A man was legally insane when he opened fire on the playground of a Carlsbad elementary school in a rampage that left two second-graders wounded, his attorney said Tuesday, but a prosecutor said the defendant gave police conflicting statements on why he committed the "terrorist act."
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In his opening statement in the sanity trial of Brendan O'Rourke, Deputy Public Defender Dan Segura told jurors that delusions and a mental disease led the defendant to believe that his former employer, AIG Inc., and Illinois politicians were involved in a conspiracy to get back at him.
"You have a diseased mind, your thinking isn't always right," Segura told the jury.
O'Rourke, 42, was convicted Monday of seven counts each of premeditated attempted murder and assault with a firearm for the Oct. 8, 2010, attack at Kelly Elementary School. The defense now has the burden to prove that O'Rourke was insane at the time of the shooting.
If the defendant is found sane, he faces 103 years to life in state prison. If the jury finds him insane, he could be sent to a state mental hospital.
Four psychiatrists will testify that O'Rourke suffered from schizophrenia or a delusion disorder, or a combination of both, when he opened fire on the school grounds, Segura said.
A psychiatrist who interviewed O'Rourke told jurors Tuesday that the convicted school shooter had severe mental illness.
"It was my opinion that he has paranoid schizophrenia," said Jaga Nath Glassman.
Glassman told jurors that O'Rourke had "classic" symptoms of the disease, starting in his teens and 20s, when he began acting oddly and showing clear signs of paranoid thinking.
"Most of his problems were really a direct outgrowth of his severe mental illness," Glassman explained.
Among O'Rourke's mental illnesses is a "persecutory delusion" that someone is out to get him, his attorney said. The disease makes people "not in touch with reality" and "believing things that simply weren't true," Segura told the jury.
While he worked for the AIG insurance company in Illinois, O'Rourke witnessed someone using cocaine at a party, and because of that, he developed the thought that he was part of a conspiracy and that someone was out to get him, Segura said.
Also, his boss told O'Rourke to stop saying someone was accusing him of sexual harassment, and the defendant decided to move from Illinois to California to "get away," the defense attorney said, adding that his client's roommate also mentally tortured him by telling him he couldn't escape the conspiracy.
Regarding the shooting at Kelly Elementary, O'Rourke believed AIG "made him do it," according to Segura.
Glassman told jurors that O'Rourke was tortured by the voices inside his head that told him that the conspiracy against him would stop if he took action.
"That the only thing that he could do to escape the torture was to blow up a school bus, to hurt children, to kill children, and that if he did that then they would leave him alone," Glassman said.
Glassman said that in his opinion O'Rourke meets the legal standard for not guilty by reason of insanity.
"At the time of the events in question that the person due to a mental disease, defect or disorder was unable to understand the nature and quality of his or her acts or to be able to distinguish right from wrong while in the commission of those acts," he said.
Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan said O'Rourke gave police conflicting statements on why he carried out the attack at the school.
In one interview right after the shooting, O'Rourke said AIG supplied him with a propane tank that he brought to the scene. Asked three days later where he got the propane tank, the defendant told police he bought it months earlier, the prosecutor said.
O'Rourke initially said he didn't shoot at children but shot at the propane tank, which was left by a fence he climbed, Stephan said.
When the defendant's computer was examined, it was determined that he looked at a website concerning safety with propane tanks, the prosecutor said.
While he worked for AIG in 2001, O'Rourke became obsessed with a woman and was accused of sexually harassing another woman, Stephan said.
When the granddaughter of his apartment manager told O'Rourke she wasn't interested in going on a date, he went to police with a tank top he had stolen from her room to try to prove they were a couple, Stephan said.
In 2010, months before the school shooting, O'Rourke showed up near a woman's apartment in Oceanside, and when she complained to the manager, the defendant was given a 60-day eviction notice, Stephan said.
O'Rourke's anger grew in emails to his brother, and he told his sibling that he was joining AIG so he could "ruin people's lives," the prosecutor said.
Stephan suggested O'Rourke "lashed out" because he wasn't able to date "20-something" women, as he desired.
In her closing argument in the trial's guilt phase, Stephan told jurors that the defendant climbed a fence at the school around noon and fired six shots at children, wounding two girls who suffered arm wounds.
O'Rourke's crime spree certainly would have been much worse had it not been for school staff members who confronted him and the fact that his .357-Magnum revolver jammed and he was unable to re-load, authorities said.
The defense also plans to play a recording of a police interrogation of O'Rourke after the school shootings.
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