Sparks, Nev., school shooter watched violent video games, report says

Sparks, Nev., school shooter watched violent video games, report says
Students tie ribbons and yellow carnations along a fence on the side of Sparks Middle School, where they attended a memorial for teacher Michael Landsberry last October. (Andy Barron / Reno Gazette-Journal)

The 12-year-old boy who opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun at Sparks Middle School last October, killing a teacher and wounding two students before turning the gun on himself, had watched violent video games for months and wrote two conflicting notes about his motives in the attack, according to a police investigation released Tuesday.

Jose Reyes killed math teacher Michael Landsberry, 45, on a basketball court behind the school just before classes began on Monday, Oct. 21. He then shot and wounded two boys before killing himself in this working-class community east of Reno.


Sparks Police Chief Steven Keefer said the boy's parents would not be charged in connection with the shooting for being legally in possession of the handgun the boy took from their home on the morning of the rampage.

Jose and Liliana Reyes could have faced criminal charges if investigators had determined they knowingly made the gun available to their son. However, allowing such access is not a crime in Nevada if the gun was stored in a place that a "reasonable person would have believed to be secure."

The parents told police they were unaware that their son knew they kept the 9-millimeter pistol in a kitchen cabinet above the refrigerator.

"Both parents continued to have the right to own firearms," Keefer said at an afternoon news conference streamed live via the Internet. "Both parents state they did not believe their son had any knowledge of the firearms location."

He said the parents told investigators that the boy did not know how to operate the gun and did not show any signs of acting out in violent ways.

The investigation's 1,300-page final report also showed a picture of a troubled boy who was bullied at school for supposedly wetting his pants and was taunted on numerous occasions.

Keefer said one of the wounded boys had previously told Reyes that he didn't "have the muscles" to take gym class. Students reportedly spilled water on Reyes' pants and then mocked him for being incontinent, according to a months-long investigation that involved scores of local, state and federal authorities.

Washoe County School District Supt. Pedro Martinez has said publicly that he knew of no bullying involving Reyes.

Keefer said Reyes was also teased about a speech problem. He said the boy's parents had taken him to see a counselor, who placed the boy on a small dose of Prozac, a drug commonly prescribed for depression.

On the day of the shooting, the seventh-grader carried two magazines -- one for 10 cartridges and the other for 17 -- neither of which was filled to capacity, Keefer said. The gun had been given to his father by a family friend.

Keefer said Reyes also had a troubled home life and felt he was not living up to his family's expectations. He had been struck by his father, who pleaded guilty to child abuse in 2012 after self-reporting the crime.

Police also found 69 video games with violent themes in the family home, including "Assassin's Creed," "Hit Man" and "Call of Duty." In the months before the attack, they said, Reyes conducted Internet searches on such topics as "top 10 evil children," along with various reenactments of the 1999 Columbine school shooting outside Denver.

"Photos found on his phone also showed violent war scenes and pictures of the Columbine shooters," Keefer said.

The investigators found two notes that they said showed the boy had conflicting thoughts before the shooting.


In one, Keefer said, Reyes "clearly expressed anger" with teachers and students and said he would get revenge. In the other, written to his parents, he said the planned killings were not due to video games or bullying.

"In both," Keefer said, "the suspect said his life would end in the process."

He concluded: "We will never know the complete motivation behind this tragic incident."