CARSON CITY — From outward appearances, Carson City is returning to normalcy after eight minutes of terror at a family restaurant that left five people dead and seven wounded.
But the emotional wounds are raw and will take much longer, if ever, to completely heal.
There is sadness, anger, grief and the unanswered question of why Eduardo Sencion — described as a quiet, friendly man who worked at his family’s market — stormed an IHOP restaurant with an assault rifle Tuesday, gunning down 11 people before taking his own life in the parking lot.
Four people in the restaurant were killed, including three uniformed members of the Nevada National Guard and a woman from South Lake Tahoe who was having breakfast with her husband, who was wounded in the shooting.
“Why did he go there? Why did he pick IHOP? Why, why, why?” asked Laurie Bailer, a former IHOP waitress who had to quit her job about three years ago after suffering an accident.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said Sencion, 32, a 1997 graduate of South Lake Tahoe High School, had a history of mental health issues and had been on long-term medication.
Authorities were working to build a profile of his life and medical history.
During a solemn news conference the day after the shooting, Furlong acknowledged investigators might never know what triggered the deadly attack, the worst in Carson City’s history .
By Friday, the crime scene tape that cordoned off the IHOP had been replaced by chain link fencing.
Across the busy highway at Casino Fandango, a message reading “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families” flashed on an electronic sign between advertisements for buffets and slot machines.
Some windows shot out in nearby businesses during the rampage remained boarded up, but the Local’s BBQ has reopened. Gone were the satellite trucks from national media that took over the parking lot of a Kohl’s department store.
But a small section of pavement and shrubbery was still fenced off for a makeshift memorial that continued to grow as mourners came to reflect, pray and leave flowers, cards, votive candles and American flags in tribute to those slain.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know what set the man off,” said Mary Bersin, 75. She and her husband, Hal, said a prayer and brought a small bouquet of lavender mums from their garden.
“Hopefully it’s going to band us together to watch out for each other,” she said of the tragedy.
That sentiment was shared by Pat Fike, 69, who also left flowers and a card.
“There’s so much hostilities,” Fike said. “It’s like a poison that has permeated our society.”
She also expressed sympathy for Sencion’s family “who is in grief, too.”
Nathan Sours Sr. and his wife, Linda, drove 30 miles from Reno to pay their respects.
“This is my small token of gratitude,” said Nathan Sours, a veteran who served in the Army and National Guard.
“They were helpless,” he said of the unarmed guardsmen. “If I’d have been around I would have taken him out.”
Bailer left flowers and a card, attaching her IHOP name tag.
“To all our servicemen and woman who are now with our Lord, Bless you, bless you,” she wrote in a note. “To all IHOP employees, my thoughts and prayers will forever be with you.”
Bailer said she used to work the section where Nevada National Guard Maj. Heath Kelly, 35; Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31; and Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege, 38, were having breakfast when they were gunned down and killed. Two other uniformed colleagues were wounded in the attack.
“I feel like I was there,” she said. “It’s just something too close to home. “
Private funerals were scheduled this weekend, and the guard planned a private memorial today to honor their fallen comrades.
Also killed was Florence Donovan-Gunderson, a 67-year-old South Lake Tahoe woman described by family and friends as a fun-loving, outgoing soul who loved to knit and made baby blankets and hats for her friends and relatives. Her husband, Wally, a retired Marine, was wounded.
“She was a mom, a grandma, a friend,” said Carole Sare, who became close with the couple when her own husband died three years ago. “She didn’t have a down day in her life. She pulled everybody up.”
When Sare’s husband died, “They wouldn’t let me sit here and curl up in a ball. I need to do the same for him now,” she said.