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Cal State Fullerton marks 40th anniversary of mass shooting




FULLERTON, CA - APRIL 17:  File photo: A memorial grove of seven pine trees honors seven people killed by a gunman July 12, 1976 inside the California State University, Fullerton library, visible in the background, April 17, 2007 in Fullerton, California. Janitor Edward Allaway said later that he went on his killing spree after being taunted by co-workers that gay men were plotting to kill him. Allaway was found innocent by reason of insanity by a judge after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. He remains confined at Patton State Hospital.
FULLERTON, CA - APRIL 17: File photo: A memorial grove of seven pine trees honors seven people killed by a gunman July 12, 1976 inside the California State University, Fullerton library, visible in the background, April 17, 2007 in Fullerton, California. Janitor Edward Allaway said later that he went on his killing spree after being taunted by co-workers that gay men were plotting to kill him. Allaway was found innocent by reason of insanity by a judge after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. He remains confined at Patton State Hospital.
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On this day in 1976, a mass shooting at Cal State Fullerton claimed the lives of seven people and injured two others.

One of those victims was graphic artist Frank Teplansky, who was shot twice in the back and once in the head. His daughter Patricia Almazan was by his side when he died.

The tragedy has stayed with Almazan to this day, but it also had a hand in inspiring her to help organize a vigil and memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of the shooting. The vigil was scheduled for Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cal State Fullerton Memorial Grove. 

Almazan joined Take Two to speak about the memorial and the tragedy itself. She described her father as "an exceptional artist, a talented pianist, a talented writer and journalist. He once illustrated a book for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He worked in all mediums of art, but he loved caricatures. he was a person who just loved people. He had a great sense of humor ... He was just a very talented person."

Interview highlights

How did you learn about what happened that day?

"I was on my way to work, and the news flashed that there'd been a mass shooting at Cal State Fullerton with many casualties. I knew at that moment that my father lay dying  ... it's just something that you feel and I really needed to hear his voice so as soon as I got to work, I called him, because I know he would have called me. But I couldn't get through. I waited a while, then I raced home and finally got through to Cal State Fullerton, and I said 'Is my father Frank Teplansky OK?' and [the receptionist] said, 'Well, let me put you on hold, the president of the college wants to speak with you.' So I knew then that I was about to realize my worst fears.

"He got on the line and I said 'Is my father OK?' and he said, 'I'm sorry to tell you he was shot.' I said 'Where on his body?' and he said, 'Twice in the back and once in the back of the head, but he's still alive. He's at St. Jude's Hospital.'

"I entered the room, and he's just laying there. He looked very peaceful and serene, and he looked like he could sit up and give me a hug. I had my hand in his, and he started to squeeze it, and I thought he was trying to tell me what happened. They quickly ushered me out of the room ... the only comfort that I have of his passing and of that scene is that he waited for me. He could have died and should have died when he was shot. He was the last to die. I feel like he waited for me to get to the hospital."

Tell us about the memorial at Cal State Fullerton that you helped organize.

"I always keep in contact with Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who I admire very much. He's been very supportive throughout the years ... he knows about how I feel and what went on at Cal State Fullerton. I called him and asked him if he could help me with contacting Cal State Fullerton to see if they would do a 40-year memorial. I believe I started back in October."

Almazan also discussed how her personal tragedy has shaped her perspective when it comes to incidents of gun violence today, when mass shootings are becoming more commonplace. To hear that and more of the interview in its entirety, please click on the blue player link above.