- "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day."
- ―When asked why
Brenda Spencer is America's first female school shooter. On January 29, 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer killed two people and wounded nine when she fired on San Diego's Grover Cleveland Elementary School with a .22-caliber rifle from her family's house across the street.
Brenda's parents divorced when she was young and lived with her father. A neighbor once said when she tried to be friends with Brenda at age 5 Brenda ripped the doll of the neighbor's head off. FBI profiler Candice DeLong says doll mutilation is something that has been observed in children and teenagers who latter become killers or stalkers. It can show a rage against the owner of the doll. It also be projection, a signal that she's being abused at home by someone. Brenda would go to claim sexual abuse by her father.
On Monday, January 29, 1979 started out as a normal day. Children were going to school as the birds chirped. Across the road from Grover Cleveland Elementary school in San Diego, California, 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer observed elementary children prepare for class from her bedroom window. She was home alone, as her single father had left for work. Instead of preparing for high school, Brenda Spencer retrieved a Ruger 10/22 rifle from her bed, a Christmas present from her father. Most can agree with former FBI profiler Candice DeLong's remarks that Brenda's father bears responsibility for what happened that day by buying her the gun.
Brenda aimed the rifle at the schoolyard from her bedroom. 9 year old Cam Miller was wearing a blue vest. Blue was Spencer's favorite color so he would be her first victim. A single .22 caliber shot entered his back and out of Cam's chest. Brenda proceeded to wound seven more children with stunning accuracy. Principal Burton Wragg was speaking with teacher Daryl Barnes (who was gave testimony on the episode) when the gun shots started and ran outside to see school children falling to the floor, some first grabbing a body part and screaming in pain before falling. The uninjured looked around confused as to what was happening. Nobody at the school knew where the shots were coming from.
Barynes and Principal Wragg bravely jumped into the line of fire to help get the kids inside the school for cover. Three shots rang out. Principal Wragg was fatally shot in the heart. Despite watching the principal die, he continued saving kids from the line of fire. Spencer fired at him but missed as well. School custodian Michael Suchar ran out in an attempt to pull the still-alive Wragg to safety. Spencer fired three shots and hit Suchar fatally. Suchar had served in Vietnam.
By then, police were responding to the school shooting. Officer Robert Robb shot in the neck as he arrived but he lived. Police proceeded to move a garbage truck in front of Spencer's line of fire.
The shooting was already on the news before Brenda stopped shooting.
After firing 30-36 rounds of ammunition, Spencer barricaded herself inside her home for nearly seven hours. While there, a journalist somehow found her home phone number and called. When asked why she did the shooting, she responded: "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." She later also spoke with police negotiators, telling them those she had shot made easy targets, and that she was going to "come out shooting." Ultimately, she surrendered.
A comment so flippant, sarcastic and callous as "I don't like Mondays" as a motivation for shooting up a school tells FBI profiler Candice DeLong that Brenda Spencer was not mentally ill at the time of the shooting and knew what she was doing.
The two victims were Principal Burton Wragg and custodian Mike Suchar. Eight students and a police officer were wounded. Out of the 30 rounds she fired, she hit eleven people with eleven hits, meaning she hit them all once.
In April 1980, Spencer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Spencer remains in prison despite parole hearings. Her father still lives in the house where the shooting took place. Wallace Spencer got married to a woman younger than Spencer and had a daughter. The woman eventually left. 20 years after the shooting, Spencer made claims that her father sexually abused her.
Despite what former District Attorney Richard Sachs said on the episode of Deadly Women, Spencer's rampage was not "the country's, if not the world's first school shooting case before 1979." Brenda Spencer is however, America's first female school shooter. Three of the worst, including the worst in American history, before the Spencer shootings — in 1927 in Bath, Michigan School when a 55 year old man blew up Bath Consildated School, killing 43 (as well as his wife beforehand), in 1966 at the University of Texas, where a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 31, and in 1976 at Cal State Fullerton, where seven were killed and two were wounded — involved adult male shooters.