SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — An 8-year-old boy shot and killed along with his teacher in a San Bernardino special-education classroom was born with a genetic condition and had survived heart surgery, a school official said.
Jonathan Martinez had Williams syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by learning delays, mild-to-moderate intellectual disabilities and heart problems, according to Dale Marsden, superintendent of the San Bernardino City Unified School District.
But affected children also have “extraordinary gifts,” including a passion for music and extremely friendly personalities, an expert said.
“By all accounts, Jonathan Martinez was a happy child,” Marsden said Tuesday at a news conference.
A classmate, Jeffrey Imbriani, 7, said he used to talk and play soccer with Jonathan.
“I know him because one day he just walked up to me and said, ‘Can we be friends?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and we’ve been friends ever since,” he said.
Jeffrey said students got out of their chairs and ran outside with their teacher when they heard gunshots.
“I thought they were firecrackers but then the police started coming and then I realized it was gunshots,” he said.
He found out about Jonathan’s death when he got home and listened to the news.
“I just felt sad,” Jeffrey said. “I will think of him as a very best friend.”
Jonathan died at a hospital after being shot Monday in his classroom by the estranged husband of his teacher, Karen Smith, who also was killed. The gunman, 53-year-old Cedric Anderson, then fatally shot himself.
Anderson was a deeply religious Navy veteran who accused his newlywed wife of infidelity. They separated in March, after marrying in late January, and in the weeks before Monday’s violence, Smith told family members her new husband had tried to get her to return home and threatened her, according to San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.
Smith didn’t take him seriously and thought he was just seeking attention, Burguan said.
But Anderson walked into the special-education classroom Monday morning and fired 10 shots with a .357 Magnum, targeting Smith but also hitting and killing Martinez, and striking another boy, a 9-year-old, with gunfire as well.
The boy who survived was in stable condition Wednesday, good spirits and watching cartoons at a hospital, Marsden said. That boy, whose name was not been released, was expected to recover.
Just weeks before the shooting, Anderson had professed his love to Smith in a series of social media posts, including one that called her an “angel.”
Smith’s mother, Irma Sykes, said her daughter had been friends with Anderson for about four years before they got married.
“She thought she had a wonderful husband, but she found out he was not wonderful at all,” Sykes told the Los Angeles Times.
“She left him and that’s where the trouble began,” Sykes said. “She broke up with him and he came out with a different personality. She decided she needed to leave him.”
Anderson, a self-proclaimed pastor whose Facebook profile is filled with Bible quotes and religious references, had been unemployed but previously held jobs as a maintenance worker, police said.
He had joined the Navy in 1982 and re-enlisted as a reservist from 1987 until 2003, working as a builder, according to military records.
Anderson had been arrested four times since 1982, though none resulted in convictions, Burguan said. Those arrests included one in August 2012 on suspicion of spousal battery and another in May 2013 on suspicion of brandishing a knife, Torrance police Sgt. Ronald Harris said. Police had been called to his home five times that year, he said.
Anderson’s ex-wife, Natalie Anderson, had sought a restraining order against him in 1996 after he told her he would kill her and her children and take his own life when she refused to pay for their divorce, according to court documents obtained by the New York Daily News. Their divorce was finalized the next year.
Another of Anderson’s girlfriends was granted a restraining order in 2013 after Anderson held a pillow over her face, the newspaper reported.
Investigators who searched Anderson’s home after the shooting found a note that made reference to the relationship, feeling dishonored and “moving forward with no regrets,” Burguan said. But outside the context of the shooting, nothing about the note would have been alarming, he said.
The slain teacher was remembered Tuesday by one school parent as “nothing but good” with the patience and understanding to handle special-needs students.
“She was an excellent teacher,” said Marie Cabreras, who has two young children at North Park and also has an older daughter who was Smith’s student for two years at a nearby high school.
“She loved on kids. Her whole life was surrounded around kids and helping them, and helping them build a future,” Cabreras said.
Teachers hugged one another and wiped away tears as they returned to the school Tuesday to retrieve their belongings. It was to remain closed for the remainder of the week.
Ruben Gutierrez, the grandfather of Jonathan Martinez’s friend Jeffrey Imbriani, said the shooting was “just beyond words.” Gutierrez brought his grandson back to the school to show him how community members were coming together after the shooting and to reinforce that the school is safe.
“You know, it’s not a scary place to be, and just kind of help him process more and re-experience what happened to hopefully make this as healthy and experience as can be given the circumstances,” Gutierrez said.
Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for the victims Tuesday evening at North Park Elementary. The school will remain closed until Monday.
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