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Man charged in school shooting pleads not guilty

VISTA — Brendan Liam O’Rourke entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment Oct. 13 against charges that he opened fire on a school playground full of children, where he aimed to kill but ended up injuring two.
The Vista courthouse was filled with people, and cameras captured the 41-year-old accused man who stood tall in his green jumpsuit but with his head tilted down.
O’Rourke appeared in court for the first time since the Kelly Elementary School shooting on Oct. 8 that shook up the community and created a wave of disbelief that was quickly spread throughout the nation.
He faces seven counts of premeditated attempted murder and seven counts of assault with a firearm, which can result in a sentence of 103 years to life in prison if convicted, according to Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan.
Superior Court Judge Marshall Y. Hockett set O’Rourke’s bail at $10 million at Stephan’s request.
“Ten million bail was requested to prevent his release,” Stephan said at a news conference held outside the courtroom after the hearing.
She said investigators determined that it was O’Rourke’s target to shoot at children at this particular school, and that he had selected the recess time.
He is accused of shooting his 357 Ruger revolver, which injured two girls, ages 6 and 7, with through-and-through wounds on one arm of each of them, but not seriously injuring them.
She said that O’Rourke was not done at that point, and continued to travel further into the school.
Stephan said he then shot at three second-grade boys and hit a post.
A noon aide who worked at the school, along with the three boys, was fortunate to not be hit by the bullets.
“The noon aide stepped forward to help the children and the gun fired at her,” Stephan said.
But the revolver jammed, she said.
“He got all six shots out of the revolver. Thankfully, one of the casings didn’t come out,” Stephan said.
The felony complaint shows O’Rourke attempted murder against Lysette Cox, the school aide, and is charged with two of the seven counts of assault with a firearm against her.
Good Samaritans tackled the defendant until police arrived.
The premeditated charges are supported by evidence that O’Rourke also had propane, a gas tank and matches, Stephan said.
Stephan said that prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence.
She also said that a lot of good things happened in this case.
“Thankfully the damage was serious but minimal, and no lives were lost,” she said.
O’Rourke’s preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 17.