No one really knows how many people are killed in America’s schools each year. Washington, D.C.’s Center to Prevent Handgun Violence and the National School Safety Center at Pepperdine University in Westlake, Calif., try to gather information on the country as a whole by scanning newspaper clippings, but this method leaves out any incidents not reported in the press. To try to measure the death toll for the 1992-93 school year, PEOPLE correspondents around the country contacted a number of institutions including school districts, state education departments, teachers’ unions and state police.
Our estimate of 31 fatalities in public elementary and high schools represents a bloody benchmark for future surveys—and probably a dramatic increase over past years. The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence counted 65 student and six school employees killed with guns from 1986 to 1990—about 18 a year. Whatever the precise number, the trend is deeply troubling. On the following pages you will find a depressing gallery: the faces of the students and teachers and others who died violently in America’s schools during the 1992-93 academic year.
Damian Ennis, 15
Sept. 21: The 10th grader was stabbed to death in a stairwell, allegedly by fellow student Michael Bubb, 16, after an argument about football.
Luis Mesa, 16
Oct. 5: Police found the 10th grader alone in a playground, dying from shotgun wounds. Juan Diaz, 15, a member of a rival high school gang, has been charged with murder.
Oscar Daniel Leon, 16
Oct. 13: The 10th grader was shot at point-blank range in a student parking lot. Police arrested Antonio “Red” Redondo, 20. The killing is believed to have been instigated by gang members.
Willie Clayborn, 13
Nov. 10: The seventh grader shot himself with a .22-caliber pistol during homeroom class. Police believe he thought the gun, which he had brought to class on previous days, was not loaded.
Rita Bertsch Wenzel, 39
Nov. 13: Chairwoman of the special education department and the mother of three, she was shot dead by her estranged husband, Steve Wenzel. Rita screamed to students to flee just before she was gunned down.
Steve Wenzel, 39
Nov. 13: After killing his wife, Rita, Wenzel, a computer service engineer, turned the gun on himself. He died later in the day.
Michael Jackson Jr., 16
Fairfield High School
Nov. 16: Four young men chased Jackson, a junior, around the campus as they tried to steal his athletic jacket. One of them shot him in the back of the head. All four are awaiting trial.
Frederick Williams, 19
Dec. 3: Williams, who lived across the street, was playing basketball in the gym when two men walked in and shot him several times. Another man was wounded. Police have charged one suspect.
Tereas Lacey, 14
Dec. 10: A ninth grader, he was fatally stabbed in a fight after a youth athletic league basketball game. Franklin James Pickett, 20, has been charged with murder.
Conroy Robinson, 18
Senior High School
Jan. 12: The senior died from multiple gunshot wounds after an argument with three other youths in the school yard. He was found clutching a pistol.
Mark Nolan, 39
Junior High School
Jan. 13: Depressed over the breakup of his marriage, the Las Vegas hotel security guard shot himself through the heart on the school’s empty ballfield. Two students discovered his body.
Demetrius Rice, 16
Fairfax High School
Jan. 21: The 10th grader was killed when a .357 Magnum in another student’s backpack was discharged. Authorities ruled that the shooting was an accident, and no charges were filed. The other student said he carried the gun for protection to and from school.
Raul Martinez, 16
Jan. 25: The sophomore was stabbed as he stood by his locker. The accused killer, Danny Corral, 14, had allegedly boasted that he would kill Martinez before the day was over. Press reports speculated that Corral objected to Martinez’s long hair.
Jason Domenico, 14
Junior High School, Redmond, Wash.
Feb. 1: A freshman, he shot himself on school grounds at 6:30 a.m. No one knows why.
James Holiday Jr., 18
Feb. 4: Holiday was shot dead, allegedly by Damion Sinkfield, 17, in the parking lot as 40 students watched. Neither was a student at the school. Both were armed. Sinkfield has been charged in the killing.
Eric Melby, 14
Middle River School
Middle River, Minn.
Feb. 8: Holding a 30-30 rifle he had brought to school, the eighth grader walked through the music room, where a teacher was giving lessons, and into a storeroom. There he shot himself in the head. No one is sure why.
Micheal Shean Ensley, 17
Reseda High School
Feb. 22: The 12th grader was shot after a hallway scuffle with dropout Robert Heard, 15, who, according to students, had bragged the previous week that he was carrying a gun. Heard was arrested two blocks from the school while eating a raspberry doughnut.
Angel Jimenez, 15
Junior High School 25
Feb. 24: The ninth grader was stabbed in the chest, allegedly by classmate John Rodriguez, 15. Their fight, the latest outburst in a long-running feud, was over a pair of sunglasses.
Ronricas Gibson, 15
Harlem High School
March 18: The ninth grader was killed and a friend was wounded, allegedly by Edward Bryant Gillom, 15, as they were walking to class. According to police, Gibson and his friend had threatened to beat Gillom because of his involvement with a 14-year-old girl.
Tony Hall, 17
Sumner High School
March 25: The ninth grader was shot in the back of the head in a hallway, allegedly by ex-girlfriend Lawanda Jackson, who police say had stalked him for more than a week. Jackson reportedly became distraught when Hall began dating another girl.
Billy C. Williams, 16
March 26: The freshman was stabbed in the chest with a kitchen paring knife during a five-student free-for-all in the cafeteria, where they were being held in detention. Police theorize that the fight may have carried over from an argument at a track meet the night before.
Jason Robinson, 16
April 12: The fresh man was stabbed to death after three teenagers burst into his social studies class, reportedly looking for a student who had beaten one of them earlier in the day. The principal said Robinson was “a gentleman” who never caused trouble.
Carole Day, 51
April 14: The school nurse, she was shot-gunned in the back by David Taber, 41, who had burst into the school. Subdued by the principal, John Tavares, Taber, who has a history of mental illness, is awaiting trial.
Lourie Harding, 33
April 16: A passerby spotted Harding’s body underneath a temporary building at the school, which was closed for spring break. Harding had a gunshot wound in the chest and was clutching a .357 Magnum. Her father reported that she had been despondent.
Jose Balderas Jr., 17
Nimitz High School
May 14: The ninth grader was shot in the back of the head as he walked in the hallway with his girlfriend. Police arrested Max Martinez, 17. The presumed motive: Balderas had reportedly insulted Martinez’s girlfriend.
Andre Cooper, 14
School of Science
May 22: Said to be despondent because he was about to be suspended for misbehavior, the seventh grader jumped to his death from a second-floor window. “It just seemed like a real spur-of-the-moment thing,” a police spokesman said.
Michael Swann, 16
May 24: The 10th grader was shot to death, allegedly by Jason Michael Smith, 15. Police said that Swann, 6’5″, had been picking on Smith, 5’4″.
Gerald Dordain, 15
Nicholls High School
May 27: Dordain had been dropped from the rolls for poor attendance but still showed up for some classes. He got into a scuffle in the school yard. Another student pulled a 9-mm pistol and shot Dordain four times.