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The principal who resorted to a gun

May 6, 1940: Soon after learning that he would be fired as principal of what was then South Pasadena Junior High School, Verlin Spencer pulled out a gun at a board meeting and shot six colleagues -- five fatally. The Times described the 38-year-old “striking with lightning precision and maniacal fury.” Cornered in the empty school cafeteria, Spencer shot himself in an attempted suicide, the newspaper said.

“A year ago, Spencer, a stern, advancement-seeking teacher who came to Pasadena seven years ago from Ventura ... was given a leave of absence for three weeks,” The Times said. “High-strung and fired with nervous driving energy, his work seemed to cause him to be critical of everyone.”

Spencer pleaded guilty and was given five life sentences. He was paroled in 1970, on the condition that he leave California.


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