Transient Who Brought AK-47 to Anaheim School Gets Prison Term

Times Staff Writer

A transient who was arrested shortly after being spotted coming down from the roof of El Rancho Junior High School in Anaheim last June, armed with a semiautomatic rifle in a duffel bag, was sentenced to 2 years in state prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to assault and weapons charges.

Robert Lawrence Houston, 24, a former mental patient, once had made threats to a doctor that he might someday hurt some children.

Houston had argued to school authorities that he had only been sleeping on the roof. But records show he had purchased the AK-47 rifle the day before. The rifle was in a duffel bag and was unloaded, but Houston had three clips of rounds for it. Also found was a 6-inch bayonet.

Records show Houston was hospitalized in 1985 and then treated as an outpatient by Dr. Edward C.S. Inge of Costa Mesa. In a letter introduced as evidence, Inge wrote that Houston “becomes non-functional without medication.” But Houston had stopped seeing Inge, and had apparently been off medication for several years.


At one point, Inge reported, Houston told him that “I hope they kill me when I shoot some kids.”

Threat With Knife

A school custodian spotted Houston coming down from the roof. According to police reports, the custodian ordered him to the principal’s office, but Houston ran.

The custodian and a teacher chased him and ordered students in a physical education class to stay back. But the students mistakenly thought they were being told to help stop the intruder.

A 13-year-old girl grabbed at the duffel bag and was backhanded by Houston, an incident he later admitted in court.

When the custodian caught up to them, Houston pulled out the knife and threatened to use it. But he then stumbled backwards and fell, and the custodian grabbed it. Houston began running.

Anaheim police arrested him a short time later, a few blocks away.

Police discovered that Houston had an Orange post office box number, but had been living as a transient for several years. Court papers indicate that some of his relatives were afraid of him.

Houston denied to police that he had been on the school roof, but some of his possessions were found there. He said he had bought the gun because “this is a dangerous city; I’m a transient and I’ve been robbed at gunpoint and at knifepoint.”

Houston pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan in Santa Ana to charges that he assaulted the 13-year-old girl and that he carried a knife and a rifle onto school property.

Included in the court file on Houston’s case were several letters from parents of students at El Rancho and other Anaheim schools. The mother of the 13-year-old girl said at one court hearing, “With people such as Robert Houston roaming around as they please, I’ll always worry about my children.”