SPARKS – A Sparks Middle School math teacher who was killed Monday while trying to stop a student shooter was being remembered as a hero.
The teacher, Michael Landsberry, a Marine veteran who just celebrated his wedding anniversary on Oct. 18, tried to intervene before a seventh-grader opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun he had brought to school. Landsberry and the student both died in the incident. Police said the shooter took his own life. Two other students were injured.
Law enforcement officials said Landsberry, who was not identified by name, acted heroically, although all the details of his actions were not yet completely known.
“In my estimation he was a hero,” Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said. “We do know he was trying to intervene.”
Landsberry was identified by his family and through social media on Facebook and Twitter, where students mourned his passing.
The shooter entered the school at about 7:16 a.m. The shooting happened on the school’s campus and ended outside the school building itself, according to police. As many as 200 police raced to the school, which does not have a full-time security officer.
One of the two 12-year-olds injured in the shooting was shot in the abdomen, the other in the shoulder. One student had surgery at Renown Medical Center. The injuries are non-life threatening and both are in stable condition, police said.
The shooting caused panic among parents dropping their children off for school in the community just east of Reno.
Twelve-year-old Christian Fiorica, who witnessed part of the drama unfold, described the shooter as “a good kid.”
“He was always cheerful,” Fiorica said.
Fiorica said he saw the boy standing with his gun before he and others ran inside the nearby elementary school.
Fiorica referred to the shooter by name but his identity has not yet been released by Sparks police.
At the press conference, Acting Sparks Police Chief Tom Miller said the students and community are safe.
There were no other suspects, he said.
No motive has yet been established for the shooting, nor was it clear if the shooter was targeting specific individuals, police said. How the student obtained the gun is also unclear, police said.
Sparks Middle School will be closed for the rest of the week.
Students attending the middle school and the adjacent Agnes Risley Elementary School were evacuated to Sparks High School. The elementary school was closed Monday.
Sparks Mayor Gino Martini called it a “tragic day for the city of Sparks” but added that the community is now safe. It was an isolated incident, he said.
Witnesses describe a chaotic scene as students were arriving at school.
Hunter Carley, 12, said he was around the corner from where the shooting occurred just outside the school.
“I thought it was a cap gun,” he said. “Then 30 kids ran by screaming. I did not know (the shooter). My friend tried to talk him down. He held the gun to his face. I am shocked.”
Billy Ramirez held his arm around his two sons as he walked away from the elementary school adjacent to the middle school. He and his sons’ faces were ashen.
“They are in trauma,” said Ramirez, who declined to comment further. “I never thought this would happen here.”
Jocelyn Sanchez lives in a home across the street from the elementary school. She said she was awakened by the shots.
“I heard the ‘pow’ sound,” she said. “I thought it must be the contractors who have been working there. Then the cop cars showed.”
Leon Morehead, the grandfather of a seventh-grader, called the situation at Sparks High School “chaos” as he waited to pick up his grandson.
“This could have been done a lot better,” he said. “They should have released the names of all the victims. A lot of people here have been in a panic because they don’t know what happened to their children yet.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is on a trade mission to Israel, issued a statement saying he was deeply saddened to learn of the shooting.
“My administration is receiving regular updates and the Nevada Highway Patrol is assisting at the scene,” he said. “Kathleen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and those affected by these tragic events.”
Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said the governor asked Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga to travel to the incident command center to offer assistance.
“He has also asked Nevadans to take a moment of silence to remember the families of the victims and others affected by the incident,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid also issued a statement, saying: “My condolences go out to the victims’ families and my thoughts are with the teachers, administrators, parents and students at Sparks Middle School who have experienced a traumatic morning.”
He continued, “No words of condolence could possibly ease the pain, but I hope it is some small comfort that Nevada mourns with them. I stand by to be of any assistance if there is anything that can be done and I will continue to monitor the situation.”
In Las Vegas’ area schools, Monday proceeded as usual, according to Lt. Ken Young, spokesman for Clark County School District’s independent police force of about 140 officers.
He was receiving updates about the Sparks shooting but said Clark County schools already have officers in place or on call, as is the case every school day. Two officers are permanently stationed at each of the 49 high schools. The 59 middle schools, 217 elementary schools and 32 others schools don’t have officers on site unless help is requested.
State law already requires every Nevada school to have response plans for a shooting. Schools must not only make crisis plans but must annually update them, train every employee and run drills with students to practice lockdowns, evacuations and reverse evacuations, which means sending students into the school if something outside presents a danger.
Following the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., some Clark County schools have limited access to one entryway leading directly to the front office. That has sometimes required constructing such an entryway for older, more open campuses.
Also, Las Vegas and school police regularly come together for anti-terrorism training for possible scenarios, such as shootings.
Review-Journal reporter Trevon Milliard contributed to this report.
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