Family, Stockton remembers victims of elementary school shooting on 25th anniversary

4:54 PM, Jan 18, 2014   |    comments
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STOCKTON- More than 300 people packed into the APSARA Community Center Friday night for a special commemorative event on the 25th anniversary of the Cleveland Elementary School shooting.

Five students were killed, 30 others were injured on Jan. 18, 1989.

Most of the service was in Cambodian because 4 of the 5 students killed in the Cleveland School shooting were Cambodian-American. 

Among the many people who turned out for the emotional tribute- families of the victims, survivors, as well as teachers and first responders who were all there that day.

Kolap Gemma was in 6th grade at the time and was able to escape the shooting.

"We were all hiding under the desk because my teacher's aide saw Patrick Purdy with a gun," Gemma recalled.

Sophonn An was in the cafeteria when the shots rang out. He escaped the hail of gunfire, but his older sister was shot and killed in the schoolyard.

"I was at her grave earlier, visiting her, since today was the 25th," An said. "But I always visit her regardless. Not because it's 25, 20th or 10."

An's parents came to the U.S. looking for a better life.

"My mom and dad ran from the war," An explained.

They escaped the Khmer Rouge and the war in Cambodia, only to find heartache, losing their daughter in the Cleveland School shooting.

"She died in a safe zone you know, at a school," An said.

Ernest Croon was in the middle of the school yard working as a yard duty teacher when the shooting happened. He tried desperately to help as many kids as he could.

When asked about how he was able to recover and make peace with what happened, he answered, "Grace of God."

Rob Young was only six years old when he was shot twice. He went on to become a police officer, first for Stockton Unified School District and then later in the Bay Area.

Stoctkon's Police Chief, members of the Cambodian community were on hand for the commemorative service. So was the Stockton mayor from 1989.

On Friday night, many people said they would never forget what happened at Cleveland Elementary School. But they say with each passing year, each remembrance, there is healing and hope.


By Suzanne Phan,

Twitter: @SuzannePhan

Facebook: SuzannePhanNews10


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