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Teacher called hero in fatal Nevada school shooting

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    A unidentified woman holds her son after picking him up at Sparks high school were some students where taken after a shooting that left two dead at Sparks Middle School on Oct. 21, 2013. Police said that two dead are a teacher and shooter. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron) NO SALES; NEVADA APPEAL OUT; SOUTH RENO WEEKLY OUT

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    A unidentified parent holds his son, who was crying, at Sparks high school where some student were taken after a shooting that left two dead at Sparks Middle School on Oct. 21, 2013, in Sparks, Nev. Police said that two dead are a teacher and the shooter. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron) NO SALES; NEVADA APPEAL OUT; SOUTH RENO WEEKLY OUT MBO

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    Police secure the scene near Sparks Middle School after a shooting in Sparks, Nev., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Authorities are reporting that two people were killed and two wounded at the Nevada middle school. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    Law enforcement personnel gather at the scene of a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. A student at the school opened fire on campus just before the starting bell Monday, wounding two boys and killing a teacher who was trying to protect other children, Sparks police and the victim's family members said. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Marilyn Newton) NO SALES; NEVADA APPEAL OUT; SOUTH RENO WEEKLY OUT

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    A Sparks Middle School student, back to camera, cries with family members after being released from Agnes Risley Elementary School Monday Oct. 21, 2013, in Sparks Nev., after a shooting at Sparks Middle School. A student at the Sparks Middle School opened fire on campus, killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, police said Monday. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    Swat team members secure the scene near Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev., after a shooting there on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Authorities are reporting that two people were killed and two wounded at the Nevada middle school. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    A Sparks Middle School student cries and is comforted after being released from Agnes Risley Elementary School, where some students were evacuated to after a shooting at SMS in Sparks, Nev. on Monday, October 21, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. A middle school student opened fire on campus just before the starting bell Monday, wounding two boys and killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, Sparks police said Monday. The lone suspected gunman was also dead, though it's unclear whether the student committed suicide. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    Law enforcement personnel gather at the scene of a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. A student at the school opened fire on campus just before the starting bell Monday, wounding two boys and killing a teacher who was trying to protect other children, Sparks police and the victim's family members said. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Marilyn Newton) NO SALES; NEVADA APPEAL OUT; SOUTH RENO WEEKLY OUT

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    In this photo provided by Jerry Davis, police gather near Sparks Middle School after a shooting at the school, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, in Reno, Nev. A student at the school opened fire on campus, killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, police said Monday. The suspected gunman is also dead, and authorities say no shots were fired by law enforcement. (AP Photo/Jerry Davis)

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    Parents wait for officials to release their children from Agnes Risley Elementary School, where some students were evacuated to after a shooting at Sparks Middle School on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. A middle school student opened fire on campus just before the starting bell Monday, wounding two boys and killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, Sparks police said Monday. The lone suspected gunman was also dead, though it's unclear whether the student committed suicide. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    Law enforcement personnel gather at the scene of a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. A student at the school opened fire on campus just before the starting bell Monday, wounding two boys and killing a teacher who was trying to protect other children, Sparks police and the victim's family members said. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Marilyn Newton) NO SALES; NEVADA APPEAL OUT; SOUTH RENO WEEKLY OUT

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    A tearful Michelle Hernandez, left, is led away from Agnes Risley Elementary School following a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on Monday Oct. 21, 2013. A student at the middle school opened fire on campus just before the starting bell Monday, wounding two boys and killing a teacher who was trying to protect other children, Sparks police and the victim's family members said. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Marilyn Newton) NO SALES; NEVADA APPEAL OUT; SOUTH RENO WEEKLY OUT

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    A Sparks Middle School student cries with family members after being released from Agnes Risley Elementary School, where some students were evacuated to after a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 in Sparks, Nev. A student at the Sparks Middle School opened fire on campus, killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, police said Monday. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    A Sparks Middle School student and her mother walk near Agnes Risley Elementary School, after students were evacuated to the school after a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, in Sparks, Nev. A student at the Sparks Middle School opened fire on campus, killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, police said Monday. (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)

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    Police are staged in front of Sparks Middle School after a shooting in Sparks, Nev.

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    Parents pick up their children at Sparks high school, were students where taken after a shooting that left two dead at Sparks Middle School.

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Police are staged in front of Sparks Middle School after a shooting in Sparks, Nev.

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PARKS, Nev.  — Students at a Nevada middle school were filing off buses and reuniting with friends on the playground after a weeklong vacation when the pop of gunfire shattered the morning calm. Children fled the campus for their lives before the first bell rang.

Police said a Sparks Middle School student was the lone gunman who injured two young classmates, killed himself and took the life of an 8th-grade math teacher who tried to stop the rampage. The teacher, former serviceman Michael Landsberry, 45, was being hailed for trying to protect students from a shooting that was witnessed by 20 or 30 children.

“We have a lot of heroes today, including our children ... and our fallen hero, an amazing teacher,” Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.

Authorities did not provide a motive for the shooting, and it’s not known where he got the gun. The 12-year-old wounded students were listed in stable condition. One was shot in the shoulder, and the other was hit in the abdomen.

Parents clung to their teary-eyed children at an evacuation center, while the community struggled to make sense of the latest episode of schoolyard violence to rock the nation less than a year after the massacre in Newtown, Conn. Sparks, a city of roughly 90,000 that sprung out of the railway industry, lies just east of Reno.

“It’s not supposed to happen here,” said Chanda Landsberry, the slain teacher’s sister-in-law. “We’re just Sparks — little Sparks, Nevada. It’s unreal.”

Investigators were still trying to piece together the chain of events that began around 7:15 a.m. Monday, 15 minutes before classes were set to begin for roughly 700 students in the 7th and 8th grades.

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Parents pick up their children at Sparks high school, were students where taken after a shooting that left two dead at Sparks Middle School.

Reno Gazette-Journal/Andy Barron Enlarge

“As you can imagine, the best description is chaos,” Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said. “It’s too early to say whether he was targeting people or going on an indiscriminate shooting spree.”

It was no shock to family members that Landsberry — a married military veteran with two stepdaughters — would take a bullet.

“To hear that he was trying to stop that is not surprising by any means,” said Chanda Landsberry. She added his life could be summed up by his love of family, his students and his country.

On his school website, Michael Landsberry posted a picture of a brown bear and took on a tough-love tone, telling students, “I have one classroom rule and it is very simple: ‘Thou Shall Not Annoy Mr. L.’”

“The kids loved him,” Chanda Landsberry said.

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini said Landsberry served two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada National Guard and was well known in the school community.

“He proudly served his country and was proudly defending the students at his school,” he said. The mayor praised the quick response from law officers who arrived at the scene within 3 minutes of the initial 911 calls to find the gunman with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

“They got it under control very quickly and shut down the scene,” said Martini, who urged listeners on a local radio station hours after the shooting to be sure all guns in their homes are locked away safely.

“I couldn’t understand how this kid got a gun,” he said. “I’m sure his parents didn’t give it to him.”

Students from the middle school and neighboring elementary school were evacuated to the nearby high school, and classes were canceled. The middle school will remain closed for the week along with an adjacent elementary school.

“We came flying down here to get our kids,” said Mike Fiorica, who came to the evacuation center to meet up with his nephew, a Sparks Middle school student. “You can imagine how parents are feeling. You don’t know if your kid’s OK.”

The violence erupted nearly a year after a gunman horrified the nation by opening fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., leaving 26 dead. The Dec. 14 shooting ignited debate over how best to protect the nation’s schools and whether armed teachers should be part of that equation.

The Washoe County School District, which oversees Sparks Middle School, held a session in the spring in light of the Connecticut tragedy to educate parents on what safety measures the district takes.

The district has its own 38-officer police department. No officers were on campus at the time of the shooting.

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