Teacher killed in classroom shooting was devoted to her students, mother says

Parents wait to be reunited with their children at Cajon High School after a school shooting at North Park Elementary School.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Karen Elaine Smith, the teacher killed in a shooting at a San Bernardino elementary school, was described as a caring teacher with a special affinity for working with students with learning disabilities.

Smith and an 8-year-old boy were shot and killed Monday morning when the teacher’s husband opened fire inside a special-needs classroom before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Cedric Anderson, 53, of Riverside entered a classroom at North Park Elementary School and shot Smith, 53. He did not speak and reloaded the weapon before shooting himself, police said.


Smith’s mother, Irma Sykes, said her daughter and Anderson were friends for about four years before getting married in January.

The couple first began living together once they got married, but their cohabitation at Smith’s residence in Riverside lasted only about a month before Smith “decided to pull away,” Sykes said.

“She thought she had a wonderful husband, but she found out he was not wonderful at all. He had other motives,” Sykes said. “She left him and that’s where the trouble began. She broke up with him and he came out with a different personality. She decided she needed to leave him. She was going to divorce him.”

Sykes said she didn’t want to describe the details of what Smith experienced in her relationship with Anderson before their breakup, choosing instead to focus on the memory of her daughter, who lived most of her life in Harbor City.

“She was a very fine person,” Sykes said. “She was a Christian. She loved the Lord and served Him, and she was a dedicated teacher.”

Sykes said Smith pursued a teaching career later in life after raising four children, who are now adults. Smith earned a degree and teaching credentials about a decade ago, she said, because she had a passion for helping children with autism and learning disabilities. She took after her mother, who was a teacher for 41 years.


Los Angeles County Superior Court electronic records show Anderson was charged in July 2013 with assault and battery, brandishing a firearm and disturbing the peace in May of that year. Court records, however, show that the charges were dismissed on May 28, 2014.

Najee Ali, a community activist in Los Angeles and executive director of Project Islamic Hope, said he knew Anderson as a pastor who attended community meetings in Southern California.


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