Carson City IHOP Reopens After Deadly Rampage

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Gov. Brian Sandoval had more than
pancakes on his mind as he and dozens of others sat down for
breakfast Thursday at an IHOP in Nevada's capital city, marking the
restaurant's reopening three months after a gunman killed four
people there, then took his own life.

"It's an important day for Carson City and the community to
move forward," Sandoval said, "and also to remember and respect
the victims of the tragedy."

The pancake house on a busy highway about 20 miles from Lake
Tahoe opened its doors just before 7 a.m. Representatives from the
Nevada National Guard and the Carson City sheriff's office milled
about while another two dozen or so patrons awaited breakfast.

"This is an important part of the healing process," Sandoval
said before digging into a stack of hotcakes with blueberry syrup
at a table with Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell next to a lit-up
Christmas tree.

"This is a place where people meet, a gathering place for
families on Sunday and for folks to have breakfast meetings. It is
a really important place to have back," the governor told The
Associated Press.

Crowell agreed.

"Memories don't go away, but it's important to move forward,"
Crowell said on his way into the restaurant as the sun came up. "I
think the community is thankful for the reopening. ... And now, I'm
going to buy the governor some pancakes."

Several members of the Nevada National Guard were having a
breakfast meeting on Sept. 6 when 32-year-old gunman Eduardo
Sencion began a rampage just before 9 a.m. After firing shots in
the parking lot, Sencion walked into the IHOP and began shooting.

Bob Moore, a Nevada state employee, said he visited the
restaurant Thursday "to take back a little bit of the darkness."

"It sounds corny," Moore said, "but I grew up here, I'm a
veteran. When you hear about something like this, you're
affected."

Dr. Sandra Koch, a physician who was working at nearby
Carson-Tahoe Hospital the day of the shooting, called it important
for the community to set the slaying and its aftermath behind.

"When you have a tragedy in a city like this, you need to pull
together," Koch said. "The way to do that is not to honor some
criminal act. It's to move us to a better place."

Florence Donovan-Gunderson, a 67-year-old resident of South Lake
Tahoe, was killed while eating with her husband, Wally. Sencion
then shot at five Nevada National Guard members sitting in a booth.
Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31; Sgt. 1st Class Christian
Riege, 38; and Major Heath Kelly, 35, were killed.

Minutes later, Sencion - who had been diagnosed with paranoid
schizophrenia in 1999 - fatally shot himself in the head.

Seven others were wounded in the shooting.

The restaurant was shuttered, but IHOP Regional Manager Peter
Kouis announced in October that it was being remodeled and would
open before the holidays at the prompting of residents.

"I'm so glad we can continue to serve the community here as we
have the past 20 years," he said. "A lot of people have been very
vocal about saying they will come back to see us."

Kouis said the remodeling was complete, but he declined to
discuss any specifics of what had changed. There currently is no
marker, plaque or any other indication that anyone died there, but
plans are in the works for some sort of memorial to be determined
in the months ahead.

Sandoval credited the company for continuing to pay its
employees during the 14 weeks the store was closed.

"I'm respectful of IHOP for their willingness to step forward
and continue their investment in this community," he said.


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