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Young victims testify at school shooter’s preliminary hearing

VISTA — “I saw the guy with the gun … Pointing the gun at me … He shot me on my arm … It started to bleed … I had to run,” answered a 7-year-old girl in court on March 7, during testimony at the preliminary hearing for a gunman who opened fire at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad last fall.
The girl was one of two second-graders who was wounded in her arm five months ago when the alleged gunman, Brendan Liam O’Rourke, 41, jumped the fence and shot at schoolchildren and adults during recess.
The young girls, ages 6 and 7 at the time of the shooting and now 7 and 8, testified separately, each with a teddy bear, and with their father and a therapy dog behind them.
The 7-year-old showed Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman the red mark on her right arm, which was about four-and-a-half inches from her elbow where the bullet went through.
The 8-year-old child showed the judge her scar, also, which had required a cast for the entry and exit bullet wounds on her arm.
She said that during her lunch recess she saw the gunman and heard loud noises, like an earthquake.
“I saw a man who was holding a gun and he was shooting at my school,” she said.
Then she said her arm “felt kind of weird and squiggly.”
At O’Rourke’s arraignment last year, the prosecutor said he had carried a .357 Ruger six-shot revolver, a gas can and extra ammunition.
He is charged with seven counts of premeditated attempted murder and seven counts of assault with a firearm, and faces 103 years to life in prison, if convicted.
He has pleaded not guilty.
The preliminary hearing is set to continue until March 8, when Judge Kirkman is expected to decide if there is enough evidence presented for O’Rourke to stand trial.
During the daylong hearing March 7, O’Rourke rarely looked up as he sat in the courtroom filled with people and news cameras.
Both girls recovered from their injuries — which for the younger girl included temporary nerve damage — but a doctor from Rady Children’s Hospital who treated them said in court that the wounds could have been mortal because of their location to the elbow joint.
Fortunately, the bullets had not hit an artery, Dr. Nirav Pandya said.
“I used to draw really well, get dressed on my own,” said the 8-year-old to Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan about some of the things she used do be able to do before the cast was put on.
For at least several weeks, taking martial arts classes, playing soccer and taking a bath on her own were also some things she couldn’t do while her arm healed.
Other witnesses testified after the young girls told their personal stories of being shot by a school gunman while they were outside playing with friends on Oct. 8, 2010.
Several Good Samaritans who had been working at the school on the day of the shooting are also expected to tell their stories of how they tackled the suspect and held him down until police arrived.