Stockton schoolyard shooting

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Stockton schoolyard shooting
Location Stockton, California, USA
Date January 17, 1989
11:59 am – 12:02 pm (PST)
Target Students and faculty at Cleveland Elementary School
Attack type
School shooting, mass murder, murder-suicide, massacre, suicide attack, arson
Deaths 6 (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Patrick Purdy

The Stockton schoolyard shooting (also known as the Cleveland School massacre) occurred on January 17, 1989, at Cleveland Elementary School at 20 East Fulton Street in Stockton, California, United States. The gunman, Patrick Purdy, who had a long criminal history, shot and killed 5 schoolchildren, and wounded 29 other schoolchildren and one teacher, before committing suicide. His victims were predominantly Southeast Asian refugees.

The shooting[edit]

Victim fatalities
  • 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

On the morning of January 17, 1989, an anonymous person phoned the Stockton Police Department regarding a death threat against Cleveland Elementary School. At noon that day, Patrick Purdy, a disturbed drifter and former Stockton resident, began his attack by setting his fireworks-laden Chevrolet Van on fire with a Molotov cocktail after parking it behind the school, later causing the van to explode. He then moved to the school playground and began firing with a semi-automatic Chinese Type 56 rifle from behind a portable building. Purdy fired 106 rounds in three minutes, killing five children and wounding thirty others, including one teacher.[2]

All of the fatally shot victims and many of the wounded were Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants.[3] Purdy then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a pistol.[1] Purdy had carved the words "freedom", "victory", "Earthman", and "Hezbollah" on his rifle, and his flak jacket read "PLO", "Libya", and "death to the Great Satin" [sic].

The perpetrator[edit]

Patrick Purdy

Patrick Edward Purdy (November 10, 1964 – January 17, 1989) was an unemployed former welder and drifter. He was born in Tacoma, Washington, to Patrick Benjamin Purdy and Kathleen Toscano. His father was a soldier in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis at the time of his son's birth. When Patrick was two years old, his mother filed for divorce against her husband after he had threatened to kill her with a firearm. Kathleen later moved with her son to South Lake Tahoe and later to Stockton, California.[4] He attended Cleveland Elementary School from kindergarten through second grade.[4][5]

Patrick's mother remarried in September 1969, though was again divorced four years later. Albert Gulart, Sr., Purdy's stepfather, said Patrick was an overly quiet child who cried often. In fall 1973, Kathleen separated from Gulart and moved with her children from Stockton to the Sacramento area. In December of that year, the Sacramento Child Protective Services were twice called to her residence, alleging Kathleen was physically abusing her children.[6] When Purdy was thirteen, he was permanently banned from his mother's house after striking her in the face.[7] He began living on the streets of San Francisco for a while, before being placed in foster care by authorities.[6] He was later placed in the custody of his father, who was living in Lodi, California at the time.[7] While attending Lodi High School, he became an alcoholic and a drug addict, and attended high school sporadically.[2][4]

On September 13, 1981, Purdy's father was killed after being struck by a car.[7] His family filed a wrongful-death suit in San Joaquin Superior Court against the driver of the car, asking for $600,000 in damages, although the suit was later dismissed. Purdy accused his mother of taking money his father had left him, using the money to buy a car and taking a vacation to New York City, an incident that deepened the animosity between them.[8][9] After his father's death, Purdy was briefly rendered homeless, before being placed in the custody of a foster mother in Los Angeles.[6]

Purdy had a long criminal history, which began during early adolescence. First police records of Purdy date back to 1977, when Sacramento police confiscated BB guns from then 12-year-old Purdy.[6] In June 1980, Purdy was first arrested at age 15 for a court-order violation.[7] He was arrested in the same month for underage drinking. He was later arrested for prostitution in August 1980,[10][11] possession of marijuana and drug dealing in 1982, and in 1983 for possession of an illegal weapon and receipt of stolen property. On October 11, 1984, he was arrested for being an accomplice in an armed robbery at a service station, for which he spent 32 days in the Yolo County Jail. In 1986 his mother called police after he vandalized her car for refusing to give him money for narcotics.[4][12]

In April 1987, he and his half-brother Albert were 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 the County Sheriff that it was his "duty to help the suppressed and overthrow the suppressor."[13] Later in prison he attempted 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 very mild mental retardation, and to be a danger to himself and others.[13]

In the fall of 1987, he began attending welding classes at San Joaquin Delta College and complained about the high percentage of Southeast Asian students there. In October 1987, he left California and drifted between Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Tennessee searching for jobs. 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 with his aunt. He also purchased the Chinese-made Type 56 used in the shooting at Sandy Trading Post, in Sandy on August 3.[14] 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 soldiers.[2][4][8] He also purchased the 9mm Taurus pistol at Hunter Loan and Jewelry Co. in Stockton on December 28.

Police stated that Purdy had problems with alcohol and drug addiction. He was said to have been a misanthrope, and his hatred was especially directed against Asian immigrants,[13] believing that they took jobs from "native-born" Americans.[9][15]

According to his friends, who described him as friendly and never violent towards anyone, Purdy was suicidal at times and frustrated about the fact that he failed to "make it on his own".[13] Steve Sloan, a night-shift supervisor at Numeri Tech, stated that "He was a real ball of frustration, and was angry about everything." Another one of Purdy's former co-workers stated, "He was always miserable. I've never seen a guy that didn't want to smile as much as he didn't."[13] In a notebook found in a hotel where he lived in early 1988, Purdy wrote about himself through a self-loathing perspective: "I'm so dumb, I'm dumber than a sixth-grader. My mother and father were dumb."[4]

Reaction and aftermath[edit]

The multiple murders at Stockton received national news coverage and spurred calls for regulation of semiautomatic 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. 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."[1] Purdy was able to purchase the weapons because the judicial system had not convicted him of any crime that prevented him from purchasing firearms.

In California, measures were taken to first define and then ban assault weapons, resulting in the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989. On the Federal level, Congress struggled with a way to ban weapons like Purdy's aesthetically military-style rifle without being seen to also ban more sporting-looking rifles. Later in 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed an executive order (the Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle Ban) banning importation of assault weapons. The federal assault weapons ban was enacted in 1994, and expired in 2004. President Bill Clinton signed another executive order in 1994 which banned importation of most firearms and ammunition from China.[16]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°58′56″N 121°18′03″W / 37.98222°N 121.30083°W / 37.98222; -121.30083