SPARKS — Parents of two boys wounded by a seventh-grader who fatally shot their teacher before turning a semi-automatic handgun on himself said Wednesday they don’t believe their children were targeted in the schoolyard rampage.
Sparks police were interviewing dozens of students who witnessed the shooting as investigators continued to try to unravel the mystery of what motivated the shooter, whom they still have not identified two days after he took his own life on an asphalt basketball court outside Sparks Middle School.
Hundreds of students and others gathered for a candlelight vigil on the school lawn Wednesday night to pay respects to their wounded classmates and slain math teacher Michael Landsberry. The 45-year-old Marine veteran also coached basketball and soccer and was known by all as a big fan of Batman.
Sparks police Lt. Erick Thomas said investigators still don’t know whether the shooting spree 15 minutes before the start of school Monday morning was random or targeted specific individuals.
But parents of the two 12-year-olds recovering from gunshot wounds said they don’t think the boys were singled out.
One said her son was trying to help Landsberry when he was shot in the abdomen with a bullet that exited his back.
“We do not believe he was in any way the target in this shooting,” Jenifer Davis said outside Renown Regional Medical Center.
She said her son Mason, being treated at the medical center, was “doing well … in good spirits, although saddened by the loss of his friend, Mr. Landsberry.”
“From what we’ve learned from others at the scene, Mason’s first instinct was to intervene, and he did all he could to help Mr. Landsberry,” Davis said. “It is my understanding that he was trying to help Mr. Landsberry at the time he was shot.”
A parent of the other boy, who was shot in the shoulder, declined to be identified or speak with reporters but said in a statement released by the hospital, “We do not believe our son was a target in this shooting.”
Some in the crowd of more than 400 at Wednesday’s vigil in the working class neighborhood five miles northeast of Reno clutched babies; others held Batman balloons with their candles as they sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
“We pray for a world where guns and children don’t go together, where violence is not the first or second or third way children think of to solve problems,” said Julia Rubin of Reno’s Temple Sinai.
“We pray after we have mourned and comforted each other we can take steps to address the root cause of violence and gun used by children throughout our country.”
Spanish Springs Presbyterian Church Pastor Howard Dotson led students in a pledge to “be a peacemaker.”
“There is nothing glorious or sexy about guns,” they repeated after him.
Investigators have confirmed the 12-year-old shooter acted alone, but little else, Thomas said.
Landsberry was killed while trying to talk the boy into turning over his weapon.
“We’re still investigating how this all happened. We are investigating the motives, all the facts and circumstances that both led up to it and were involved in it,” Thomas said Wednesday.
“It’s a very complicated investigation as far as the number of witnesses and the seriousness of the crime,” he added.
Thomas, the lead investigator in the case that also involves Reno police and Washoe County School District police, said he couldn’t comment on some reports from fellow students that bullying may have played a role in the shooting.
“I can’t release any information on any provocation or anything like that,” he said.
Thomas confirmed the investigation extends to the boy’s home, where he apparently obtained the gun — something police acknowledged could lead to prosecution of his parents or other adults if they knowingly made it available to the boy.
Thomas said he couldn’t provide any information as to whether the gun was locked up.
“We’re continuing to investigate the weapon and where it was obtained and how it was obtained,” Thomas said.