Thousands attend memorial for shooting victims


Saturday, March 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



SANTEE, Calif. (AP) _ Thousands of mourners poured into a local church to sing, pray and weep for the two students gunned down in a school rampage.

Four days after the deadliest school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre, the community held a memorial service in a church filled with flowers and echoing with song.

Students and families wore ribbons with the purple and gold of Santana High School, the campus just down the street where a 15-year-old boy is accused of opening fire Monday.

Randy Gordon, 17, and Bryan Zuckor, 14, died in the attack that injured 13 others. Gordon was to be buried Saturday and funeral services for Zuckor were set for Sunday.

``The young boys were taken from us in an act of unspeakable evil,'' Gov. Gray Davis told the mourners at Sonrise Community Church.

He attended the service with his wife, a 1972 Santana graduate, who wiped away tears as she told the crowd: ``When those bullets struck innocent members of this community they struck at the heart of what this community is.''

Earlier Friday, the governor and his wife visited the two students still hospitalized with bullet wounds. The governor said he was buoyed by how well Raymond Serrato and Melissa McNulty appeared to be doing. Doctors say both are in good condition.

Mourners began arriving at the church two hours before the scheduled 7 p.m. service. When the doors to the 1,200-seat sanctuary opened they quickly filled it, making their way past dozens of floral arrangements and wreaths in the lobby. Late arrivals lined the sanctuary's walls or crowded into adjoining rooms. Organizers estimated a crowd of at least 4,000 people.

Those present said they hoped the memorial would help their wounded community.

``Maybe it'll help to come together and show emotions together,'' said 17-year-old Amie Walter, a former Santana student. ``But I don't know if there will ever be closure.''

Freshman Charles Andrew Williams, who classmates said was the target of bullying, faces murder and other charges stemming from the shooting.

Hours before the memorial, Williams' family released a statement expressing its sorrow.

``They would like all of you to know that they were horror-stricken by the events that took place at Santana High School and they remain shocked and confused,'' the statement read.

Another arrest in connection with the shooting was made Friday when authorities took Patrick Andrew Smith, 18, of Walkersville, Md., into custody outside his home for allegedly sending e-mails to two Santana students on Wednesday that threatened to ``finish what was started.''

Also Friday, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department released edited tapes of three 911 calls made in the minutes after the shooting started.

Santana Principal Karen Degischer, speaking softly and holding her hand over her heart, told mourners she could not make sense of the tragedy.

``My grief is unexplainable, and everyone seems to think I'm holding up so well,'' Degischer said. ``Inside, this tears me apart. It's my worst nightmare.''