Tyrone Mitchell

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Tyrone Mitchell
Born(1955-10-17)October 17, 1955
DiedFebruary 24, 1984(1984-02-24) (aged 28)
Cause of deathSuicide by gunshot
DateFebruary 24, 1984
2:23 p.m. – 2:39 p.m.
Location(s)49th Street Elementary School (Los Angeles, California)
Killed3 (including himself)

Tyrone Mitchell (October 17, 1955 – February 24, 1984) was an American spree killer who fatally shot a student and a passerby as well as wounding twelve others who were leaving 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles on February 24, 1984. Mitchell then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a double-barreled shotgun.[2]


Tyrone Mitchell was born to Lee Charles (1931–1978) and Annie Lee Mitchell (1930–1978) in Montgomery County, Alabama.[3] He grew up in a South Central Los Angeles residence that was later razed to build the 49th Street Elementary School.

Mitchell and his family were members of the Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones. In 1977, Mitchell's parents and siblings followed Jones to the Temple's Jonestown settlement in Guyana, leaving Mitchell behind in Los Angeles;[4] both parents, four sisters and a brother perished in the mass murder-suicide that took place at Jonestown on November 18, 1978. According to Mitchell's fiancée, a 29-year-old Temple member named Marylou Hill, he suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the deaths of his family.[5]

Mitchell returned to his old neighborhood in Los Angeles, and moved with Hill into a white, two-story Victorian house at 730 East 50th Street, just 50 feet away from the school that now stood on the property where his childhood home had been. The house bore a crudely lettered sign reading "God's Love" and commanded a sweeping view of the school playground. Mitchell developed a reputation in the neighborhood for his irrational behavior and his abuse of drugs such as PCP, the latter of which Hill vehemently disputed.

On December 5, 1979, about a year after his return, Mitchell was arrested at his home following a dispute with his uncle and landlord, Willie Lee Mitchell, about who would relight the pilot light on a water heater. Reportedly, Mitchell's uncle had threatened to arm himself during the dispute, and Tyrone, in turn, fired three shots from a .30-caliber rifle into the air before police arrived. Two months later he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm within city limits, fined $200 and placed on two years' probation.

Hill said that Mitchell kept a "high-powered rifle" in the house and, by 1984, occasionally fired it at the sky. According to neighbors, in February 1984 he regularly fired at airliners passing overhead, which were landing at Los Angeles International Airport. These incidents were not reported to police out of fear. In an incident on February 11, one of Mitchell's uncles reported to police that Mitchell had pointed a machine gun at him. No weapon was confiscated, no arrest made, and the matter was turned over to the city attorney.[5][6]

Mitchell was a student at California State University, Long Beach, for several years, where he attended a variety of classes. He did not hold a job. Hill, his fiancée, worked as a preschool teacher. Mitchell wanted to marry Hill right away, but she wanted to wait until their financial situation improved.[5]

Shooting and siege[edit]

At 2:23 pm on Friday, February 24, 1984, about 100 students from the 49th Street Elementary School had just emerged from their classrooms and onto the school's playground when Mitchell opened fire from the second-story bay window of his house located across the street. Police in a squad car heard shots ring out and reported the incident immediately. Mitchell shot 39 rounds from an AR-15 rifle and 18 rounds from two shotguns down into the crowd of students. Several children fell from their wounds in the schoolyard, while most escaped running back into the school. There they were taken to the library on the building's opposite side and waited while their parents were telephoned to pick them up.

Children who remained outside hid behind trees, garbage cans, and any other available cover. Some of the children were screaming and crying. Seven ambulances were dispatched to the scene. A team of paramedics rescued several children while Mitchell continued to fire from his window. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedic Jack Frye and his partner drove directly onto the schoolyard and pulled children into their ambulance. "We pulled the kids, injured or not, into the ambulance. We just wanted to get them safe. We didn't know what could happen," Frye stated later. Some of the injured students were flown out by police helicopter. When the barrage had ceased minutes later, the school was evacuated and Mitchell's house was surrounded by police.[2][7][8]

During the ensuing siege, Hill arrived and asked police to allow her to enter the house to try to talk with Mitchell. Authorities refused her pleas, fearing she would be taken hostage. The Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT team arrived and evacuated houses adjacent to Mitchell's. The siege ended when a four-man SWAT team stormed the house shortly after 6 p.m. Police fired at least 16 canisters of tear gas into the house before the SWAT team entered. Mitchell was found laying face up on the floor of his second-story bedroom, dressed in camouflage pants, a khaki shirt, and jungle-style combat boots, with an empty knife scabbard attached to his belt. He had killed himself with a single wound to the head from a 12 gauge double-barreled shotgun. No one else was found in the house.[2][6][7]


At the time of the incident, Mitchell had injured 14 people, mostly children. Most were treated at local hospitals. One of the first children to fall under the attack was 10-year-old Shala Eubanks. A schoolyard supervisor, Albert Jones, 50, made several attempts to reach her, but every time he approached, he was fired upon and forced to take cover. Eubanks was carried into a classroom by two LAPD officers. Two paramedics tried to save her, but their efforts were in vain. She died on the classroom floor.

By late Friday night, three other casualties were in guarded but stable condition, another was in good condition, and the rest had been released from hospitals after treatment of minor injuries.[7] Carlos Lopez, 24, who had been jogging past the school when the shooting began, suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen and underwent surgery at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, where most of his pancreas and spleen were removed.[6] Lopez was listed in "guarded" condition for eight weeks until it worsened and he died on April 13.[9][10]



  • Shala Eubanks, 10, shot, died within hours[7]
  • Carlos Lopez, 24, born and raised in Nayarit, Mexico, moved to Los Angeles when he was 16 performing work at a factory. Passerby, suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen, pancreas and spleen, underwent surgery at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, died on April 13, 1984[9][10][11]


  • Anna Gonzales, 8, shot in the intestine, one kidney destroyed, underwent several hours of surgery at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital[6][7]
  • Stephen Gomez, 9, wounded when gunfire ricocheted from the pavement, striking him in the right side of his abdomen, chest and leg, did not require surgery, treated at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital[7]
  • Iran Macias, 10, admitted in good condition to Orthopaedic Hospital[7]
  • Albert Jones, 50, schoolyard supervisor, shotgun pellet wounds and other minor wounds, treated and released from Orthopaedic Hospital[7]
  • Latreece Williams, 11, shotgun pellet wounds and other minor wounds, treated and released from Orthopaedic Hospital[7]
  • Alicia Pena, 10, shotgun pellet wounds and other minor wounds, treated and released from Orthopaedic Hospital[7]
  • Mayra Cruz, 10, shotgun pellet wounds and other minor wounds, treated and released from Orthopaedic Hospital[7]
  • Jose Prado, 12, shotgun pellet wounds and other minor wounds, treated and released from Orthopaedic Hospital[7]
  • Mario Hernandez, 9, minor wounds[7]
  • Eloisa Cruz, 10, minor wounds[7]
  • Jose Gavino, 11, minor wounds[7]
  • Victoriano Ulloa, 11, minor wounds[7]


A funeral service for Shala Eubanks was held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, February 29, at Roger Williams Baptist Church. Over a thousand people attended the ceremony, including Los Angeles school superintendent Harry Handler and members of the school board; school principal Charles Jackson, and almost 100 teachers and students.[4] The funeral of Carlos Lopez was held on Saturday, April 21. Nearly 100 friends and relatives throughout the Los Angeles area, most of them factory workers like Lopez, gathered at Park Lawn Cemetery in the City of Commerce.[11]

After the shooting, the LAPD convened a board of inquiry, with representatives from the city and county's Fire, Mental Health, and Health Services departments and advocacy groups for the mentally ill to study whether Mitchell's violent outburst might have been predicted or prevented.[12] In 1991, California passed a law that mandated a 15-day (later 10-day) waiting period for the sale of rifles and shotguns and a background check on the buyer of the weapon.


Mitchell's motive remains unclear.[9] According to his uncle, Mitchell had been in the house all day on the day of the shooting. Many believe that his actions were linked to the deaths of his immediate family at Jonestown.[7] A toxicological study of Mitchell's body fluids postmortem by the Los Angeles County coroner found no PCP or other illegal drugs, and only a small amount of alcohol, .03%, less than a third of the legal limit.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spokane Chronicle". news.google.com – via Google News Archive Search.
  2. ^ a b c Girl killed, 11 shot at school on coast; suspect found dead, The New York Times (February 25, 1984)
  3. ^ Moore, Rebecca. Who Died in Jonestown and Georgetown, 18 November 1978?. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Banks, Sandy (March 1, 1984). "Police Probing Chain of Events in Sniper Attack: Dept. Inquiry Also Will Focus on Handling of Mental Patient Cases by Officers". Los Angeles Times. p. B3.
  5. ^ a b c Malnic, Eric (February 25, 1984). "'Almost Like a Guilt': Sniper Escaped Jonestown but Not Its Horror". Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  6. ^ a b c d King, Peter H. (February 26, 1984). "Aftermath of School Sniping: Stunned Parents and Neighbors Ask, 'Why?'". Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Belcher, Jerry (February 25, 1984). "Sniper Fire Kills 1, Injures 13 at School: Children on Playground Flee in Panic; L.A. Police Find Gunman Dead in Home". Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  8. ^ Sniping At L. A. School Still Haunts Young Pupils, Jet (March 12, 1984)
  9. ^ a b c "Man Shot in Sniper Attack on School Dies". Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1984. p. 24.
  10. ^ a b Man wounded by sniper dies, Eugene Register-Guard (April 15, 1984)
  11. ^ a b Hernandez, Marita (April 22, 1984). "Dies From Sniper Wounds: A 'Forgotten' Victim Leaves Wealth of Loving Memories". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  12. ^ Banks, Sandy; Hernandez, Marita (February 24, 1985). "Schoolyard Shooting Tragedy Spurs Plan to Provide Experts : County to Assist Police With Mentally Ill". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  13. ^ "The Region: Supervisors Delay Action on Fired Black". Los Angeles Times. March 14, 1984. p. B2.