When asked by a reporter why she fired 30 shots into the yard of Grover Cleveland Elementary School, Brenda Ann Spencer’s response was simple, “I don’t like Mondays.”
On Monday, January 29, 1979, a journalist from The San Diego Union Tribune got the quote of a lifetime from 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer. “I don’t like Mondays,” she says. “It enlivens the day.”
By “this,” she was referring to the fact that she had just fired 30 shots at an elementary school in San Diego with a semi-automatic rifle. After killing the headmaster and janitor and injuring eight children and a victimized officer, Spencer barricaded herself in her home for over six hours until she finally surrendered to authorities.
This is the true story of Brenda Ann Spencer and her fatal attack.
The Early Years of Brenda Ann Spencer
Brenda Ann Spencer was born in San Diego, California on April 3, 1962. She grew up relatively poor and spent most of her early life with her father, Wallace Spencer, with whom she had a difficult relationship.
According to The everyday beastshe would later claim that her father insulted her and that her mother “just wasn’t around”.
Wallace Spencer was an avid weapons collector and his daughter seemed to share his interest in the hobby from an early age. According to acquaintances who knew Brenda Ann Spencer, she was involved in drug addiction and petty theft as a teenager. She was also regularly absent from school.
But every time she went to class, she raised her eyebrows. A week before she did the shoot that would make her infamous, she reportedly told classmates that she was “going to do something big to get on TV.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
Inside the Grover Cleveland Elementary School shooting
Just before 8 a.m. that morning, kids started lining up for Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California. They waited for their director to open the doors so they could get in.
Across the street, Brenda Ann Spencer watched them from her house, a dilapidated house full of empty liquor bottles and a single mattress she shared with her father. As the kids lined up outside the gate, Spencer pulled out the .22-caliber Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle she’d been given as a Christmas present. Then she pointed it out the window and started firing.
The school principal, Burton Wragg, was killed trying to help the children through the gates. A security guard, Mike Suchar, was killed trying to get a student to safety.
Miraculously, none of the children were killed, although eight of them and a police officer were injured.
Though he killed two and wounded nine before the gun ran out, Spencer continued to fire 30 shots at the crowd of panicked children. Then she put the gun down, shut and locked all the doors and windows, and waited.
Police arrived at the scene and immediately knew the shots had been fired from Spencer’s home. They sent negotiators to talk to her, although she was uncooperative. She warned them that she was armed and that she still had ammunition at her disposal. If they took her out, she would come out shooting.
During her home barricaded stay, she gave several interviews to journalists, including one with The San Diego Union Tribune. In the end, although she claims the negotiators were not involved, she decided to surrender. After investigating the house, police found empty beer and whiskey bottles near Spencer. However, she claimed (and appeared) that she was not drunk.
The Trial of Brenda Ann Spencer
Although she was only 17 at the time, Brenda Ann Spencer was tried as an adult for the seriousness of her crimes. She was charged with two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, to which she pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
During the trial, it was revealed that Spencer had attempted to shoot down the school a year earlier. Using a BB pistol, she shot through the school windows, but did not injure anyone. She was given probation for the crime.
Her probation officer suggested that she spend time in a mental hospital for depression because she had shown signs of suicide to the staff at her school – a facility for problem children. Spencer’s father refused to admit his daughter to a psychiatric hospital, saying he could manage suicidal thoughts and depression alone.
He was the one who bought Brenda Ann Spencer the gun she shot at school.
“I asked for a radio and he bought me a gun,” she said. said. “I felt like he wanted me to kill myself.”
Her lawyer claimed that the treatment she received from her father was the reason for her senseless act of violence, but it didn’t matter. To this day, she is in prison and has been repeatedly denied parole.
The Haunting Legacy of “I Don’t Like Mondays”
While Brenda Ann Spencer’s name may not ring a bell, the story and phrase have survived a horrific disgrace.
Inspired by the tragic shooting, Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, wrote a song titled I don’t like Mondays which topped the UK charts for four weeks and received extended airtime in the US. While she insists she regrets her actions over the past 39 years, Geldof doesn’t believe it.
“She wrote me that she was happy she did it because I made her famous,” Geldof said in an interview several years after filming. “Which is not nice to live with.”
After hearing about Brenda Ann Spencer and the Cleveland Elementary School shooting, learn more about the two-year-old boy who was shot on Facebook Live. Then read the story of the toddler who injured classmates with a gun he found at his nursery.