A gunman who injured two second-graders when he opened fire on a crowded elementary school playground near San Diego was sentenced Friday to life in prison.
Vista Superior Court Judge Aaron Katz chastised Brendan O'Rourke for terrorizing the noontime crowd at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad in October 2010, according to U-T San Diego ( http://bit.ly/HYMEMA).
"Your twisted plot has forever changed the lives of Kelly Elementary children, parents, teachers and staff members," Katz told O'Rourke, who listened impassively.
O'Rourke, 42, would first be eligible for parole in 167 years, said Steve Walker, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney's office.
A jury convicted O'Rourke in March of premeditated attempted murder and assault with a firearm. The same jury later found he was sane at the time of the attack.
O'Rourke had a .357 Magnum revolver, extra ammunition, a gas can and matches when he jumped over a fence and opened fire on the campus.
Three construction workers stopped the attack by wrestling O'Rourke to the ground before police arrived.
The two girls who were injured have recovered.
The judge commended the construction workers for "tremendous heroism" and also praised the staff at the school that day. He said that the children who testified at O'Rourke's showed great courage and "serve as an inspiration to all of us."
Dan Segura, a lawyer for O'Rourke, told the judge that four mental health experts who testified during the sanity portion of the trial concluded O'Rourke was mentally ill. He urged Katz to take that into consideration when delivering a sentence, saying O'Rourke's delusions were the fuel that motivated his attack.
O'Rourke believed at the time that he was being targeted by his former employer, AIG Insurance, political figures in Illinois and others. According to a probation officer's report prepared for the sentencing, O'Rourke told police he wanted to kill "white Christian children."
At the sentencing hearing, several parents and staff members from the school described how the shooting still affects students. Two said it was a miracle that no students were killed and that more were not injured.
Jana Scott, a teacher at the school and a parent of a student there, said she "never would have believed our beautiful little school would become a crime scene."