Guard member injured in IHOP rampage to tie knot
RENO (AP) – A member of the Nevada National Guard who saw three fellow guardsmen killed by a gunman at a Carson City IHOP is getting married this month in Reno.
Sgt. Caitlin Kelley told a Reno newspaper that her fiance, Jason Koffarnus, a pilot in the Army National Guard, recently proposed to her after she told him that her priorities had “totally changed” since the rampage last month.
Eduardo Sencion, 32, who had been treated with medication for longtime mental problems, fired 60 rounds from an assault rifle on Sept. 6, killing four people and injuring seven others before killing himself.
Kelley, 25, was having breakfast in a corner booth with three fellow guard members who were killed. She was shot in the foot, and now requires a wheelchair and crutches to get around. It will take about a year of surgeries and therapy before she can walk on her own.
“He’s so patient with me,” said Kelley of her fiance. “When I get impatient with my body, or when I cry. He’s so calm and reassuring, saying: ‘We’ll get there. Take your time.”‘
Kelley and Koffarnus, 31, began dating in 2005 after meeting at a party. Even when they had a son together three years ago, marriage still was not a serious consideration, she said.
But shortly after the shooting, they went to a store for groceries and she was afraid to get out of the car, she said.
“I really have trouble going into public places now. I’m always afraid,” Kelley told the Gazette-Journal in Sunday’s print edition. “Intellectually, I know it won’t happen again, but emotionally, I’m terrified that everybody is a threat.”
As they were driving away from the store, Kelley told Koffarnus that her priorities had changed and he agreed.
“He elbowed me and said ‘Will you marry me?”‘ she said.
About two dozen local businesses are donating everything from food and flowers to a dance floor and wedding dress to ensure they enjoy the wedding of their dreams on Oct. 23.
“She deserves this,” said Teri Bath of Garden Shop Nursery. “We thought it would be a nice community gesture for everyone to get involved and feel like they’re doing something good after a tragic event.”
Kelley said the community support has been “amazing” and that the wedding has made “something good out of a disaster.”
Since the shooting, she has undergone therapy and relaxation techniques to deal with the emotional trauma and nightmares.
Kelley said Sencion first killed a woman in the booth next to them, then aimed at their booth. Killed immediately were Lt. Col. Heath Austin Kelly, 35, and Sgt. Christian Riege, 38. Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31, was shot in the abdomen and died later.
Sencion continued firing the gun indiscriminately from waist level rather than looking down the scope, hitting Kelley in her foot.
“He was smiling. Just smiling, like just ecstatic, like a fat kid in a candy store,” Kelley recalled.
The shooting has sparked outrage in her about the nation’s gun laws, she added. “I can’t imagine why we are even selling assault weapons to civilians.”
She said she wants to use her wedding to help children who lost parents in the shooting. She’s asking guests to contribute to a trust fund for the children instead of giving wedding presents. She asked that all donations be made through the Military Support Alliance.
“Instead of gifts, I’d rather see the kids get the money for college,” she said.