So-Called ‘Berserk’ Crimes Are Not New to San Diego

In the last 12 years, San Diego has been the setting for several so-called “berserk” crimes--the violent actions of someone who has gone amok:

* In January, 1979, Brenda Spencer, a 16-year-old San Carlos girl, killed two men and wounded eight children and a police officer. From a sniper’s perch in her family’s living room, Spencer aimed at a crowd of people on the grounds of Cleveland Elementary School. When contacted by a reporter during the shooting, Spencer offered the statement, “I don’t like Mondays” as the motive.

* In July, 1984, James Oliver Huberty, an unemployed drifter from the Rust Belt of Ohio, walked into a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro and killed 21 people before he was shot and killed by a police marksman stationed on the roof next door. Huberty was said to be depressed over the closing of the Babcock & Wilcox steel plant in his Ohio hometown, where he had been a longtime employee.


* In November, 1988, a teen-ager named Kenneth Kovzelove shot and killed two migrant workers as they walked along Black Mountain Road in Rancho Penasquitos. Matilde de la Sancha, 19, was shot eight times with a semiautomatic rifle; Hilario Castaneda Salgado, 22, was hit five times. Kovzelove allegedly shouted, “Die!” as he fired the shots.

* In March, 1989, a transient named Patricia Perrellis entered La Jolla’s Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and shot a woman in the back after asking her where the confessional was.

* In October, 1989, disgruntled postal worker John Merlin Taylor shot and killed his wife, then drove to the Orange Glen postal substation and killed two co-workers--said to be his closest friends at work--before finally killing himself.

* In April, 1990, Bradford Powers Jr., distraught over the death of his father at the hospital a few hours earlier, entered the emergency room of Mission Bay Hospital and opened fire with a handgun. He killed two people and wounded two others. Powers eventually committed suicide in jail.