A middle-school student opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun on campus just before the starting bell on Monday, wounding two 12-year-old boys and killing a math teacher who was trying to protect children from their classmate.
The unidentified shooter killed himself after a rampage that occurred in front of 20 to 30 horrified students who had just returned to school from a week-long fall break, police said at a news conference. Authorities did not provide a motive for the shooting and it is not known where the student got the gun.
Outside Sparks Middle School, teacher Michael Landsberry was hailed for his actions during the shooting.
“In my estimation, he is a hero... We do know he was trying to intervene,” Reno Deputy Chief of Police Tom Robinson said.
Both wounded students were listed in stable condition. One was shot in the shoulder and the other was hit in the abdomen.
The violence erupted nearly a year after a gunman shocked the US by opening fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, leaving 26 dead. The Dec. 14 shooting ignited debate over how best to protect the country’s schools and whether armed teachers should be part of that equation.
Landsberry, 45, was a military veteran and leaves behind a wife and two stepdaughters. Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said Landsberry served two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada National Guard.
On the school’s Web site, Landsberry posted a picture of a brown bear and took on a tough love tone, telling students: “I have one classroom rule and it is very simple: ‘Thou Shall Not Annoy Mr. L.’”
“The kids loved him,” sister-in-law Chanda Landsberry said. “To hear that he was trying to stop that [the shooting] is not surprising by any means.”
Police said 150 to 200 officers responded to the shooting, some from as far as 96km away.
Sparks Middle School students, most of whom are 12 and 13 years old, and a neighboring elementary school were evacuated to the nearby high school, and classes were canceled. The middle school will remain closed for the week.
“As you can imagine, the best description is chaos,” Robinson said. “It’s too early to say whether he was targeting people or going on an indiscriminate shooting spree.”
At the evacuation center, parents comforted their children.
“We came flying down here to get our kids,” said Mike Fiorica, whose nephew attends the Sparks Middle School. “You can imagine how parents are feeling. You don’t know if your kid’s OK.”
The shooting happened on campus and ended outside the school building, according to police.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific shooting at Sparks Middle School this morning,” Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said in a statement.
“It’s not supposed to happen here,” Chanda Landsberry said. “We’re just Sparks — little Sparks, Nevada. It’s unreal.”
Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was killed in the Connecticut shooting, issued a statement on the Web site of gun control advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise saying: “It’s moments like this that demand that we unite as parents to find commonsense solutions that keep our children — all children — safe, and prevent these tragedies from happening again and again.”