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SANTEE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

'You Couldn't Ask for a Nicer Kid'

Victim: Randy Gordon is remembered as an athlete who worked for campus peace.

March 07, 2001|JESSICA GARRISON and RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Randy Gordon loved to run. Day after day, the soft-spoken 17-year-old with the steely determination traversed miles of asphalt around his home town of Santee.

His route occasionally ended at a 7-Eleven, where he and teammates on the Santana High School track squad would drink Slurpees, share running stories and talk about the future. As captain, Gordon commanded their attention. As confidant and senior role model, he commanded their respect.

"The team loved him," said Dale Sheehan, his track coach for the last two years. "He is the kind of kid you want your kids to be friends with."

On Monday morning, Sheehan, after hearing the sound of gunfire, peered out the door of her classroom. In front of her, she saw her star runner a final time--collapsing on the ground. "I stuck my head out and you just heard the bullets flying," Sheehan said Tuesday. "He died right outside my room."

Gordon was known around campus as a role model--focused, yet always taking the time to encourage others.

"He was the kind of fellow you'd like to know," said Mike Conner, 15, a ninth-grader and fellow track team member.

Gordon's determination extended to a carefully designed plan for his future. Living at home with his mother and stepfather, whom Sheehan described as "unbelievable parents," Gordon dreamed of becoming a Navy SEAL and working in the intelligence unit.

An unidentified parent said Gordon had pre-enlisted in the Navy and worked with the local Civil Air Patrol. Those who knew Gordon made it clear that he would be the last person to ridicule another student, which is what some say touched off the rampage Monday. He wasn't rowdy and didn't get into fights.

"You couldn't ask for a nicer kid," said Nancy Magee, an English teacher who worked with Gordon on the campus peace council, which promoted unity and positive behavior at Santana High.

As for his track interests, "He wasn't into running overboard, but he loved it," said Connor, who used to run long distances in the hills surrounding Santee with Gordon.

On Tuesday, several grieving students expressed their feelings on white boards erected next to an informal memorial. "This Season's for You Randy," said one, signed Erik. A winged foot was drawn next to the name in pen.

A yellow balloon carried the message, "We Love You Randy, You'll Always Be in Our Heart. Aunt Jill, Uncle Richard, Kevin and Ryan."

Students and parents, allowed back on campus Tuesday night to gather possessions, congregated in a circle around the spot where Gordon fell. The group stood in the pouring rain, tears streaming down their faces.

Sheehan said one of Gordon's favorite activities was to conduct the Slurpee runs for the team. The run would end at one or another 7-Eleven, where Sheehan would buy a round for everyone.

"Even in the middle of winter, he loved Slurpees," Sheehan said.

Sheehan is leaning on the team now as much as its members used to lean on Gordon and her for help. "I need them," she said.

The coach said she will hold track practice today, as scheduled. Perhaps, she said, they'll even take one last Slurpee run for Randy Gordon.

*

Times staff writer John Johnson contributed to this story.

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