Nevada IHOP reopens 3 months after deadly rampage
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – The Christmas tree was lit and the holiday hotcakes special for sale again Thursday as dozens of people gathered at an IHOP restaurant in Nevada’s capital city as it reopened for the first time since a gunman killed four people, then took his own life there the day after Labor Day.
The Carson City pancake house opened its doors just before 7 a.m.
IHOP spokeswoman Rhonda Barnat said it wasn’t a formal opening ceremony, but it was an important day for the community.
Gov. Brian Sandoval and Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell were the first people seated, near the restaurant’s Christmas tree, and representatives from the Nevada National Guard and the Carson City sheriff’s office milled about while another two dozen or so patrons awaited breakfast.
Sandoval had pancakes with blueberry syrup.
“It’s important for this community to move forward,” the governor said, and credited IHOP for paying employees for more than 14 weeks while the restaurant was closed.
“This is an important part of the healing process,” he said.
Crowell added that while “memories don’t go away,” he thinks it’s good for residents to see the restaurant up and running again.
The sleepy state capital was shocked 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.
“The way to do that is not to honor some criminal act. It’s to move us to a better place,” she said.
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 people in the community.
Cheri Glockner, director of development at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, was a regular at the restaurant before it closed and she returned for the reopening. She said the shooting has had an impact on the city.
“This tragedy has affected everyone,” Glockner said. “You just don’t expect something like that to happen in your little safe town.”
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