A teacher was killed and two students were critically wounded when a student opened fire at a Nevada middle school Monday morning before the shooter fatally turned the gun on himself, police said. Law enforcement officials secured the area around Sparks Middle School where the shooting took place without firing any shots.
The two injured in the shooting were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in nearby Reno, Nev. One of the individuals is already out of surgery, and the other is doing well, according to media reports.
The teacher – eighth-grade math teacher Michael Landsberry, according to media reports – was shot and killed while trying to protect students.
Students and staff at Sparks Middle School and nearby Risley Elementary School – which are both in Sparks, Nev. – were evacuated to Sparks High School. Both the middle and elementary schools will be closed Monday, said Charles Rahn, Washoe County School District spokesman.
“We came flying down here to get our kids,” Mike Fiorica, whose nephew attends the middle school, told the Associated Press. “It’s really chaotic. You can imagine how parents are feeling. You don’t know if your kid’s OK.”
Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said 150 to 200 personnel secured the school and the surrounding area after the shooting was reported at 7:15 a.m. Pacific time, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Kyle Nucum, a student at Sparks Middle School, thought the shooting was a firecracker when he first heard a loud popping noise.
“Then the student fired a shot at the teacher, and the teacher fell and everybody ran away, and we ran across the field to get somewhere safe," Kyle said during an interview published on the Gazette-Journal website. "While we were running, we heard about four or five more shots,” Kyle said. He escaped the chaos inside a nearby home.
Michelle Hernandez, another student at the middle school, said she saw the shooter on Monday morning, the Gazette-Journal reported. “I heard him saying, ‘Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?’ ” she said.
The Gazette-Journal also spoke with Seth Hinchberger, an eighth-grader at Sparks Middle School, who said the shooter “pulled out a weapon and just shot it. And scared all of us, and we just started running.”
The students then ran into a hall, Seth said. “We piled up and put the girls in the back and the guys in the front ... for the safety of the girls,” he 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.”
Mr. Robinson told parents they can now rest assured. “The schools are safe. The rest of the city is safe,” he said.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) extended his thoughts and prayers to those affected. “I was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific shooting at Sparks Middle School this morning. My administration is receiving regular updates and the Nevada Highway Patrol is assisting at the scene," he said in a statement.
Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada also issued a letter of comfort to those affected.
“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. 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,” the statement read.
The violence in Sparks erupted nearly a year after a gunman opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 students and six adults. The Dec. 14 shooting sparked a nationwide gun-control debate.
In 2006, a 14-year-old boy opened fire in Pine Middle School in Reno. No one was killed, although two students were injured, according to the Gazette-Journal. The shooter had researched the 1999 Columbine High School shooting rampage a week before he opened fire on his classmates, the paper reported.
The Pine Middle School shooter was tried as a juvenile and was sentenced to house arrest.
Sparks is located in the western part of the state near the California border, just east of Reno.