Students and parents have described their terror as a 12-year-old student armed with a semi-automatic handgun showed up at a US school and started shooting, killing a teacher and wounding two children before apparently killing himself.
The boy was described by police as a "student/suspect" who came to the Sparks Middle School, in Sparks, Nevada, before classes began on Monday.
"I heard him saying, 'Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me,'" student Michelle Hernandez told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
"A kid started getting mad and he pulled out a gun and shoots my friend, one of my friends at least," a seventh-grade student identified as Andrew Thompson told local television station KOLO. "And then he walked up to a teacher and says back up. The teacher started backing up and he pulled the trigger.
"The teacher was just lying there and he was limp," Thompson said. "And me and five other friends went to him and said come on we've got to get him to safety. We picked him up, carried him a little bit far and we left him because our vice principal came along and said go, go, go get to safety, get to safety. So we left the teacher there and we went to safety."
The teacher was identified as Michael Landsberry, a 45-year-old eighth-grade maths teacher and former Marine with a wife and two stepdaughters.
"In my estimation, he is a hero ... We do know he was trying to intervene," Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said.
The wounded boys, both 12, were hospitalised in a stable condition. One was shot was shot in the abdomen and the other in the shoulder.
The incident marked the latest in a string of shooting rampages across the United States in recent years, including a shooting last December at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 students and six adults and helped reignite a national debate over gun control.
A statement from Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the Connecticut shooting, appeared on the website of gun control advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise. "It's moments like this that demand that we unite as parents to find commonsense solutions that keep our children - all children - safe, and prevent these tragedies from happening again and again," the statement said.
Sparks parent Abner Lopez said his son, Abner Jr, first realised something was wrong when he heard the first gunshots, which apparently were directed at a student the shooter knew.
“He just heard the gunshots,” Lopez said. “Then he saw the teacher telling him to calm down, to put the gun down, and that's when he shot the teacher.”
Lopez said his son was in the teacher's maths class along with the suspected shooter.
A woman who answered the door at Landsberry's home declined to speak to comment, but students have posted tributes to him online and a “Rest Easy Mr Landsberry” page has been created on Facebook that refers to him as the “best teacher there ever was".
His class website explains his approach to teaching and offers “I have one classroom rule and it is very simple: Thou shall not annoy Mr. L.”
Kyle Nucum, a 13-year-old student, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he was on a basketball court with others when he heard a popping sound and saw a boy in a school uniform with a gun. The child was confronted by a teacher who was then shot, Nucum told the newspaper.
“We heard a pop, like a loud pop,” he said.
He said he and others ran across the street and took shelter in a woman's home.
Sparks Middle School has an enrolment of 630 seventh- and eighth-grade students, according to its website. Classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week.
A note on the school's website said that all middle schools in Washoe County had implemented a “safe zones” policy, which permits any student who “feels threatened, bullied, or the recipient of acts of violence” to go to a designated classroom staffed by a teacher.
The website said the county policy was adopted “due to the increase in gang activity, bullying, violence to students by other students, and lack of knowledge by the middle school student population” about how to get help.
MCT, New York Times and agencies
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