Nevada schoolteacher Michael Landsberry is being praised as a hero after he was shot and killed on Monday morning defending his students from a boy gunman.
When a disgruntled seventh-grader with a gun entered his classroom at Sparks Middle School on Monday, Landsberry rushed toward the student, attempting to shield his class and talk the gunman into dropping his weapon. Instead, the youth shot and killed Landsberry before wounding two more students and taking his own life. The news of Landsberry’s death has rocked the community of Sparks and neighboring Reno.
“In my estimation, he is a hero,” Tim Robinson, deputy chief of the Sparks police, said at an afternoon press conference. “We do know he was trying to intervene.”
CNN reports that both wounded students are in stable condition at a nearby hospital. Neither they nor the killer have been identified publicly due to their age. Authorities have, however, revealed that the 13-year-old killer used a handgun stolen from his parents' house in the shooting.
Landsberry, 45, was a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and a member of the Nevada National Air Guard. After his career in the military, he earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nevada, Reno, and went on to teach eighth-grade math at Sparks Middle School. Students say Landsberry was a popular figure around the school, who loved teaching and cared for his students. He was also popular as a basketball coach and reportedly allowed students to rub his bald head for luck before games.
"It's very unfortunate that (the life of) someone like that, who protected our country over there and came back alive ... had to be taken at his work, at a school," Sparks Mayor Geno Martini told CNN. "It's very devastating."
Those that knew him say they are not surprised Landsberry did everything he could to save his students.
“To hear he was trying to protect those kids, that he stepped up and tried to stop the situation, doesn’t surprise me at all,” Chanda Landsberry, Michael’s sister-in-law, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “He could have ducked and hid, but he didn’t. That’s not who he is. He was trained to help.”
“He loved his school kids. He loved the Guard,” she said. “It defined him.”
Landsberry was a dedicated teacher who kept a math website to help his students. Online, he offered some lighthearted advice on how to make it through the year:
“I have one classroom rule and it is very simple: ‘Thou Shall Not Annoy Mr. L.’ You are asking yourself what annoys me, it depends on any given day. Just like you I have good days and bad days. What may bother me one day may not the next. A very good skill to learn is reading people and their moods.”
Landsberry is survived by his wife, Sharon Landsberry, and her two children from a previous relationship. Just days before he was killed, he and his wife celebrated their anniversary. In a touching Facebook post shared on a memorial page in his honor, Landsberry said his wife and stepdaughters were the most important things in his life.
“You are my girl. I am so very thankful that all of you came into my life. I could never ask for a more beautiful and special wife in Sharon Landsberry, and two beautiful and wonderful daughters, you and Alisa Cook. I love you all so very much. You all are my world and my everything", he told his stepdaughter Andrea.
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.