Canada's first school shooting recalled

ANDREW HANON

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

EDMONTON -- When Sandra Cook heard the news of a crazed teen gunman slaughtering 15 students, teachers and passersby at a school in Germany yesterday, she was flung 34 years back in time.

On May 28, 1975, Cook stared down the barrel of her ex-boyfriend's rifle at Brampton Centennial Secondary School in the first school shooting in Canadian history.

"I know exactly what those families (in Germany) are going through," she says. "As far as I'm aware, I'm the only one Michael saw that he didn't shoot at (in Brampton, Ont.)"

Yesterday, a 17-year-old who police identified only as Tim K. used a high-calibre pistol to gun down nine students, three teachers and a passerby at a school in Winnenden, near Stuttgart. He later killed two more people before getting into a gun battle with police.

It's believed he then turned his gun on himself.

Every time another school gets shot up, Cook finds herself reliving the nightmare that has haunted her since Grade 9.

"It doesn't upset me like it used to; you learn to deal with it. But I can still vividly remember every detail," she says at her home in Edmonton, where she's spent most of her adult life.

Cook and Michael Slobodian had shared a brief junior-high school romance and had remained friends. The day before the shooting, they were having a cigarette together when the 15-year-old told her two teachers had given him zeros on late assignments.

"I remember him saying, 'I'm so mad I could just kill them.' I didn't think much about it. It seemed like just talk, something any kid might say," she recalls.

The next day, she was outside the school when someone ran up and said there was a sniper inside.

"Everyone ran inside to find out what was going on," she says, shaking her head at the kids' naivete. "There were portable (classrooms). Kids were coming out of them and going into the school."

She ran through a doorway and nearly collided with Slobodian.

"He shot a kid in the arm," she says. "I remember his elbow flying up. Then Michael turned and pointed the gun in my face, but for some reason - I guess he recognized me - he didn't shoot."

It was later revealed that Slobodian had brought two of his father's rifles, a .22 and a .444, to school in a guitar case, loaded them in a bathroom stall and then wandered the hallways, shooting at anyone who crossed his path.

He killed John Slinger, 14, teacher Margaret Wright, 25, and finally himself. A note found in his room stated he wanted to kill Wright and another teacher.

In April 1999, 17-year-old Jason Lang was shot to death by a 14-year-old at W.R. Myers High School in Taber.

A year earlier, Chad Yurko was wounded by police as he waved a shotgun while walking by Bishop Savaryn school in Edmonton's north end during a school fun day. The kids were hustled indoors while cops ordered Yurko to put down his weapon.

Cops fired on him after Yurko gunned down police dog Caesar.

Since then, schools in Alberta have developed lockdown procedures.

They can vary from "hard" to "soft" lockdowns, depending on the level of threat.

Public schools spokesman Jane Farrell said the only hard lockdown in recent memory was at Ormsby Elementary on Oct. 12, 2007.

Police were in a standoff with accused cop killer Emrah Bulatci at a neighbouring townhouse, so all the kids at the school were moved into the interior of the building, away from all windows.

Soft lockdowns, said Catholic schools spokesman Lori Nagy, are done when there isn't such an imminent threat. Kids might be kept in their classrooms with the curtains drawn and all exterior doors locked tight.

Lockdown drills are held at every school once or twice a year.

Jason Lang's father, Dale Lang, said since his son was killed there has been a lot of effort put into safety, but "the reality is there are a lot of angry kids around."

School shootings will continue until the root causes of that anger are addressed.

"If we have healthy families and kids who feel good about who they are and have value as people, then you'll see a whole lot less violent action."


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