CORRECTION: This article was updated on Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. to fix several errors. An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Patricia Teplansky-Almazan’s last name as Alzaman. It also incorrectly attributed Edward Charles Allaway’s sister to jumping from the Humanities building when she actually shot herself in the heart. The article also incorrectly said she worked as a custodian at CSUF when she actually worked as a secretary in the sociology department. The Daily Titan staff regrets the errors.
A regular summer day for students and faculty at Cal State Fullerton turned deadly 41 years ago, leaving behind painful memories that would haunt many of those involved for the rest of their lives.
On the morning of Monday, July 12, 1976, CSUF custodian Edward Charles Allaway shot nine people, killing seven and wounding two.
Allaway had a history of mental-health issues and often caused fights at previous jobs, which led to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia after the shooting.
According to Allaway’s testimony, he believed that a group of gay men were plotting to murder him and that pornographic films starring his wife were being made by his co-workers. He believed all of this was happening right under his nose in what is now Cal State Fullerton’s Pollak Library. These factors motivated his gun-toting rampage that stood as the largest mass shooting in Orange County until the Seal Beach shooting at a beauty salon in 2011.
On July 9, 1976 Allaway purchased a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle from a Kmart in Buena Park. On that same day, his wife filed for divorce.
After the shooting, Allaway fled to the Hilton Inn in Anaheim near his wife’s workplace. From there, he called the police and surrendered himself.
Paul K. Miller, a then 28-year-old student affairs manager, still works for CSUF despite a brief retirement. Upon arriving to work on July 12, 1976 Miller walked up the stairs from the loading dock to the stairway of the southeast corner of the Pollak Library. There he noticed Stephen L. Becker, the son of the founding dean of students, lying on the ground at the bridge between the library and the Education Classrooms building.
Becker, who served as a library assistant, was surmised to have wrestled for the rifle when Allaway was going up the elevator to search for more people from his list to potentially harm. During the fight, Becker was shot. Miller said Becker are credited with “potentially saving additional lives.”
Miller saw Stephen’s father, Ernest A. Becker, coming from Langsdorf Hall and informed him that his son was wounded and en route to St. Jude Hospital. Miller encouraged him to ride in the ambulance with his son, who died on the way to the hospital.
Allaway’s sister, who was a secretary in the sociology department, originally invited Allaway to California from Michigan as she knew he was having trouble there.
“She didn’t realize either, necessarily, that he would be capable of doing this,” Miller said. “Sadly, within two years after the shooting, she committed suicide.”
Patricia Alzaman is the daughter of Frank Teplansky, another victim of Allaway’s. Since the tragedy in 1976, she’s worked tirelessly for over 40 years to ensure her father’s killer is never released back into society. She believes his release would set a dangerous precedent that could allow other mass murderers who are declared mentally ill to be set free.
Alzaman remembers fearing for her father’s life when she heard about the shooting over the radio. After many attempts, Alzaman got a hold of someone at the school at 3 p.m., several hours after the shooting occurred, and was directed to CSUF President Loran Donald Shields, who told her that her father was still alive but had been taken to St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton.
“I jumped in the car. I didn’t even know where St. Jude was and I didn’t know where I was going to go,” Alzaman said.
Her husband stopped her at the street corner and drove Alzaman to the hospital himself. Teplansky died at St. Jude Hospital later that day.
“My father died in my arms with my hand in his,” Alzaman said.
Because of this painful experience, Alzaman had no plans to speak to Allaway. It was not until she was informed Allaway had cancer that she thought he would finally tell the truth, so she agreed to a meeting with Allaway.
“After five minutes, I knew he wasn’t going to tell me anything. He pretended he didn’t even know my dad’s name,” Alzaman said.
Alzaman argued that Allaway’s actions leading up to the event showed he had carefully thought out his plans, as he had asked about the jamming mechanism for his gun and also asked one of the librarians about the laws concerning concealed weapons on campus.
With the help of senators as well as other “very important people,” she was able to make Patton State Hospital, where Allaway was sentenced to, a more secure facility. However, much to Alzaman’s dismay, during the summer of 2016 Allaway was transferred from Patton State Hospital to the less secure, Napa State Hospital.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and family members of the victims were not notified.
“We are becoming more and more liberal about releasing criminals that really shouldn’t be on the street. We need to find solutions, better solutions,” Alzaman said.
Debbie Paulsen, an English and literature master’s student, was also an employee in the library, and was fatally shot by Allaway.
Paul Paulsen, Debbie’s brother, heard about the shooting on the radio and quickly made his way to CSUF fearing for his sister’s life. As he was questioned by a detective, he saw his sister’s name on a notepad with a “D” next to it.
“I instantly learned the harsh reality that ‘D’ meant dead,” Paul Paulsen said.
Paul Paulsen was then directed to a corridor to identify his sister.
“Her lifeless body was in a pool of blood where she was chased down and shot in the back at point blank range and the hardest part for me, still, is witnesses have testified in court that after she was shot, she slumped to the floor and he just stood over her and watched her bleed to death. She was such a compassionate, gentle soul. For her to die in such a violent manner, in my mind, is one of life’s cruelest ironies,” Paul Paulsen said.
The judge ruled that Allaway could not be held responsible for his actions for “reasons of insanity,” partly for being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Since the ordeal, he has been transferred to three different state hospitals.
Since he is considered a mental patient, Allaway has the opportunity to ask for release every other year. Out of the five times Allaway has asked for release, he was rejected every time except for one instance when he withdrew the request himself.
“I think that the irony is that we, the victims, the survivors, are the ones who have been given a life sentence because we are the ones who have to deal with it every single day of our lives,” Paul Paulsen said.
A beautiful quiet spot on campus that students may not be aware of is the Memorial Grove located between the Pollak Library and the Kinesiology & Health Science Building. Seven Stone pine trees were planted, one for each casualty of the shooting, along with a memorial gravestone engraved with all nine names (including the two who survived their gunshot wounds) to cherish the victims’ memories.
A peaceful candlelight vigil for the fallen victims was held last year in honor of the 40th anniversary of the tragedy.
Time hasn’t dulled Paulsen and Alzaman’s efforts to prevent Allaway’s release.
“We continue, to this day, to go to court to block his release. It never changes, it’s been an ongoing nightmare for all of us, from the beginning of ‘76,” Paul Paulsen said.