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Boy Killed in Rampage Recalled as Cheerful Youth

SANTEE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

Tragedy: An hourlong memorial in a Santee church celebrates the life of Santana High senior Randy Gordon.

March 11, 2001|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTEE, Calif. — Randy Gordon, one of two students killed in the shooting rampage at Santana High School, was remembered Saturday as a cheerful youth who loved bowling, cross country running and Tom Clancy novels and dreamed of serving in the Navy upon graduation.

"He won't be graduating this year; he's been promoted to the kingdom of God," the Rev. Phil Herrington told 750 people who came to Sonrise Community Church to mourn Gordon's tragic death and celebrate his life.

"Randy's laughing and partying with Jesus right now," Herrington said.

The 17-year-old senior was killed Monday as a gunman fired 30 bullets at people randomly inside a bathroom and around a campus courtyard. The alleged gunman, Charles Andrew Williams, 15, was a freshman at the school.

The theme music from Gordon's favorite movie, "The Hunt for Red October," was played as a prelude to the hourlong service. Gordon was talking with a friend about cross country and Tom Clancy when he was struck in the back with a bullet.

"He's the kind of kid you want your kid to be around," said a tearful Dale Sheehan, the school's cross-country coach. "He's the kind of kid you want your kid to be."

A Navy recruiter said Gordon was eager to join and possibly become part of the elite SEALs unit. Just two weeks ago, the two went to lunch at the amphibious base in Coronado where the SEALs train.

"Randy was a very motivated young man, with a lot of potential," said Navy Petty Officer Michael Mulinix. "He's a shipmate we'll never forget."

Numerous Navy personnel attended. Many of Gordon's classmates wore clothing of purple and gold, the school colors. Many wept openly.

Addressing the students, Herrington, pastor of Pathways Community Church in Santee, said, "It's OK to ask 'Why?' It's OK to be angry with God. But we can't stay there."

Gordon's mother, Mari Gordon-Rayborn, and stepfather, Stan Rayborn, were accompanied by two dozen family members, as well as Santana Principal Karen Degischer and Granger Ward, superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District.

George Corn, Gordon's uncle, said the teenager should be remembered, not for his untimely death, but "for who he was and where he was going."

He remembered seeing Gordon Monday morning before the youth "skipped off into eternity."

Gordon's mother told reporters, "I want something good to come out of this. Maybe people should smile or say something good to someone they don't know."

A private burial followed the services. A funeral is set for today in nearby Lakeside for the other student killed in the attack, Brian Zuckor, 14, a freshman.

Sheriff's deputies attended the funeral, both to show respect for Gordon's memory and to provide protection against any disruptions. Deputies have been stationed at all high schools in the sprawling district to prevent copycat attacks.

Deputies were added after two teenage girls in Santee received threatening and obscenity-laced computer messages vowing to "finish what Andy didn't complete."

Friday night, Patrick Andrew Smith, 18, was arrested at his parents' home in Walkersville, Md., on charges of sending the anonymous threats. He is set to be arraigned Monday for possible extradition to San Diego.

Maryland state police said Saturday that no connection had been found between Smith and Williams, although the latter lived in a community near Smith's home for several years.

In Santee, the deep religious faith that is a defining characteristic of many of the small communities in eastern San Diego County was in strong evidence.

Randy Mills, Gordon's teammate on the cross-country team, told his absent friend:

"Who needs to run when you can fly? Godspeed. We'll see you when we get there."

*

Correspondent Paul Levikow contributed to this story.

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