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34 years later | Remembering the Stockton Cleveland Elementary School shooting

The Cleveland Elementary School shooting is also known as the Cleveland School massacre and the Stockton Schoolyard Shooting. Five young lives were lost.

STOCKTON, Calif. — Tuesday marks 34 years since the Cleveland Elementary School shooting happened in Stockton on Jan. 17, 1989.

The shooter was 24-year-old Patrick Purdy, often described as a drifter. He was armed with an AKS rifle, a semiautomatic version of the military’s AK-47. Purdy was once a student at the very same Stockton elementary school he would open fire on. He fired more than 100 rounds in a minute before he ultimately shot himself.

According to Cleveland School Remembers, Purdy walked onto the campus around noon on Jan. 17, 1989. He set his van on fire with a Molotov cocktail and proceeded to use an assault rifle on the students, firing 106 rounds in three minutes.

All of those killed and those who were wounded were Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants:

  • Rathanar Or, age 9
  • Ram Chun, age 8
  • Oeun Lim, age 8
  • Thuy Tran, age 6
  • Sokim An, age 6

It's a day in history that's still remembered more than 30 years later. 

A vigil honoring all lives lost to gun violence was held at the Children's Museum of Stockton Tuesday.

"It is a vigil commemorating the 34th anniversary of the Cleveland School massacre and recognizing other victims of gun violence in our community," said Cleveland School Remembers member, Becky Cameron. "We're encouraging people to bring a picture of their loved one 8x10 or smaller to put on the table for us to recognize those folks whether it was homicide or suicide, but those who have been lost to gun violence."

Cameron is a part of a group formed by teachers after the shooting and their primary focus is working to educate people about gun violence.  

"I think anytime you've lost a loved one, you want to be reassured they're not forgotten," said Cameron. "With gun violence in our society, it is such a tragic, ongoing problem. So often the people who were killed weren't responsible for what happened to them, you know... wrong place, wrong time. I think it's very important to just remember people to keep those individual lives in the spotlight."

To learn more about Cleveland School Remembers, click here.

The Cleveland Schoolyard massacre was considered one of the nation's worst school shootings at the time.

In recent years, school shootings have become substantially more common. About 64% of school shootings in the U.S. since 1970 happened in the last 20 years and nearly 50% happened in the last decade, according to data from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

WATCH | From the archives: 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting

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