The 1979 Cleveland Elementary School sh00ting

The Cleveland Elementary School sh00ting occurred on January 29, 1979, at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California, United States. The tragic incident resulted in the d*aths of the principal and a custodian, while eight children and police officer Robert Robb sustained injuries. The perpetrator, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer, lived across the street from the school and was convicted of the sh00tings.

Charged as an adult, Spencer pleaded guilty to two counts of m*rder and as*ault with a deadly weapon. She received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years. As of 2023, she remains in prison.

During the immediate aftermath of the sh00ting, a reporter contacted Spencer by phone while she was still in her house and asked her about the motive behind the crime. Spencer reportedly responded, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.” This chilling statement inspired Bob Geldof and Johnnie Fingers to compose the Boomtown Rats song “I Don’t Like Mondays.”


Brenda Ann Spencer, born on April 3, 1962, is an incarcerated American m*rderer known for committing a school shooting at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in the San Carlos neighborhood of San Diego, California, in 1979. At the time, she resided in a house across the street from the school. During the shooting, she was 16 years old, stood at 5’2″ (157 cm), and had bright red hair.

Following her parents’ separation, Spencer allegedly experienced poverty with her father, Wallace Spencer. They lived in a house with a single mattress on the living room floor, strewn with empty bottles from alcoholic drinks.

Acquaintances noted that Spencer harbored hostility toward policemen, spoke about sh00ting one, and expressed a desire to do something significant to get on television. Despite showing photography skills and winning a prize in a Humane Society competition, she generally lacked interest in school.

She attended Patrick Henry High School, where one teacher frequently questioned if she was awake in class. Later, while in custody, it was discovered that Spencer had an injury to the temporal lobe of her brain, attributed to a bicycle accident.

In early 1978, staff at a facility for problem students, where Spencer had been referred for truancy, informed her parents that she was su*cidal. During that summer, Spencer was arrested for sh00ting out the windows of Grover Cleveland Elementary with a BB gun and for burglary. It’s worth noting that police reports and eyewitnesses did not mention the use of a BB gun during the school vandalization.

In December of that year, a psychiatric evaluation, arranged by her probation officer, recommended Spencer’s admission to a mental hospital for depression, but her father refused to give permission. For Christmas in 1978, he gifted her a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle with a telescopic sight and 500 rounds of ammunition. Spencer later remarked that she had asked for a radio but received a rifle. When questioned about her father’s decision, she claimed, “He bought the rifle so I would k*ll myself.”


On the morning of Monday, January 29, 1979, Brenda Spencer initiated a sh00ting spree from her house, targeting children waiting for 53-year-old Principal Burton Wragg to open the gates to Grover Cleveland Elementary. Injuring eight children, she began by sh00ting nine-year-old Cam Miller, who wore Spencer’s favorite color, blue. Tragically, Spencer sh0t and k*lled Principal Wragg as he and teacher Daryl Barnes attempted to assist the children. Custodian Mike Suchar, aged 56, lost his life as he tried to pull a student to safety. Responding to the incident, 28-year-old police officer Robert Robb was wounded in the neck upon arrival.

Potential further casualties were averted when the police obstructed Spencer’s line of fire by moving a garbage truck in front of the school entrance.

After firing thirty-six shots, Spencer barricaded herself inside her home for several hours. During this time, she spoke to a reporter from The San Diego Union-Tribune via telephone, with the reporter randomly calling numbers in the neighborhood. Spencer admitted to sh00ting at the school children and adults, explaining, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

In discussions with police negotiators, she referred to the victims as easy targets and indicated her intention to “come out sh00ting.” These statements have been revisited during Spencer’s parole hearings. Ultimately, she surrendered and left her house, reportedly enticed by negotiators’ promise of a Burger King meal. Despite beer and whiskey bottles cluttering her residence, Spencer did not appear intoxicated when arrested, as indicated by police officers. However, crime-scene photos have raised questions about these accounts.


Brenda Spencer was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty to two counts of m*rder and a*sault with a deadly weapon. On April 4, 1980, a day after her 18th birthday, she received a sentence of 25 years to life. While incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Chino, Spencer was diagnosed with epilepsy and received medication for epilepsy and depression. During her time in prison, she worked on repairing electronic equipment.

According to the terms of her sentencing, Spencer became eligible for parole hearings starting in 1993. At her first hearing, she expressed a desire for police to sh00t her and admitted to alcohol and drug use at the time of the crime, although drug tests conducted upon her arrest showed negative results

In her 2001 parole hearing, Spencer claimed her father had subjected her to beatings and se*ual ab*se, but he denied these allegations. The parole board chairman doubted the veracity of her claims, citing her failure to disclose them earlier. In 2005, a deputy district attorney pointed to a self-harm incident four years prior as evidence of Spencer’s psychosis and unsuitability for release. During her parole hearing, it was clarified that Spencer had scratched the words “unforgiven” and “alone” into her skin, correcting initial reports.

In 2009, the parole board rejected her application for parole, determining that she would not be reconsidered for ten years. In August 2022, Spencer and the Board of Parole Hearings mutually agreed that she was not suitable for parole, extending the period before her next hearing by three years. She remains incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Chino, with her next parole hearing scheduled for 2025.


In memory of the shooting victims, a plaque and flagpole were installed at Cleveland Elementary. However, the school closed in 1983, along with a dozen others in the city, due to declining enrollment. Over the subsequent decades, it was leased to various charter and private schools.

From 2005 to 2017, the Magnolia Science Academy, a public charter middle school serving students in grades 6–8, occupied the building. In 2018, the school was demolished to make way for a housing development, and the plaque was relocated to the former school’s southern edge at the corner of Lake Atlin Avenue and Lake Angela Drive.

Remarkably, on January 17, 1989, nearly ten years after the events at San Diego’s Grover Cleveland Elementary, another school sh00ting occurred at a school coincidentally named Grover Cleveland Elementary in Stockton, California. This incident resulted in the d*aths of five students and injuries to thirty others. Christy Buell, a survivor of the 1979 sh00ting, expressed shock, sadness, and horror upon hearing about the 1989 sh00ting headlines.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Cleveland Elementary School shooting (San Diego), which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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