A student shot dead a staff member and wounded two other boys after opening fire at a school in northern Nevada early on Monday.
The shooting occurred at Sparks Middle School outside Reno at around 7.15am, shortly before classes were due to begin. Michael Landsberry, a popular maths teacher, reportedly attempted to persuade the shooter to put down the gun, only to be killed himself. Two boys were rushed to hospital with gunshot wounds. Officials said one had undergone surgery, but both had been downgraded from critical and were expected to recover.
Local media reports suggest the suspect died after turning the gun on himself. Police said the shooter, who has not been named, was “neutralised”. One student, Michelle Hernandez, told the Reno Gazette-Journal she heard him say, “Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?”
Another, Seth Hinchberger, said that as the suspect started firing, he and other pupils retreated into a hallway, “We piled up and put the girls in the back and the guys in the front … for the safety of the girls,” Hinchberger said. “He came over to us and started aiming at all of us…Then he saw a teacher in the window and shot the window trying to get him. Shot the window twice.”
Landsberry was a military veteran who also served in the Nevada Army National Guard. His sister-in-law, Chanda Landsberry, said, “To hear he was trying to protect those kids doesn’t surprise me at all. He could have ducked and hid, but he didn’t. That’s not who he is.”
The school, which has around 700 pupils, most aged 12 or 13, was placed on lockdown following the first emergency call, and children were evacuated to the nearby Agnes Risley Elementary School. Tom Robinson, Deputy Chief of Reno Police, said Landsberry had indeed attempted to intervene to prevent the bloodshed. “In my estimation, he is a hero,” Robinson said.
Sparks Middle School forbids students from wearing red or blue due to the colours’ associations with the area’s rival gangs. Pedro Martinez, the superintendent of the Washoe County School District, said, “This is just a tragic day for us. A very tragic day.”
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval released a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” by the news, while Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrat majority in the Senate, also sent his condolences.