OAKLAND, Calif. — The nursing program director at the California Christian college where a gunman went on a deadly shooting rampage said Wednesday she believes she was the intended target but was teaching elsewhere that morning.
Ellen Cervellon said suspect One Goh dropped out of the nursing program at Oikos University around November, but came back to campus numerous times to ask her for a full tuition refund.
Goh got angry when she told him the school could not refund all his money because he had been enrolled for nearly half of the program, she said.
Police previously said Goh was seeking a female administrator when he went to the Oakland campus Monday morning. When he was told she wasn’t there, they say, he began shooting in classrooms, killing six students and a receptionist and wounding three others.
“In talking to several of the students and faculty who were there, I think he was looking for me. I have that weight on my shoulders and I don’t know what to do with it,” she told the Associated Press, her voice quavering with emotion. “Every single one of those students were going to be an excellent, excellent nurse. They’re in my heart and they always will be.”
Cervellon said police have not yet spoken with her. She said she was not on campus that morning because she was doing her other job, teaching nursing to students at California State University, East Bay.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters Tuesday that Goh was angry after being expelled from the school, but Cervellon said he was never expelled and decided to leave on his own.
“He was never forced out, he showed no behavioral problems, and he was never asked to leave the program,” she said. “He decided on his own to leave the program.”
Cervellon said Goh also told her that he felt the other students were picking on him at the Oakland school founded to help Korean immigrants adjust to life in America and launch new careers.
Like all the other students in the nursing program, Goh’s first language was not English, but Cervellon said she never witnessed other students teasing him about his accent, as police said.
“He himself had problems, but everybody else did. There is not one person who could speak only English in that classroom. Everyone spoke other languages as well,” she said.
Several hundred friends, family and community members gathered for a multicultural prayer vigil Tuesday night to mourn the victims of the nation’s deadliest campus shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
“Only God knows the meaning of the suffering we endure,” Dr. Woo Nam Soo, the university’s vice president, said in Korean during the church service. “In this unbearable tragedy and suffering, only God can create something good out of it.”
Shortly after the shooting spree, police arrested Goh, 43, at a supermarket a few miles from campus.
Police have released little background information about Goh, other than to say the South Korean native had become a U.S. citizen.
Since his arrest, emerging details of Goh’s life suggest a troubled man who has been struggling to deal with personal and financial difficulties over the past decade.
Online records in two Virginia localities where he lived show that, while Goh was there, he racked up tens of thousands of dollars in liens and judgments, including a $10,377 debt to SunTrust Bank in 2006.
It’s unclear how Goh earned a living before he became a nursing student at the tiny private school of about 100 students, but his instructors said he had previously worked in construction.