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Officials hope Carlsbad school where gunman wounded two students can open Monday

October 9, 2010 | 12:57 pm

School shooting

Carlsbad school officials hope that the school where an apparently mentally disturbed gunman wounded two children on Friday can reopen Monday so counselors can help students and staff members who were traumatized by the violence.

On Saturday, Kelly Elementary School was still being treated as a crime scene, with investigators combing the grounds for evidence and taking pictures. Officials hope police and others will complete their work in time for school custodians to wash away the blood and other indications of the terror that struck Friday.

The school has a telephone system for notifying parents. A teachers' meeting is scheduled for Sunday to plan for Monday. Teachers and administrators are looking for a way to show gratitude to the three construction workers -- Carlos Partida, Mario Contreras and Steven Kane -- who chased the gunman, knocked him to the ground and wrestled away his .357 pistol.

The suspect, Brendan L. O'Rourke, 41, is set to be arraigned next week on six counts of attempted murder and numerous weapons violations. Witnesses say O'Rourke was shouting incoherently when he began firing at children on the playground at lunchtime.

When questioned by police, O'Rourke, a former security guard in Illinois, refused to give his name, then gave three names, including a woman's name. He is being held at the county jail in Vista.

Neighbors at the Oceanside apartment that was his last known address said he was an angry, menacing individual given to cursing, using racial epithets and making loud banging noises at night in his apartment, and who painted the word "Destroy" on a bedroom wall.  "He was the kind of guy you tell your kids to stay away from," said one neighbor.

The two children -- girls ages 6 and 7 -- were said to be recovering at Rady Children's Hospital where they were airlifted within minutes of the apparently random attack. Each suffered a "through and through" wound to the arm, bloody but not life-threatening, police said.

Police said the three construction workers, who were repairing the school's cafeteria, acted as "good Samaritans" and never hesitated to risk their lives to protect the students when they "heard shots and kids screaming."

Kane and Contreras chased the gunman as he attempted to reload his weapon. Portida jumped in his truck and smashed into O'Rourke, knocking him to the ground. The three then took away his weapon and waited for police to arrive. They demanded to know why the gunman had shot the children.

"He only grunted at us," Partida said. School board member Kelli Moors said that along with the three construction workers, the teachers and staff deserve congratulations for quick thinking and for following the school's "lockdown" strategy.

Within three minutes of the shooting, she said, all the children had been rounded up and were safely inside rooms. "Every adult on campus -- teachers, librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers -- did the right thing and put the children first," she said.

"The school was totally locked down even before the police arrived. It was textbook."

The two wounded girls had been taken to classrooms that were then locked. A trail of blood led authorities to them. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department bomb squad examined O'Rourke's car, an aging Ford Crown Victoria, parked outside the school but found no explosives or other weapons.

Carlsbad Lt. Kelly Cain said police expect to turn the school back to the school district by Saturday night after completion of crime scene diagrams. All bullets and shells have been accounted for, he said.

"Still no evidence of a connection between the school and O'Rourke, (it) seems a random victim selection; no relationships, no previous attendance at the school, etc.," Cain said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: An injured student is wheeled to a helicopter after the shooting. Credit: Hayne Palmour IV / North County Times