When I first heard the phrases “shooting” and “San Bernardino” earlier this week, my thoughts raced to another shooting in the same city 17 months ago caused by two jihad-happy shooters. And now this?
Then the news came out that this tragedy had all of the characteristics of a deadly domestic dispute, so I mentally compartmentalized it as a non-religion story. Then we learned from the Los Angeles Times that the shooter was a pastor -- although no one seems to know anything about his church or denomination or beliefs.
In other words, has this shooter said anything that links his actions to his beliefs?
I’m cutting and pasting the parts from the Times where it identifies the pastor part:
Karen Smith tied the knot in January with a man she had known for years.
A pastor her own age with a military background, Cedric Anderson seemed like a man of faith with whom she could share the next chapter of her life. ...
On Monday, the tumult of their brief marriage burst into a San Bernardino elementary school. Anderson walked into Smith’s special-needs classroom and opened fire, fatally wounding her before turning the gun on himself, police said. One of Smith’s students, an 8-year-old boy, was also struck by the gunfire and died. A second child was injured.
The story then went into available details about the couple, including her expertise in special education and his history of spousal abuse and then:
Najee Ali, a community activist in Los Angeles and executive director of Project Islamic Hope, said he knew Anderson as a pastor who attended community meetings.
"He was a deeply religious man,” Ali said of Anderson, who sometimes preached on the radio and joined community events. “There was never any signs of this kind of violence … on his Facebook he even criticized a man for attacking a woman."
His effect on Smith was obvious. One neighbor along Mt. Wasatch Drive in Riverside, who declined to be identified, recalled Smith becoming more outgoing and cheerful — a noticeable change from years past.
They seemed to be happy, the neighbor said, and once were overheard praying together, but never fighting.
Such stories lead to a lot of hair-pulling on my part. What kind of pastor was this man? Was he ordained anywhere?
I didn’t have much luck locating its parent denomination, so it may or may not be Pentecostal. But it does have a staff that hopefully includes someone who knew the couple. Did any reporters call that church? Doesn't look like it.
The site picked up one of Anderson’s complaints on Facebook about the black church. He wrote in part:
In the Black Church we have seen over the past 20 years an influx of former gangsters, pimps, hoes and the simple minded (who know they have no business being called a minister) starting churches and even organizations.
That doesn’t explain why he shot his wife but it does raise some questions about what sort of pastor this man was. Heavy.com alerted me to a post on Anderson’s Facebook page that had religious references. Then I saw another posting about a local radio show calling Anderson one of its “resident pastors.”
Judging from the comments, the pastor title may have all been in Anderson’s head, which explains the paucity of material journalists have been able to dig up.
It appears that there is a very good chance that he led no congregation, nor ever had. Finally I went on Facebook and looked up Anderson's feed myself and started reading the comments. One person claimed she’d known him as a pastor of an unspecified church in Rosamond, Calif., some 20 years ago. It’s possible he was affiliated with an actual church but his charges and arrests over the years for spousal battery would have made most churches fire him on the spot.
Facebook still had Anderson’s account up and running last I looked, you can read all of his many religious quotes plus all the angry posts people have left since the shooting. It's beyond creepy. He followed two people extensively: Tera Carissa Hodges, a Christian motivational speaker from Atlanta and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in nearby Orange County, where Anderson and Smith occasionally dropped by. Anderson’s feed shows his wife posing for a photo near the church.
MSN rummaged through his posts and did a piece on the incongruity of a man who claimed a “blessed” existence while not mentioning that his new wife had left him.
The bottom line here: I'm not denying the difficulty of tracking down this man's past, but posting a profile of a pastor without mentioning his affiliation is like highlighting a sports star without mentioning what team they're on.
One thing that grabbed my attention was his feed on Feb. 27, when he had an ABC video of a woman who was so angry at the service she got at a mobile phone store, she rammed her SUV through the store window. He posted it four times. I'm wondering if it was then that he realized the only way to get heard was to make a statement that was so brazen, no one could ignore it.
What was the message he wanted to send that would take his life, the life of his wife and that of one unlucky child who got in the way?
There are so many mysteries. By the way, we also don’t know what church his wife attended. Hopefully a reporter somewhere, somehow, will dig that up what sort of pastor he was and what kind of church he led, at some point or another. To what degree is this information relevant? We will have to see.