January 17, 1989
Patrick Purdy (24) visits the Cleveland Elementary School where he fires on students and teachers, killing 6 (including himself) and wounding 29
On the morning of January 17, the police department received an anonymous death threat against the Cleveland Elementary School. A few hours later, Purdy arrived at the school he had attended as a child, from kindergarten through third grade. He lit a pipe bomb which he tossed into his station wagon then proceeded toward the school’s courtyard. At the time, between 300 and 500 (sources vary) children between the ages of 6 and 9 were at recess. Purdy began to fire upon the children while he was some 200 feet (60 meters) away.
One of the teachers at the school ran to the window when she heard what she believed were firecrackers, and saw a man in the courtyard with a rifle later determined to be an AK-47. “He was just standing there with a gun, making wide sweeps,” the teacher recounted. “He was not talking, he was not yelling, he was very straight-faced. It did not look like he was really angry; it was just matter-of-factly.”
He was not talking, he was not yelling, he was very straight-faced. It did not look like he was really angry; it was just matter-of-factly.
Purdy fired 105 rounds within 3 minutes before he shot himself in the temple. Five children were killed in the attack and another 29 people wounded, half of whom were critically injured. Only one of the injured victims was an adult. The slain children were Sokhim An (6), Thuy Tran (6), Ram Chun (8), Oeun Lim (8), and Rathanar Or (9).
While Purdy had an “extensive criminal history” for various offenses including weapons violations, authorities had “no idea” of his possible motives.
In July of 1989, President George H.W. Bush signed a permanent ban on imported semi-automatic rifles, including AK-47s, partially in response to the mass shootings perpetrated by Purdy. The law expired in 2004.
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Rasky, Susan F. “Import Ban on Assault Rifles Becomes Permanent.” The New York Times. July 8, 1989
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Foster, David. “Patrick Edward Purdy: Death comes home to play.” Mattoon Journal Gazette. January 27, 1989
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