Cleveland Elementary School shooting (San Diego)

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Brenda Ann Spencer
Born (1962-04-03) April 3, 1962 (age 56)
San Diego, California, USA
Nationality American
Criminal charge Murder, assault with a deadly weapon
Criminal penalty 25 years to life imprisonment
Criminal status Imprisoned at California Institution for Women
Parent(s) Wallace Spencer
Dot Spencer (divorced 1972)

Brenda Ann Spencer (born April 3, 1962) is a convicted American murderer who carried out a shooting spree from her home in San Diego, California, on January 29, 1979. During the shooting spree, she killed two people and injured nine others at Cleveland Elementary School, which was located across the street from her home. Spencer showed no remorse for her crime, and her full explanation for her actions was "I don't like Mondays; this livens up the day,"[1] which inspired the song "I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats. The song was a UK number one single for four weeks in mid-1979.

Early years

Born in San Diego, Spencer purportedly took an early liking to guns and also to stories that contained violence. For Christmas in 1978, her father Wallace gave her a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle.[2] Before her parole board in 1999, she said: "I asked for a radio and he bought me a gun." To the question as to why he might have done that, she answered: "I felt like he wanted me to kill myself."[3]


On January 29, 1979, Brenda Ann Spencer put herself by a window in her home and began randomly shooting at Grover Cleveland Elementary School across the street. She opened fire as children were waiting outside for principal Burton Wragg to open the gate.[2] The shooting claimed the lives of Wragg and Mike Suchar, and injured eight students and a police officer. Wragg was killed while trying to help the children, and Suchar was killed while trying to pull Wragg to safety.[2]

After firing thirty rounds, Spencer barricaded herself inside her home for almost seven hours, warning police that she was going to "come out shooting."[2] Ultimately, she surrendered to police.[2] Although police officers found beer and whiskey bottles cluttered around the house, they stated that Spencer did not appear to be intoxicated.[2]

When asked why she committed the gun attack Spencer replied, "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 [policeman]. I think and I want to shoot more. I'm having too much fun [to surrender]."[2][4] She also said, "I had no reason for it, and it was just a lot of fun," "It was just like shooting ducks in a pond," and, "[The children] looked like a herd of cows standing around; it was really easy pickings." At the time of the shootings, Spencer was 16 years old.[5]


Due to the severity of her crime, Spencer was tried as an adult. She had mentioned the attacks months before: "One of these mornings, you're gonna look for me", "No one understands me", "You don't have to wait very long to see what is going on with me". Neither her parents nor her friends paid heed to these statements. She pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon. She was sentenced to prison for 25 years to life. She is currently at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.[4] After becoming eligible for parole in 1993, Spencer was denied four times, the last on August 13, 2009, and will not be eligible again until 2019.[6]

In 1993, Spencer claimed that she had been under the influence of drugs (PCP and alcohol) when she opened fire, adding that the state and her attorney conspired to hide her drug test results. Both former prosecutor Charles Patrick and Spencer's attorney Michael McGlinn vehemently denied that any evidence had been hidden in her case.[3][7]

At a parole hearing in 2001, Spencer claimed that her violence was a result of an abusive home life in which her father beat and sexually abused her. The parole board's chairman, Brett Granlund, expressed doubt about Spencer's allegations, saying that Spencer had never discussed the allegations with counselors.[8]


  1. ^ Barbara Mikkelson (29 September 2005). "Urban Legends Reference Pages: Music (I Don't Like Mondays)". Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Milwaukee Journal, 29 January 1979
  3. ^ a b The Boomtown Rats − I don't like Mondays, with details about the case
  4. ^ a b Rowe, Peter (2007-10-06). "1979 school shootings inspired boy to teach". Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  5. ^ "I don't like Mondays", at
  6. ^ School shooter Brenda Spencer denied parole
  7. ^ The "official" story;, June 15, 2001
  8. ^ Parole denied in school shooting; USA Today, June 19, 2001

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