It’s true that no matter what, Mondays feel awesome if you love what you do. But in reality, most of us don’t love our daily works and pressure. Therefore, we bemoan the Mondays but no-one has ever hated the start of a school week as fatally as an American teen named Brenda Spencer.
1979 Grover Cleveland Elementary School Shooting: I don’t like Mondays!
It was around 8:30 AM on the 29th of January 1979, when a tragedy took place in the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California, the United States.
Sixteen-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire on staff and students in this school. Within 15 minutes, a custodian and the principal were killed, and eight children, as well as a police officer were injured.
Brenda Spencer lived in a house across the street from the school, and was convicted of the shootings.
Despite being a teenager, she was charged as an adult, because of the seriousness of her crime. She pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Brenda was given an indefinite sentence.
A reporter reached Brenda by phone while she was still in the house after the shooting, and asked her why she did it. The freckle-faced red-headed teen revealed her motivation: “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”
These insensitive words of Brenda Spencer inspired Bob Geldof and Johnnie Fingers to write the Boomtown Rats song “I Don’t Like Mondays,” which topped the U.K.’s music charts the summer after the rampage.
Brenda Spencer has been recognized as the world’s first teen who committed the atrocity of mass shooting in a school.
After this event, the bizarre trait of mass killing continues in the United States, causing hundreds of schools to face the same atrocity and human madness. Since 2009, there have been 288 school shootings in America.
Brenda Spencer was born on April 3, 1962, who lived in the San Carlos neighbourhood of San Diego, California in a house across the street from Grover Cleveland Elementary School in the San Diego Unified School District.
At the time of the crime, Brenda was only 16 years old and was 5’2″ and had bright red hair. After her parents separated, she lived with her father, Wallace Spencer, in poverty. They slept on a single mattress on the living room floor, with empty alcohol bottles throughout the house.
Acquaintances said Brenda expressed hostility toward policemen, had spoken about shooting one and had talked of doing something big to get on television.
Although Brenda showed exceptional ability as a photographer, winning first prize in a Humane Society competition, she was generally uninterested in school. She attended Patrick Henry High School where one teacher recalled frequently inquiring if she was awake in class.
Later, during tests, while she was in custody, it was discovered Brenda had an injury to the temporal lobe of her brain. It was attributed to an accident on her bicycle.
In early 1978, staff at a facility for problem students, into which Brenda had been referred for truancy, informed her parents that she was suicidal.
That summer, Brenda, who was known to hunt birds in the neighbourhood, was arrested for shooting out the windows of Grover Cleveland Elementary with a BB gun and for burglary.
Her friends and fellow classmates claimed before the shooting occurred Brenda was telling people she was going to get on TV for doing something big.
In December, a psychiatric evaluation arranged by her probation officer recommended that Brenda be admitted to a mental hospital for depression, but her father refused to give permission.
For Christmas 1978, he gave her a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic .22 calibre rifle with a telescopic sight and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Brenda later said, “I asked for a radio and he bought me a gun.” When asked why he might have done that, she answered, “I felt like he wanted me to kill myself.”
The horrors of Brenda Spencer
On the morning of Monday, January 29, 1979, Brenda began shooting at children waiting for Principal Burton Wragg, 53, to open the gates to Grover Cleveland Elementary.
Brenda injured eight children and shot Wragg to his death as he tried to help children. She also killed custodian Mike Suchar, 56, as he tried to pull a student to safety.
A police officer, responding to a call for assistance during the incident, was wounded in the neck as he arrived. Further casualties were avoided only because the police obstructed her line of fire by moving a garbage truck in front of her house.
After firing thirty times, Brenda barricaded herself inside her home for several hours. While there, she spoke by telephone to a reporter from The San Diego Union-Tribune, who had been randomly calling telephone numbers in the neighbourhood.
Brenda told the reporter she shot at the schoolchildren and adults because “she doesn’t like Mondays, which liven up the day.”
She also told police negotiators that the children and adults whom she shot were easy targets and that she was going to “come out shooting.”
Brenda has been repeatedly reminded of these statements at parole hearings. Ultimately, she surrendered and left the house, reportedly after being promised a Burger King meal by negotiators.
Police officers found beer and whiskey bottles cluttered around the house but said Brenda did not appear to be drunk when arrested.
Imprisonment, paroles and hearings of Brenda Spencer
Brenda was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon. On April 4, 1980, a day after her 18th birthday, she was sentenced to 25 years to life.
In prison, Brenda was diagnosed as an epileptic and received medication to treat her epilepsy and depression. While at the California Institution for Women in Chino, she worked repairing electronic equipment.
Under the terms of her indeterminate sentence, Brenda became eligible for hearings to consider her suitability for parole in 1993.
Normally, very few people convicted on a charge of murder were able to obtain parole in California before 2011. As of December 2015, she has been unsuccessful at four parole board hearings.
The 1st parole and hearing
At her first hearing, Brenda said she had hoped police would shoot her and that she had been a user of alcohol and drugs at the time of the crime, although the results of drug tests done when she was taken into custody were negative.
The 2nd parole and hearing
In her 2001 hearing, Brenda first claimed that her father had been subjecting her to beatings and sexual abuse, but he said the allegations were not true.
The parole board chairman said that as she had not previously told any prison staff about the allegations, he doubted whether they were true.
The 3rd parole and hearing
In 2005, a San Diego deputy district attorney cited an incident of self-harm from four years earlier when Brenda’s girlfriend was released from jail, as showing that she was psychotic and unfit to be released.
The self-harm is commonly reported by burning the words “courage” and “pride” in her own arm like a tattoo. However, Brenda corrected this during her parole hearing as “runes” reading “Unforgiven” and “alone.”
The 4th parole and hearing
In 2009, the board again refused her application for parole and ruled it would be ten years before she would be considered again. She is eligible for a Parole Suitability Hearing in September 2021.
Brenda Spencer now
As of April 2020, Brenda, now 56, remains in prison and is housed at the California Institution for Women in Chino.
Some lawyers believe she can be safely released from jail after 40 years behind bars. As her next parole will likely be in 2021, no one knows what will happen.
However, what Brenda Spencer did was one of the worst crimes in this world, not only for taking the priceless lives but also for opening another door of criminal acts and terrorism in the country.
After learning about Brenda Spencer and the Cleveland Elementary School shooting, read about the horrors of Ed Gein who was one of the first and most bizarre murderers in American history. Then read about the 10 infamous unsolved cases of child murders & missing that shook the world!