of the
24-year-old drifter have revealed only "a trace of nicotine and
caffeine," Stockton Police Capt. Dennis Perry said.
MAN KILLS FIVE AT SCHOOL--AREA GROPES FOR MOTIVE
STOCKTON, Calif. - A young drifter wearing combat
fatigues opened fire with an assault rifle on children in a schoolyard
and classrooms Tuesday.
Five pupils - all children of Southeast Asian refugees
- were killed, and 30 people were wounded before the gunman killed
The gunman was identified as Patrick Edward Purdy, 26,
originally of Stockton. He had an ''extensive criminal history,'' but
police had ''no idea'' of a motive for Tuesday's attack, said Lucian
Neely, deputy police chief of Stockton.
''He was just standing there with a gun, making wide
sweeps,'' said a woman who teaches deaf children at the school, the
Cleveland Elementary School. The teacher, Lori Mackey, witnessed the
shooting after running to her window when she heard what she thought
She said she had seen a man standing in the
schoolyard, spraying gunfire back and forth at 400 to 500 pupils from
grades 1-3 who were playing at recess.
When she realized what was happening, she said she
took her 10 pupils into a rear room to hide them.
Mackey said that the gunman ''was not talking. He was
not yelling. He was very straight-faced. It did not look like he was
really angry. It was just matter-of-factly.''
She described him as about 5-feet-10 with short, dirty
''There was mass chaos,'' she said. ''There were kids
running in every direction.''
One schoolgirl said the shots had set off a panic at
''Everybody just got down because they didn't know
what was happening,'' she said. ''Everyone started screaming.''
A tearful mother clutching her child called the
incident ''my worst nightmare.''
A Lutheran church near the school was turned into an
emergency center as police, ambulances and parents arrived.
Translators were called in to help communicate with
parents and children, many of whom speak little or no English, officials
Purdy - also known as Patrick West - lived most
recently in Lodi, Calif., about 15 miles northeast of Stockton. Before
that, he lived in Sandy, Ore., where he bought an AK-47 from the Sandy
Trading Post on Aug. 3., said Sandy Police Chief Fred Punzel.
Neely, the Stockton deputy, said Purdy's criminal
record had been mostly in the Los Angeles area and included narcotics
and weapons violations and soliciting for sex.
Punzel said Purdy had lived with an aunt and uncle in
Sandy for several months until October. Punzel said the aunt, Julie
Michael, ''told me he was a loner and as a child he was an alcoholic.''
Punzel said Purdy had left Oregon for a job as a
boilermaker in Texas. That job fell through, and he went to Memphis,
The aunt and uncle last heard from Purdy at
Thanksgiving, when he was in Connecticut, Punzel said.
His mother lives in Sacramento, Calif., and his father
was killed in 1980 or 1981 when he was struck by a car as a pedestrian,
Police said the gunman - dressed in battle gear and
wearing a flak jacket - had parked his car near the school, then set the
car on fire before entering the campus through a gap in a fence at 11:40
a.m. (1:40 p.m. St. Louis time) with two pistols and the AK-47.
Purdy's car, a 1977 Chevrolet station wagon, bore
Oregon license plates.
Neely said Purdy opened fire on the west side of a
group of portable classrooms, then moved to the east side and continued
firing across the blacktop yard toward the main buildings about 250
yards away. He was no closer than that when he shot himself in the head.
About 60 rounds were fired. In some cases, the bullets
went completely through the main school building and came out the other
side, Neely said.
As police cleaned up the carnage, a large pistol and
the AK-47 were seen lying on the ground near a pool of blood. Written on
the pistol's handle was the word ''Victory.''
Bruce Fernandes, a spokesman for the San Joaquin
County Office of Emergency Services, said five pupils had been killed
and 30 people wounded, most of them pupils. Neely said at least 15 of
the wounded were in critical condition.
Neely identified the dead children as Raphanar Or, 9;
Ram Chun, 8; Thuy Tran, 6; Sokhim An, 6; and Oeun Lim, 8. Thuy Tran was
from Vietnam; the others from Cambodia.
Three of the children were slain in the yard and the
two others inside the school, said Deputy Police Chief Ralph Tribble. He
said at least one teacher had been injured.
''There were a dozen students lying on the ground,''
said Cheryl Torres, who rushed to the school where her daughter, LeAnne
Sundstrom, 11, is a pupil. ''It was very frightening.''
Fernandes said the wounded had been evacuated to eight
hospitals in the area. Two helicopters and a fleet of ambulances were
pressed into service to transport the victims.
Ramon Billedo III, a pupil at the school, described
seeing a schoolmate shot.
''I just saw him fall down,'' Billedo said. ''His head
hit the ground. The teacher grabbed him and dragged him inside the other
Another boy, Ricardo Rivera, 10, a fifth-grader, said:
''Some kids were outside, and some man came over here shooting like
crazy. A few kids got shot.''
Another pupil, Roberto Costa, said: ''They were
shooting at my classroom and at (Rivera's) classroom at reading time.
The bullets were hitting the walls. Everybody got scared.''
Brian Griggs, who was visiting a friend across from
the school, ran to the scene when he heard gunfire.
''When you see bodies lying on a playground, you know
it's, you know . . .,'' Griggs said, his voice trailing off.
''I tried to get a pulse, couldn't get a pulse,'' he
said. ''I was hoping an ambulance would show up. It seemed to take
One mother, Deborah Copeland, said her wounded son did
not know what hit him. ''He didn't see a thing,'' she said. ''He was
An uninjured pupil, Gloria Ramirez, also was unaware
of what was happening to her classmates.
''We thought it was a game or something,'' she sad.
The school, about four blocks from the University of
the Pacific campus, is in a middle-class residential area. Several
churches are nearby.
Lane, Brian & Gregg, Wilfred. The Encyclopedia of
Mass Murder. Headline Book Publishing, London. 1994.
True Crime, Mass Murderers, Time Life Books. Virginia.
Patrick Edward Purdy