By Matt Pearce and Ari Bloomekatz
A middle school student in Sparks, Nev., shot and killed a school staffer and wounded two other students before apparently killing himself on campus, police said Monday.
Further details about the shooting at Sparks Middle School shortly after 7 a.m. PST remained scant after a news conference late Monday morning, but witnesses described hearing shots on the playground before a student in khakis gunned down a teacher.
A student who saw the shooting told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he and his friends were by the school basketball court when they heard a loud pop, followed by screaming.
“The teacher came to investigate,” eighth-grader Kyle Nucum, 13, told the Gazette. “I thought it was a firecracker at first, but the student was pointing a gun at the teacher after the teacher told him to put it down, and the student fired a shot at the teacher and the teacher fell and everybody ran away.
“And we ran across the field to get somewhere safe and while we were running we heard about four or five more shots and we just got somewhere safe.”
Andrew Thompson, a seventh-grade student at Sparks Middle School, said Monday on KOLO-TV that the shooter, a student, “started getting mad and shoots one of my friends.”
“He got shot in the shoulder,” Thompson said. Then, the shooter came near a teacher “and said ‘back up.’ The teacher backed up, and he pulled the trigger.”
The teacher has not yet been formally identified, and nor has the student suspect. Police said that one of the two wounded students had been through surgery as of late Monday morning.
Their current medical conditions could not immediately be confirmed with the Renown Regional Medical Center, where the two students were originally taken in critical condition.
Police said about 20 to 30 students witnessed the shooting and will be questioned. The school was swept for explosives, police said, and none was found. Parents were told to show identification when picking up their children at a nearby school.
Dale Lundin, a site facilities coordinator at Sparks Middle School, told the Los Angeles Times that “it’s been a very scary morning.”
“I was in the building, it was just going to be a few minutes before the entry bell rang, and then there was a lot of commotion going on out in the hallway,” Lundin said. “I stepped into the hallway, heard a couple of gun shots … checked the hallway (to make sure there were no students) … and stepped into my office and closed the door.”
Lundin added, “It’s that same old story,” Lundin said. “You never really think that it’s going to happen at your place of work, or in this case, your school, when it does happen it kind of puts you in shock.”
That sentiment was echoed by school, community and state officials as Sparks came to grips with a traumatic act of school violence that brought parents streaming to the school in hopes that their children were safe.
“It’s been said that it’s a tragic day in the city of Sparks. Our hearts go out to all those affected,” Sparks Mayor Geno Martini told reporters. “The city itself is very safe, this is just an isolated incident.
“It’s very, very tragic,” Martini added. “I’m saddened to be here.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said that he had ordered the state’s lieutenant governor and state schools superintendent to Sparks to assist the local effort.