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Police search for a motive in Nevada middle school shooting that left two dead

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The 12-year-old Nevada boy who fatally shot a Marine veteran teacher and wounded two schoolmates Monday brought the gun from home and attempted to enter the school building before shooting himself, police said.

Middle school student Jose Cazares said on the TODAY show Tuesday that one of the students pleaded with the shooter as he began firing at Sparks Middle School, outside Reno.

“He didn’t say nothing,” Cazares said. “He just kept on shooting them.”

The boy arrived on school grounds around 7:15 a.m. local time on Monday morning and shot a student in the shoulder, Sparks deputy police chief Tom Miller said at a Tuesday press conference. The boy continued walking and encountered math teacher Michael Landsberry on the basketball court, and shot him, police said. He continued walking and shot another student before turning around and fatally shooting himself in the head, police said.

The two students wounded in the shooting were transported to a local hospital, Sparks deputy police chief Tom Miller said at a Monday news conference. They were both in stable condition later in the day, Miller said.

The boy is thought to have brought the Ruger 9mm from home, and there is no plan to identify him publicly, police said on Tuesday. Miller said it will be up to the local prosecutor to press charges against the boy’s parents if the gun is determined to have come from their residence, “but the potential is there.”

The boy’s parents are “fully” cooperating with police, Miller said.

Slain mathematics teacher Michael Landsberry, 45, was identified by his brother on Monday. The former Marine and member of the Nevada Air National Guard had celebrated his wedding anniversary last Friday. Landsberry is survived by his wife and two step-children, the man’s brother Reggie told NBC News.

Cazares said that Landsberry stepped into the path of danger when gunfire erupted on the school’s basketball court on Monday.

“[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,” Cazares said on TODAY. “[Landsberry] was calm and he was holding out his hand like, ‘Put the gun in my hand,’ like to just stop.”

Landsberry’s actions come as no surprise to his younger brother Reggie.

"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 in an interview from his home — where he was later thanked and hugged by Cazares and his mother.

In another part of the interview not aired on the program, Reggie Landsberry also expressed sympathy for the young shooter and his parents.

“I feel sickened for the parents of the gunman,” he 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 teacher was taking his turn greeting middle schoolers as they headed into class before the shooting started, other students told local newspaper the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“I was asking him about what we were going to learn today,” 13-year-old Jorge Martinez told the newspaper. “He was telling me we were going to learn about exponents and multiplying exponents.”

When the suspected shooter brandished a gun, Landsberry told Martinez to run before the shooter walked in the teacher’s direction, the boy told the Gazette-Journal.

“He faked like he was going to give the gun to him and then he shot him,” Martinez told the newspaper. Another student said the shooter was wearing a gray Sparks middle school sweatshirt when he pulled out the gun and sent students running for cover, the paper reported.

There was evidence the boy tried to enter the school but failed to do so, Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said on Tuesday.

Landsberry joined the Marines Corps in July of 1986, Marine officials told NBC News on Tuesday. He worked with communications and rose to the rank of corporal, according to the officials. A winter 2012 edition of the Nevada Guard’s Battle Born magazine lists Technical Sgt. Michael Landsberry of the 152nd Log Readiness Squadron as an awardee of the state’s “Overseas Deployment Ribbon.”

He served as an air transportation specialist in Afghanistan, according to National Guard officials.

“I’d like to think that his training in the military, beginning at Marine boot camp to his training here with the Nevada Air National Guard, contributed to his heroic actions that day,” said Col. Jeffrey Burkett, the Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing Commander, told reporters on Tuesday. “From what I understand, he didn’t hesitate.”

Landsberry began working at the Washoe County School District in August 2001, according to his Facebook page. Local authorities said he coached boys basketball and girls volleyball at the middle school, as well as the high school’s girls soccer team.

On a webpage for his math class, Landsberry made it clear that he demanded as much of his students as himself, writing that he had just one classroom rule: “Thou Shall Not Annoy Mr. L.”

“One of my goals is to earn your respect while you earn mine,” Landsberry wrote on the site. “I believe that with mutual respect that the classroom environment will run smoothly.”

Authorities said on Monday that they were investigating whether the shooter had a target, but 911 calls obtained by NBC News give a glimpse into the chaotic scene.

Master Sgt. Michael Landsberry

“We have a teacher down, now a teacher and student down,” an unidentified person is heard saying on the recordings. A dispatcher says that the shooter was reportedly “chasing people when he saw them.”

A first responder says on the recordings that the possible shooter was “down from a headshot wound … on the basketball court.”

A student at the middle school told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Monday that the suspected gunman had complained that he was being teased.

“I heard him saying, ‘Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me,” student Michelle Hernandez told the newspaper.

Friends, family, and former students of the victims were among those who gathered at the town’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for a prayer service. A multi-faith prayer service and candlelight vigil were planned for later in the week.

“[Landsberry] cared about everyone in the school like they were his student. He loved everyone, he wanted to protect everyone,” Jeremy Hannah, a former student at the Sparks middle school, told local NBC News affiliate KRNV at the Monday service. “It’s just really hard on us to lose him.”

Two Facebook memorial pages for Landsberry had more than 11,000 likes each on Tuesday morning. 

NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski, Erin McClam, Daniel Arkin and Scott Stump contributed to this report. The Associated Press and Reuters also contributed.

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