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Two National Guard members slain at IHOP had served in war zones

September 7, 2011 | 12:48 pm

National_guard

It remained unclear Wednesday why a man armed with an assault rifle opened fire at an IHOP in Carson City, Nev., killing three uniformed National Guard members and a civilian  woman before killing himself.

Eduardo Sencion, 32, of Carson City, drove a blue minivan into a strip mall at about 9 a.m. Tuesday and immediately began shooting at a woman on a motorcycle.

He then stormed into the IHOP through the front door and opened fire on diners. Sencion made his way to the back of the restaurant where five National Guard members were eating breakfast and shot all five.  Three of the Guard members -- two men and a woman -- were killed, along with another woman, said Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong.

“This is unquestionably the most devastating attack on our community in Carson City history,” Furlong said at a Wednesday morning news conference. “Yesterday our town was shocked to the core.”

Initial reports indicated the Sencion immediately made his way to the back of the restaurant and opened fire on the Guard members. But investigators now believe that he began firing soon after entering, Furlong told The Times.

The first two victims, both civilian women, were shot between the front door and the back of the restaurant, Furlong said.

After that initial hail of bullets, authorities believe Sencion then walked to the back of the restaurant where the unarmed guardsmen were sitting in a large booth and shot all five. A civilian woman caught in the line of fire was also shot.

While there is no evidence to suggest that Sencion went into the restaurant specifically to shoot the Guard members, it appears that he did target them once inside, Furlong said.

“Whether coming or going, it was a bloodbath all the way though,” he said.

Sencion then left the IHOP, reloaded his gun and began firing at other restaurants and businesses in the strip mall before shooting himself in the head, Furlong said. He was taken to Carson-Tahoe Hospital, where he later died.

Killed in the attack were Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege, 38, of Carson City, who served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010; Maj. Heath Kelly, 35, of Reno, who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005; and Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31.

Also killed was Florence Donovan-Gunderson, 67, of South Lake Tahoe.

In all, 11 people were shot, Furlong said.

Interviews with Sencion’s family suggest he was mentally unstable, Furlong said. He had no criminal history, was not a member of the military and had no connection to the diners at the restaurant.

Sencion was armed with an assault rifle similar to an AK-47, but it was unclear whether the rifle was an automatic or semiautomatic. Authorities discovered two more guns in the van -- a rifle and a pistol -- that  were not used in the attack.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating the make and model of the assault rifle and how Sencion acquired the guns, Furlong said.

Sencion worked in a family business in nearby South Lake Tahoe, Calif. He was born in Mexico and had a valid U.S. passport, authorities said.

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-- Stephen Ceasar

Photo: From left, Maj. Heath Kelly, Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney and Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege. Credit: Carson City Sheriff's Office

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