School Reopens After Playground Shooting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Cynthia Faram

    Carlsbad elementary school students returned to school Monday just days after many witnessed a shooting on their playground.

    Brendan O'Rourke, 41, was arrested Friday after witnesses say he emptied his gun into a crowd of children at Kelly Elementary School, grazing two girls with bullets and sending other children running for their lives.

    On Monday, students and their parents returned to school greeted by balloons as staff celebrated what they are calling a miracle.

    O'Rourke, armed with a .357, matches and a gas can, jumped the fence to the school yard around 12 p.m. Friday and sprayed the area with bullets, according to investigators.

    Two girls, aged 6 and 7, were admitted to Rady's Children Hospital Friday with gunshot wounds on their right arms. One of the second graders was released from the hospital Sunday, according to our media partners the North County Times. The girls were not present at the school Monday according to school officials.

    Over the weekend, teachers and staff worked to create the best possible environment for the kids and their parents to return to school. When they arrived to work Monday morning, teachers and staff were served breakfast by the PTA. The school also had counselors available but school principal Tressie Armstrong wouldn't divulge how staff are handling the traumatic experience.

    Armstrong said she hasn't slept for days but didn't reveal much about her staff's responses to the shooting other than saying how proud she is of her students and staff. Now kids know why it's important to follow directions and they did, she said to reporters at a media briefing Monday.

    Children were welcome to join counselors at 10 a.m. and then attend a picnic on the campus on the opposite side of the school where the shooting occurred.

    Those students who wish to stay will be escorted by their teachers to class around 1 p.m. where they'll read a book and then leave for home at 1:30 p.m.

    Sonny Eslampour, whose daughter is a third grader at the school, said officials want to ease the children back into their normal routine.

    "Basically, as a way of reclaiming the school back after the incident," he said. Eslampour's daughter was in the cafeteria at the time of the shooting and said the girl is ready to move on. "She gets bothered when she hears people repeatedly talking about it. And she says 'Can we not talk about it and go past it?'" said Eslampour.

    School officials want to make sure families have a chance to talk about the shooting. Parents should watch their children closely during this time according to one local doctor.

    "It may come out in their artwork, in their drawings, playing with toys, reenacting what they saw," said Clark Smith, M.D., medical director at Sharp Vista Pacifica Hospital. "And all that's very important."

    "If you take your kid out of school and you isolate them, then they're not going to have the opportunity to deal with this with their peers," said Smith.

    O'Rourke is being held at the Vista Detention center without bail. He's scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday and faces six counts of attempted murder.

    Neighbors describe O'Rourke as a loner, who would yell obscenities in the middle of the night.

    “The noise was pretty much a lot of banging. Banging on the walls,” said neighbor Victoria Sanchez. “Never saw any friends, any family.”

    The manager of an Oceanside apartment complex, Canyon Creek Apartments, recently gave O'Rourke an eviction notice, giving him three months to move out, according to Sanchez.

    “It's really scary. It's a serious situation. I've never heard of anyone in their right mind going to a playground and shooting children,” said neighbor Chris Garruto.

    The last time Garruto saw his next-door neighbor was on television, when he was being taken into custody.

    “I don't know if he was paranoid. When he would drive he would always look around a lot. I didn't really think anything of it, but he did give out a weird vibe,” Garruto said. “He was a quiet guy. Kept to himself… He would shut his door really quick if we were coming out at the same time.”

    Even more disturbing is the view from the street. The word "Christians” scribbled on his bedroom wall. On the other side, is the letter "g" followed by “to destroy it" right above his bedroom mirror.

    Neighbors say O'Rourke worked as a security guard. But about a week ago, it seemed like he stopped going to work.

    “His car would always be gone from eight to four, and I saw the car there the whole week, and I was like, that's weird. He's not working,” said Sanchez.

    Investigators say they still don't have a motive for the shooting.

    Steven Kane, Mario Contreras and Carlos Partida were working in a construction area Friday when they heard shots and kids screaming. The men jumped into action when they spotted the suspect appearing to reload his gun. They chased the suspect and knocked him to the ground.

    School staffers said there may be something in the works involving the men who stopped the shooting suspect but nothing has been planned as of Monday.