Stockton school shooting survivor to Newtown: ‘There is hope’


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Robert Young was in first grade at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton when a troubled drifter opened fire on its crowded playground, killing five children.

Young, who was wounded in the 1989 violence when bullet fragments struck his chest, is now a police officer. In the wake of last week’s massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six adults were gunned down, Young offered some advice to the survivors.


‘There is hope and not to give up and allow yourself to mourn,’ he told the Associated Press in a video interview. ‘Don’t hold your feelings back, you know; talk to people. It’s OK to be angry. Let yourself go through those emotions. Don’t hold them in.’

On Jan. 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy drove to the racially diverse Stockton school, raised his AK-47 rifle, fired 105 rounds and then killed himself. The 24-year-old was apparently motivated by a ‘festering hatred’ of Cambodians, Indians, Pakistanis and especially Vietnamese, according to a report by California’s attorney general.

The four girls and one boy killed were Southeast Asians. Young, who is white, recalled that the boy had been playing tetherball when he was gunned down. Two of the slain girls had been in Young’s kindergarten class. ‘They were sweet little girls,’ he said. ‘They were my age, you know. They were playmates.’

Some people in town, he said, still refuse to talk about what some called ‘the incident’ or ‘the thing.’ He said that generally doesn’t help.

‘They don’t allow themselves to heal,’ he said.


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-- Ashley Powers