Cleveland School Shooting

The Cleveland School massacre (also known as the Stockton Schoolyard Shooting) occurred on January 17, 1989.  The gunman, who had a long criminal history, shot and killed five schoolchildren, and wounded 29 other children and one teacher, before committing suicide.

On the morning of January 17, 1989, an anonymous person phoned the Stockton Police Department regarding a death threat against Cleveland Elementary School. At noon that day, the gunman, a disturbed drifter and former Stockton resident, began his attack by setting his van on fire with a Molotov Cocktail after parking it behind the school, later causing the car to explode. He then moved to the school playground and began firing with his Type 56 Assault Rifle from behind a portable building.  He fired 106 rounds in three minutes.  All of the fatally shot victims and many of the wounded were Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants. The gunman then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a pistol.

Cleveland School Remembers honors the young victims who lost their lives:





  • Rathanar Or, 9 years old
  • Ram Chun, 8 years old
  • Sokim An, 6 years old
  • Oeun Lim, 8 years old
  • Thuy Tran, 8 Years old

The multiple murders at the Cleveland School in Stockton received national news coverage and spurred calls for regulation of semi-automatic weapons. “Why could Purdy, an alcoholic who had been arrested for such offenses as selling weapons and attempted robbery, walk into a gun shop in Sandy, Oregon, and leave with an AK-47 under his arm?” Time magazine asked.

They continued, “The easy availability of weapons like this, which have no purpose other than killing human beings, can all too readily turn the delusions of sick gunmen into tragic nightmares.”[1]  The gunman was able to purchase the weapons because the judicial system had not convicted him of any crime that prevented him from purchasing firearms. Neither had he been adjudicated mentally ill, another disqualifying factor.

In California, measures were taken to first define and then ban assault weapons, resulting in the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989. On the Federal level, Congress struggled with a way to ban weapons like the gunman’s military-style rifle without being viewed as banning sporting rifles.

Later in 1989, President G.W. Bush signed an executive order (the Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle Ban) banning importation of assault weapons. The Federal assault weapons ban was enacted in 1994, and expired in 2004. President Bill Clinton signed another executive order in 1994 which banned importation of most firearms and ammunition from China.

See the Time Magazine article. Slaughter in A School Yard, Time Magazine, (January 30, 1989)