The 8-year-old boy who was gunned down in a special needs elementary school classroom was remembered as a happy youth with a bright smile who had survived heart surgery and other health challenges.
Jonathan Martinez’ life was already a miracle, a relative wrote. Now, in a sense, he’s become “America’s child,” as strangers all over the country embrace the memory of the little boy who loved Little League and who was murdered solely because he was standing behind a beloved teacher slain by her estranged husband.
Cedric Charles Anderson was identified as the shooter at San Bernardino’s North Park school. His wife, Jonathan’s teacher Karen Smith, also died in the April 10 attack, and another boy was injured but expected to survive and is well enough to “watch cartoons,” police said. Anderson killed himself after shooting up the classroom.
In a press conference on April 11, Martinez’ family asked that people raise awareness of his health condition, Williams Syndrome, in his memory, according to ABC7. It’s a genetic condition that can cause a series of health issues.
The mass shooting sent terrified parents rushing to the school to look for their children and flooded TV screens with images all too familiar, echoing past school shootings. Many people expressed heartbreak over the little boy who didn’t deserve to die in that way, in that place, and at that time.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jonathan Was Remembered by Family Members as a Miracle Boy Who ‘Didn’t Deserve This’
The boy was slain because he was standing in proximity to the intended target – his teacher, police said in a news conference. He had already survived so much during his young life, including heart surgery.
A woman who knew Martinez wrote on Twitter, “His life was a miracle. He almost had his life taken by health issues but only for a few yrs later it to be taken by some idiot#ripjonathan.” She added, “Rip little angel, you didn’t deserve this. You’re reuniting with ur grandpa now.. hearing this on the news I had no idea it would be you.”
According to the Williams Syndrome Association, the syndrome “is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.”
Children with the syndrome are known for their endearing and friendly personalities, the association says. “Unlike disorders that can make connecting with your child difficult, children with Williams syndrome tend to be social, friendly and endearing. Parents often say the joy and perspective a child with WS brings into their lives had been unimaginable,” the association says.
“But there are major struggles as well. Many babies have life-threatening cardiovascular problems. Children with WS need costly and ongoing medical care and early interventions (such as speech or occupational therapy) that may not be covered by insurance or state funding.”
The school superintendent said he had met with the Martinez’ family and told the media, “By all accounts Jonathan Martinez was a happy child.”
Police said the slayings stemmed from a murder-suicide, and the shooter was Smith’s husband. On Facebook, Smith went by the name Karen Smith-Anderson, and both she and her husband prominently posted photos of themselves as a couple. On March 11, Anderson, who posted excessively about his wife on Facebook, wrote, “My wife Karen Smith-Anderson is an Angel!!!”
Despite Anderson’s constant posts about his wife, her mother told the Los Angeles Times that she was trying to leave Anderson after discovering he was not what he seemed.
“Rest in peace, the job you held at the school shows what kind of heart you shared with others. May God bless you rest in peace,” wrote one woman of Smith. A man who grew up with Smith wrote, “She had such a beautiful spirit.”
2. The Shooting Took Place in a Classroom as Instruction Was Occurring & Jonathan’s Little League Team Held a Tribute for Him
Before April 10, Jonathan Martinez was just a little boy who did things many children do – like play Little League. His teammates held an evening tribute for the child after he died.
In the moving tribute, Jonathan’s name was lit up in the dark, along with a cross. A boy who knew Jonathan described him as “nice and always making friends.”
The child’s death – innocently standing in a place of sanctity, a classroom – horrified the public.
The murder suicide and slaying of Jonathan occurred in front of a classroom of 15 students. Wrote one man on Twitter, “Her friends got shot in front of her her teacher died in front of her and the coward killed himself in front of her, my sister is 9.”
The teacher was toward the middle of the room, about 10 to 15 feet away from the killer, standing in front of a table type desk, police said in a news conference. The two children were simply standing near her.
Martinez died before making it into surgery although he was rushed to the hospital and was initially listed as being in critical condition, according to ABC 7.
The other student wounded was also a boy, and he was said to be in stable condition in the hospital, police said.
Both wounded children were airlifted to a hospital. Police said in a news conference that Smith was teaching in the classroom when Anderson walked in and shot her without ever saying a word. Police identified the shooter as a Riverside resident, according to NBC Los Angeles.
ABC7 reports that it took only four minutes for the police to arrive at the scene. But it was too late.
3. Jonathan Was Remembered as ‘Our Family Angel’ & There Is a Fundraising Site to Help His Family
A GoFundMe site created by Jonathan’s cousin calls him “our family angel.”
“I’ve created this go fund me page for my cousin jonathan who was unfortunately taken from us to soon,” the site reads. “I’m trying to help my cousins raise money for funeral expenses & meals to help provide for her family in this time of need. My whole family would greatly appreciate any forth coming donations, the love and support in this time of need. May god bless you all.”
Unlike other school shootings – like Sandy Hook – Jonathan and the other child shot were not the gunman’s intended target, police say.
They say that he was after his estranged wife, the teacher, Smith, and the children were simply standing in her proximity when Anderson opened fire.
San Bernardino police Capt. Ron Maass said Anderson “had gone to the classroom to visit” the teacher under the guise of dropping something off with her, and the children were wounded by being near her when he opened fire, KTLA reported.
“Police said the children shot were not targeted and likely struck by accident,” reported ABC 7.
Anderson then turned the weapon on himself, killing himself, police said.
4. Jonathan Was in a Special Education Classroom & Children Were Led Out of the School Building Holding Hands
SDC classes are generally “special day classes” where students receive instruction from a special education teacher in an environment with smaller class sizes.
Children clutched each other’s hands as they were led out of the school in lines, and they later ran into their parents’ arms in a heartbreaking scene.
— Gigi Graciette (@GigiGraciette) April 10, 2017
Marissa Perez, 9, was in the classroom when the shooting happened but escaped unscathed.
She “was still wearing a sweater spattered with blood as she clung to her mother’s hip after they were reunited Monday afternoon, crying as she described the deadly attack,” the Los Angeles Times reported, quoting Marissa as saying, “The boy just walked in with the gun. He just shot everywhere. I went under the table and then I saw a teacher run out. So I just ran out. My friend and my teacher, they got shot.”
The school spokeswoman told KTLA-TV that the shooting unfolded around 10:30 a.m. at the elementary school, located at 5378 N. H St. The initial call was for an active shooter, KTLA reported.
Traumatized parents rushed to the scene, CNN reported, looking for their children.
“I fell to my knees and started saying our father and hail Mary’s. … I’m gonna hug her. … I’m gonna hug her. I hope she is OK,” Brad Hendran, whose daughter is in the second grade, said, according to CNN.
5. The Killer Checked in at the School Office Before Slaying Martinez & Smith
Superintendent Dale Marsden said at a press conference that Anderson checked in at the school office and likely provided an ID, following normal procedures. Police said Smith taught in a multi-grade classroom.
The superintendent said in the news conference that security footage captured the suspect tugging on other doors, but they were locked, forcing him to come through the office area. School officials say it was not unusual for a spouse to come to a school, and there was no indication to staff when Anderson arrived that he was agitated or a potential threat.
Police said they later found a note from Anderson saying that he felt dishonored, and he had accused his wife of cheating with no evidence it was true. He had an arrest history, but no convictions.
The other boy who was shot, who is 9, suffered a single gunshot wound to his upper body but is expected to be OK.
“We want to thank our parents for their patience as we reunite them with their students,” Marsden said, according to The San Bernardino Sun. “Parents, I have a message for you. I would like you to work with your young child to keep things as normal as possible. Be willing to listen to their story as many times as possible. And be ready to model for them a healthy response.”
Although police later said that Anderson had a criminal history, school staff had no flags about him, indicating they should be wary of him.
“We believe this to be a murder suicide. Happened in a classroom. Two students have been transported to the hospital,” wrote San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan on Twitter.
The identity of the second student was not immediately released. The Associated Press characterized the shooting as a “domestic dispute.”
The AP reported shortly after the shooting that the wounded students were in critical condition. Sadly, Martinez was then reported to have died, although the other student is doing better.
Read more about the shooter here: