School Climate & Safety

Classes To Resume at California School Where Gunman Killed 4 and Wounded 9

By Meg Sommerfeld — May 13, 1992 3 min read

Students at Lindhurst High School in Olivehurst, Calif., were scheduled to resume classes this week, 10 days after a Lindhurst dropout allegedly terrorized staff and students in a violent rampage, killing four, wounding nine, and holding dozens of others hostage for more than eight hours.

Eric Houston, age 20, pleaded not guilty last Monday to 4 counts of first-degree murder, 9 counts of attempted murder, and 1 count of hostage-taking.

Charles O’Rourke, district attorney for Yuba County, said he would seek the death penalty in the case.

The incident was the worst episode of violence on school property since Patrick Purdy killed five students, wounded 30 others, and then killed himself on a schoolyard in Stockton, Calif., on Jan. 17, 1989, according to a spokesman for the National School Safety Center.

According to reports, Mr. Houston, dressed in camouflage clothing, walked into the school just before 2 P.M. on May 1 while students were changing classes.

The former Lindhurst student, reportedly carrying a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle, was said to have entered the first-floor classroom of his former history teacher, Robert Brens. He allegedly shot and killed Mr. Brens and a junior, Judy Davis, during a class discussion about the ongoing riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles.

Mr. Houston then began moving through the halls of the building shooting randomly, eventually taking approximately 80 students hostage on the second floor, according to Yuba County Sheriff Gary Tindel.

Killed during the shooting were Beamon Hill, a sophomore, and Jason White, a senior.

Some of the hostages reported that Mr. Houston told them he was seeking revenge because he had failed Mr. Brens’s history class and was unable to graduate with his class. The other victims apparently were random targets, according to school officials.

Around 5 P.M. that day, hostage negotiators from the Sacramento office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation established contact with Mr. Houston, who later began gradually releasing hostages in small groups, according to Mr. Tindel. Over the course of the evening, some 80 other students hiding on the first floor managed to escape.

When Mr. Houston surrendered around 10:30 P.M. that night, the 20 remaining hostages were freed, said Peter Pillsbury, the district superintendent.

A Traumatized Community

Last week, almost all of the wounded students had been released from the hospital, according to David Favro, the district’s personnel director. One male student remained in serious condition with a severe head wound.

The incident has traumatized Olivehurst, a farming community of 10,000 located about 45 miles north of Sacramento. With 1,200 students, Lindhurst is one of three high schools in the Marysville Joint Unified School District.

“I’ve seen people move through grief, through anger like I’ve never seen before,’' Mr. Pillsbury said.

Mental-health professionals from San Joaquin County who had counseled students and faculty involved in the Stockton incident arrived the night of the shootings to provide guidance to local Yuba County mental-health workers.

Following their advice, Mr. Pillsbury immediately formed a committee of school staff members and county social-service workers. The group met daily to coordinate the response to the event.

Over the weekend following the killings, mental-health workers conducted workshops for the staff of Lindhurst and surrounding schools on how to help both themselves and their students cope with the aftereffects of the violence.

The school opened its doors on the Monday immediately after the incident to provide counseling services to students, parents, and community members. About 300 students attended at various points in the day, according to Mr. Pillsbury.

Last Wednesday, Pat Busher, the principal of Stockton’s Cleveland Elementary School, met with Lindhurst’s principal, Ron Ward, to discuss her school’s response to the 1989 tragedy.

Classes and the school prom were canceled last week to provide time for grieving and counseling, as well as to repair the extensive structural damage wrought by the numerous shotgun blasts, Mr. Favro said.

In the days since then, Mr. Pillsbury said he has seen students, parents, and community members “getting ready to fight back.’'

“I now see a growing determination to turn this around and re-establish a great high school,’' he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 1992 edition of Education Week as Classes To Resume at California School Where Gunman Killed 4 and Wounded 9


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety How Biden's New Actions on Guns Could Affect Students and Schools
President Joe Biden announced steps to prevent gun violence through executive action and a push for state and federal legislation.
5 min read
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida.
High school students rally at the U.S. Capitol in February 2018, three days after a former student shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.<br/>
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Teens Are Driving COVID-19 Surges. Can Schools Counteract That?
Teenagers and young adults are now driving COVID-19 cases in some states, and experts say schools may be critical in preventing outbreaks.
4 min read
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Empowering Teachers and Parents to Speak Up on School Safety
Rick Hess shares practical suggestions from Max Eden on how to ensure school discipline reforms are indeed keeping students and staff safe.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Audio Driving the School Bus, Waiting for a Vaccine
A veteran bus driver holds out hope he won't get COVID-19 while awaiting his first vaccination.
3 min read
Eric Griffith, 55, poses for a portrait in front of a school bus in Jacksonville, Fla. on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Griffith, who has been a school bus driver for 20 years, delivered meals and educational materials during the first couple months of the coronavirus pandemic when schools shifted to remote learning.
Eric Griffith has been a bus driver for Duval County schools in Jacksonville, Fla., for 20 years. He's been driving students all year and hopes to get his coronavirus vaccine soon.
Charlotte Kesl for Education Week