SPARKS — The Nevada middle school student who killed a teacher and wounded two classmates before turning the gun on himself appeared to be a typical 12-year-old who liked soccer, was good at video games and didn’t have a lot of friends but “didn’t seem to be a loner,” a friend said Friday.
Jose Reyes was always smiling and never complained to his friend Diego Munoz, 11, that he was bullied, Munoz said outside Sparks Middle School where Reyes fatally shot math teacher Michael Landsberry before committing suicide on the school’s asphalt basketball court Monday.
“I was really surprised he would do something like this,” said Munoz, a sixth-grader at neighboring Agnes Risley Elementary School.
“When I heard it was him who was the shooter, I went into a stupor and asked, ‘Why did he do it?’” he said.
Reyes played soccer and often rode his bicycle in the working class neighborhood around the school, about 5 miles northeast of downtown Reno, Munoz said. He said the two played video games together, including Zombie games and the online building game Minecraft, and both were fans of MTV’s comedy clip show, “Ridiculousness.”
“He was more like your typical 12-year-old,” Munoz said. “Right now, we all want to be popular. He wasn’t one of those kids. He didn’t have a lot of friends, but he had a couple of friends. He didn’t seem to be a loner.”
“He never told me he was bullied,” he said. “Whenever we would go outside he was always smiling. He seemed happy … He seemed intelligent. He won video games more often than not.’”
Munoz’ remarks echoed those of other students who described Reyes as a shy boy, who nonetheless had friends and usually a smile on his face. He played the violin, according to his school music teacher, and was a big fan of the video game, “Call of Duty,” other classmates have said.
Police have released little information about the shooting. They said he got the semi-automatic handgun from his residence, but they have no motive and don’t know if Reyes was targeting victims or firing randomly. They didn’t release his name until Thursday under pressure from the public and local media.
School officials confirmed the investigation includes a review of an anti-bullying video that some students saw earlier this month that includes a dramatization of a child taking a gun on a school bus to scare aggressors.
Washoe County School District spokeswoman Victoria Campbell said school officials were examining the video but couldn’t comment because it’s part of the broader investigation into the shooting just outside the school building about 5 miles northeast of downtown Reno.
Reno’s KRNV-TV reported that some students said they watched the video, entitled “Bully,” earlier this month. The station has broadcast excerpts of the 1½-hour documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch that chronicles the impact of bullying on five different youths and their families.
Katherine Loudon, the school district’s director of counseling, equity and diversity, said anything that would have been presented to children would have been part of a districtwide bullying prevention and intervention initiative that includes all schools in the county.
“We’ve been told by Sparks Police Department to not discuss that particular curriculum,” Loudon said.
About 700 people, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, students, parents and siblings, attended a private ceremony Thursday morning in the school’s gymnasium, which students had decorated with posters, tributes, balloons and stuffed animals in recognition of Landsberry.
The 45-year-old had served as a Marine and coached basketball and soccer. He was known by all as a big fan of Batman. In addition to drawings and references to the cartoon super hero, one unidentified veteran left the Navy Medal for Meritorious Service he earned in Iraq, with a note that read, “You deserve the medal of honor in my book.”
The Nevada Air National Guard, where Landsberry had served as a master sergeant, announced plans Friday for a “celebration of life” at a public memorial service with full military honors Nov. 3 at Sparks Christian Fellowship church.
A former student who played last year on Landsberry’s eighth-grade soccer team said he was so dedicated to her and her teammates that he told them he would sacrifice his life for them.
“He told us once that he would take a bullet for us. He died doing just that,” said Lilian Martin, now a freshman at Reno’s Wooster High School.
“He was always funny and made us laugh,” she said Friday.
Martin was among those who said they didn’t witness bullying at Sparks Middle School.
Associated Press writer Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas contributed to this report.