Details emerge of quiet, troubled IHOP gunman
CARSON CITY, Nev. – Eduardo Sencion appears to have had more problems than his family and friends realized.
The 32-year-old store worker who killed four people and wounded seven others at a capital city IHOP restaurant was being treated with medication for longtime mental problems, investigators said.
But to friends and family, he was shy, friendly and respectful of the men and women who make up the nation's military, some of the very people he killed.
That emerging portrait of a quiet, approachable man who worked at his family's market in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., did little to answer the questions surrounding Tuesday's bloodshed, terror and grief in this community on the edge of the Sierra Nevada range.
Why did Sencion, who did not have a criminal record, snap? How did he get the three guns found near his body Tuesday morning? And why did he shoot each of the uniformed National Guard members?
"It's almost as if he was a normal person who had a major psychological defect that was triggered by something," said Joe Laub, an attorney who has helped the Sencion family with legal concerns in the past.
Sencion provided no answers before he took his own life after gunning down 11 people along a bustling business district in Carson City Tuesday. The dead included three uniformed Nevada National Guard members and a civilian woman. Two other Guard members were among the seven people wounded.
Investigators are slowly sketching a thin outline of his life.
"We are concentrating on the details of his life, which will include his medical records," Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong told The Associated Press. "Right now we are building a profile around him. Who is he?"
Sencion was on medications for mental troubles, but did not have a criminal history and did not harbor a grudge against the military, Furlong said. At one point, Sencion even considered enlisting.
"He's been on medication for a long period of his life. And he was considered to be doing fine," Furlong said.
Furlong didn't know if Sencion ever acted on his military ambitions but said Sencion's mental health history likely would have precluded his acceptance into the military of his adopted country. Sencion, the youngest of four brothers, was born in Mexico. He was a legal U.S. resident and had a passport, authorities said.
He had at least one previous encounter with the law. He was taken into protective custody by South Lake Tahoe police during a mental health commitment in April 2000. He fought with officers during the incident but was not charged.
Records show Sencion attended South Tahoe High School, graduating in 1997. Though Sencion is listed as a student in yearbook indexes, there are no photos of him alone or with classmates, and school officials, contacted by the AP, said no current teachers remembered him.
Three members of the National Guard were killed when the shooting interrupted their breakfast meeting — 31-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney of Reno; 38-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege of Carson City; and 35-year-old Major Heath Kelly of Reno. The Guard announced Thursday that Riege was posthumously promoted to the master sergeant.
Florence Donovan-Gunderson, a 67-year-old resident of South Lake Tahoe, was eating with her husband that morning and was sitting near the Guard members when she was shot. She later died at a hospital.
Her husband, Wally Gunderson, also was shot and remained hospitalized Thursday, family and friends said.
Kevin Carrick, a 52-year-old father of eight and a former Air Force paramedic, was in the restaurant when the shooting erupted and helped usher a woman and child out the back door.
"What the heck was going on? You just, you didn't know. But you didn't have time to process all that information," Kevin Carrick said. "All you had to do was try and see if you could do something that could make a difference. My training and my Air Force career 30 years ago probably kicked in."
Fred Ciccarelli, 60, of Gardnerville, was with Carrick and two other men inside the IHOP when Sencion's rampage began.
"He was out for a body count — not to pick on any one individual," Ciccarelli said.
But the shooter seemed to stop himself when he saw a family with a young daughter, even though he walked outside and started firing his gun at more people, Ciccarelli said.
"If he wanted to kill even more people, he could have done so with those three. But he chose not to shoot the mom or dad or the little girl," he said.
Officers and investigators, Furlong said, have been meeting with Sencion's family.
"We recognize that they are victims of this as well," he said. "We are doing everything in our power to make sure they understand that we do care about them."
The IHOP, on busy U.S. 395 on the south side of the city, was fenced off Thursday. A makeshift memorial of flowers, plants and stuffed animals had sprouted in the parking lot.
Associated Press writers Cristina Silva, Oskar Garcia and Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas and Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this report.