School Shooting Shakes UCI

Sept. 13, 2009 marks the date of the first on-campus homicide in UC Irvine history. At approximately 7:15 p.m. in the Verano Place Housing development, 30-year-old UCI alumni Rebecca Edwina Benedict was shot and killed by her ex-husband, 35-year-old UCI physics graduate student, Brian Benedict.

The shooting followed an apparent domestic dispute, possibly involving the custody of their 4-year-old son. Rebecca Benedict had primary custody of their son but his father was also granted visiting privileges. Upon returning to pick up the boy from his father’s residence, Rebecca engaged in an argument with her ex-husband, who later shot and killed her.

Witnesses described the scene to police. They said that Rebecca was trying to leave the apartment at Verano Place when Brian Benedict followed her with a gun and shot her multiple times near parking lot 23.

According to Lt. John Hare of UCIPD, officers were on scene “within a minute.” Brian Benedict was then arrested at gunpoint and interogated at the Orange County Jail.

According to Irvine Assistant Police Chief Jeff Hutchinson, Benedict had no history of domestic violence but had visited the UCI Police office on Sept. 6 to inquire about obtaining full custody of his child.

While the 4-year-old boy was in very close proximity to the shooting, it remains unknown whether he was actually an eye-witness. He is currently with his family.

On the night of the shooting, UCI first-year medical student David (last name not disclosed), and his wife, Kristen Downing, were sitting at home in Verano Place when they heard gunshots and a woman’s scream. After ducking for cover, they received a phone call from their neighbors, other first-year medical students, who asked David for help in aiding the victim.

The three medical students ran outside and attempted to save the woman. According to Downing, Benedict suffered three to four gun wounds on her face, one on her chest and one on her arm. After a few minutes, a fourth-year medical student came to help until paramedics arrived.

When asked how long it took paramedics to arrive on scene, Downing said around seven minutes although it “felt like forever.” Benedict had been breathing a little when the medical students had started to help her, but it became increasingly fainter. After being transported to a nearby hospital, Rebecca Benedict was pronounced dead.

After the suspect was arrested and the victim taken to the hospital, David was interviewed by police until close to 1 a.m.

As for others who were affected by the incident, Downing said that her friend’s car was shot, and that a few students who were walking to Vista del Campo heard the shots and ran to her apartment to hide. They knocked on her door to come in, afraid of what was going on outside.

The morning of Sept. 14, Chancellor Michael Drake released a statement and thanked the UCI Police Department for their quick response. He then ensured further investigation and reassured students and parents about the safety of UCI’s campus.

According to the California Penal Code Section 626.9, it is a felony to “bring or possess upon grounds of or within any public school including the University of California, California State University, without permission of school authorities.” Knives are also not permitted.

However, Hutchinson said that these laws were extremely difficult to enforce, particularly in the residential areas of campus.