Stupid Question ™
April 26, 2002
By John Ruch
Q: What happened to the girl who inspired the Boomtown Rats song “I Don’t Like Mondays”? Did she ever explain her crime?
A: On Monday, Jan. 29, 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer sat in her San Diego house and started shooting children at the elementary school across the street.
Back then, middle-class school violence was still a novelty. So was Spencer’s explanation: “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”
Bob Geldof, singer of the Irish New Wave band Boomtown Rats, turned the striking incident into “I Don’t Like Mondays,” with the chorus, “Tell me why/I don’t like Mondays/I want to shoot/The whole day down.”
The song topped the UK charts in late 1979 but was widely banned from US airplay. Tori Amos covered it on last year’s “Strange Little Girls” album.
Spencer, a small girl with long strawberry-blonde hair, was sensitive and artistic. But she had a record of theft, drug abuse and animal torture. She once smashed out the windows of the Grover Cleveland Elementary School—her old elementary school, and later her shooting target.
As children were arriving for school on Jan. 29, she opened fire on them with a .22-caliber rifle with a telescopic sight—a Christmas present from her father. She fired about 40 shots over 20 minutes until the police blocked her line of fire with a garbage truck. She killed the principal and head custodian, and wounded a police officer and eight children ages 7 to 10.
She remained holed up in the house for more than six hours. Phoned by reporters, she gave various versions of the “I don’t like Mondays” line. She told police that she had been drinking and taking pills, and surrendered peacefully.
Coincident with the release of “I Don’t Like Mondays,” she pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon, and was sentenced to 25 years to life.
Now 39 years old, Spencer is still in prison, having been denied parole at least three times. She has received her GED and studied electronics. She is being treated for epilepsy and depression.
At her first parole hearing, she claimed the state had faked evidence against her and kept her drugged, and that it was possible her victims had actually been shot accidentally by police. She said her real targets were hallucinated “commandos” she saw besieging her house.
At her 2001 hearing, she apologized and said, “With every school shooting, I feel I’m partially responsible.” She said she doesn’t remember saying the “Mondays” line.
She also accused a relative of physically and sexually abusing her.
It was also reported that, when her affair with a fellow prisoner soured, she responded by heating a paper clip and branding the words “courage” and “pride” onto her own chest.
Brenda is housed at the California Institution for Women near Corona, California. She’ll be eligible for parole again in 2005.