Police ‘don’t know why’ student opened fire at Nevada middle school

The morning after a 12-year-old boy opened fire at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, killing a teacher and wounding two students before turning the gun on himself, police said they do not have a motive for the seventh-grader’s actions and did not release his identity “out of respect for his grieving parents.”

“Everybody wants to know why – that’s the big question,” said Sparks Police Department Deputy Chief Tom Miller. “The answer is we don’t know right now. We are proactively trying to determine why.”

Police said the shooter’s family is fully cooperating with the investigation and believe the boy used a Ruger 9mm semiautomatic from his parents’ home. Police said the crime scene has been expanded to the shooter’s home and there is a possibility that his parents could face charges related to the weapon.


The two injured boys, both 12, “are stable and recovering,” Miller said at a news conference Tuesday. One was shot in the shoulder, the other in the abdomen.

Police said they do not yet know if the students were targeted and declined to speculate about whether bullying was a motive.

“There have been things in the media,” Miller said in response to a question about bullying. “But like I said earlier, we are still trying to determine the whys.”

Michael Landsberry, the math teacher and former Marine and Nevada National Guardsman, was credited with saving the lives of other students when he tried to stop the shooting in a school hallway.

The violence unfolded in a few minutes outside of school buildings. Police said before-school safety procedures in place kept some doors closed and prevented the shooter from entering crowded hallways.

Miller explained the timeline:

At 7:15 a.m., the student arrived on school grounds, drew his weapon and shot the first student in the shoulder near the hallway.

The shooter then encountered Landsberry on a basketball court. “They were actually walking towards each other,” Miller said.

“The suspect shot the teacher, continued southbound, shot a second student in the abdomen, turned around and walked northbound and shot himself,” Miller said. “At no time did any shooting occur within the building of the school itself,” he said, adding that there were no shots fired by law enforcement.

Mike Mieras, chief of school police for the Washoe County School District, said that after the first student was shot, “Mr. Landsberry calmly walked toward the shooter, putting his hands up in a motion to try to stop the individual’s actions.”

“Mr. Landsberry was fatally shot in the chest. Mr. Landsberry’s heroic actions, by stepping toward the shooter, allowed time for other students on that playground area to flee.”


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Mason reported from Sparks, Nev.; Bloomekatz contributed to this report from Los Angeles.