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Schools Are "Sacred Spaces" -- Reaction to San Bernardino School Shooting

San Bernardino Police officers help evacuate children to awaiting school buses after a shooting inside North Park Elementary School.
San Bernardino Police officers help evacuate children to awaiting school buses after a shooting inside North Park Elementary School. | photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One child and two adults -- one of them a teacher -- died in a shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, and one other child was critically wounded. Police said the shooting was an apparent murder-suicide.  A gunman walked on to the school campus, checked in at the office as a visitor and went to a classroom, where he opened fire at the teacher. The two children were not believed to have been targeted by the gunman.

Police say a man identified as Charles Anderson, 53, of Riverside, went to the campus and killed his estranged wife, 53-year-old special-needs teacher Karen Elaine Smith. Two students who were standing behind her at the time were also shot, and one of them, 8-year-old Jonathan Martinez, died at a hospital. The second student, aged 9, was hospitalized and said only to be stable.

Southland elected officials sent words of condolence Monday to shooting victims, with several of them condemning the violence as an incursion on what is supposed to be a safe place of learning.

"School campuses are sacred spaces where children should be free to learn, play and grow without threat of violence," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement released by his office. "Today's shooting at North Park Elementary in San Bernardino is a reminder that deadly weapons can shatter that sense of security, mercilessly and without warning -- leaving parents and educators struggling to address the questions, fears and anxieties that gun violence creates for our young people."

City Council President Herb Wesson sent condolences via Twitter, writing, "Senseless violence like this is nothing less than a tragedy."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, said he was "heartbroken" by the shooting, noting that it was "even more tragic for (the) community as it comes on (the) heels of terror attack," referencing the 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Ontario, whose district stretches into Los Angeles County, commended the response of law enforcement to the scene, and echoed Garcetti's comments about the need to keep schools safe.

"Schools are supposed to be safe havens, and tragedies like today's are becoming far too commonplace in our society," Torres said. "While we are still gathering the facts, I am determined to do what I can to support those impacted by today's shooting and take any actions necessary to protect our community and prevent these  senseless acts of violence from ever happening again."

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Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, added, "Guns do not belong anywhere near schools, at any grade level, and we must do all we can to ensure our classrooms are safe environments for learning and growth. There are still many unanswered questions from today's tragedy, but we cannot just talk about how to prevent gun violence, we must act."

Gov. Jerry Brown said he and his wife "send our thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by today's tragic shooting."

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she was "heartbroken" over the shooting.

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