On Monday, Cedric Anderson walked into the elementary school classroom of Karen Smith, his estranged wife, and fired ten shots from a Smith & Wesson revolver. He killed Smith and eight-year-old Jonathan Martinez, her student, and injured another nine-year-old student, both of whom were standing behind Smith. After Smith was dead, Anderson reloaded and shot himself. It was an act of domestic homicide that escalated from Anderson’s long history of domestic abuse—a common characteristic in over half of all mass shootings.
Smith married Anderson in January but quickly realized it was a mistake; she left him in March. The LA Times reports that in the process of trying to get Smith back, Anderson both pleaded with and threatened her; it is unclear if she knew that he had been accused of domestic violence by at least two other women, one of whom “accused him of trying to suffocate her with a pillow and threatening her with a butcher knife, according to court papers.” Anderson was also alleged to have threatened to kill his ex-wife.
Like many women, Smith was quiet about Anderson’s behavior with colleagues at the school, but people who knew him said that he displayed an aggression towards and fixation on Smith. As the New York Times reported last June, domestic violence is a common denominator in these situations—in 57 percent of US mass shootings, a spouse or family member was one of those killed—and it is a phenomenon common enough to have been given official name by experts: “intimate terrorism,” a step beyond “intimate partner violence” and towards better describing what it actually is.
And compounding that aggression is access to firearms; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that if guns are a factor in any domestic violence situation, the chances it will end in homicide increase by 500 percent. In 2014 black women, who comprise 13 percent of the overall woman population, were domestic homicide victims at a rate twice as high as white women, according to the Violence Policy Center. Seventy-three percent of those involved handguns.
Karen Smith is survived by her mother, four children, and three grandchildren. Her daughter Jennifer, also a teacher, told NBC that her mother “was my rock, my best friend and my world.”
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the NCADV at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece indicated that black women comprised 13 percent of the U.S. population. In fact, black women comprise 13 percent of the overall population of women in America. Jezebel regrets the error.