A student at the Nevada middle school where a 7th grader allegedly went on a shooting spree on Monday said that she remembered the suspect as friendly, and said he might have gotten the idea from an anti-bullying video.
Police say the 12-year-old student, who has not been identified, brought a 9mm Ruger handgun to school in Monday and used it to kill a math teacher and wound two classmates before he fatally shot himself in the head. While investigators worked to trace the origin of the gun, the boy was thought to have brought it from home, and there was the “potential” that his parents could face charges, police said.
Sparks Middle School eighth-grader Amaya Newton remembered the suspected shooter as a nice kid who got pushed around by some of his schoolmates, according to local NBC News affiliate KRNV. She remembers other students “tripping him in the hallways” and “bugging him for money,” Newton told the station.
Newton also recalled an anti-bullying video that was shown at the school on Oct. 11, just before the students went on their fall break. The video showed a girl bringing a gun onto a school bus to frighten bullies, Newton told KRNV.
“It was an anti-bullying movie, but it could have gotten into his head about the girl scaring the bullies with the gun,” Newton said, according to the station. “She brought a gun on the bus to scare them and threatened to kill them.”
The video might suggest to students “that maybe it’s easier to scare your bullies than just to tell a teacher,” Newton said. KRNV spoke with another student who described the anti-bullying video in the same way. A spokesperson for the Washoe County School District told the station they were not aware of the particular video but would look into it.
NBC News has not independently confirmed the account of the anti-bullying video.
Teacher Michael Landsberry, 45, was hailed as a “hero” after multiple students said the Marine veteran and National Guardsman tried to stop the shooter, approaching him calmly and asking him to hand over the semiautomatic before he was gunned down.
Marilyn Newton / Reuters
Lighted candles flicker in the pre-dawn light at Sparks Middle School following Monday's shooting in Sparks, Nevada, October 22, 2013.
“[Landsberry] was telling him to stop and put the gun down, and then the kid, he yelled out ‘No!’ like yelling at him, and then he shot him,” middle schooler Jose Cazares said on the TODAY show on Tuesday. “[Landsberry] was calm and he was holding out his hand like, ‘Put the gun in my hand,’ like to just stop him.”
Landsberry’s younger brother Reggie said he was not surprised by his sibling’s unhesitating heroism.
“It is unlucky, you know, doggone it’s sickening, but in hindsight, thank goodness Mike was there cause it could have been a lot worse,” Reggie Landsberry told NBC Nightly News on Tuesday.
“I feel sickened for the parents of the gunman,” Landsberry said. “What they must be going through is unbelievable …. Why does somebody at that young age think life is just terrible? Terrible enough to do something like that. I guess you know there has to be underlying issues, but things can’t be that bad. They can’t be.”
The Nevada Air National Guard held a press conference on Tuesday at which officials spoke of Landsberry’s dedication and service. The man who students called Batman due to his affection for the comic book hero joined the Marines Corps in 1986, and later served with the National Guard in Afghanistan as an air transportation specialist.
“He just touched our hearts in ways we can’t explain,” former student Jeremy Hannah told TODAY. “He was a real life-changer.”
NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski, Erin McClam, Daniel Arkin and Scott Stump contributed to this report. The Associated Press and Reuters also contributed.
First published October 23 2013, 12:20 PM