A candlelight vigil is today for Sparks Middle School teacher Michael Landsberry, the Nevada Air National Guard master sergeant and Marine Corps veteran who was killed Monday while trying to convince an armed student to surrender his weapon.
Landsberry is being remembered by school district and community leaders as a hero following Monday’s tragic events. Police say Landsberry calmly approached the student gunman in an effort to protect other students, saving many innocent lives with his heroism.
“He took courageous actions to protect the lives of many students yesterday morning,” said Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras. “His actions provided enough time for others to flee the area. I also want to thank Sparks Middle School teachers, students, and staff for their courageous actions.”
Born on Jan, 20, 1968, in Birmingham, Ala., Landsberry moved to Nevada and attended McQueen High School where graduated in 1986. He lettered four consecutive years in swimming, soccer and cross country. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
After leaving the service, he earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice-law enforcement in 1996 from Truckee Meadows Community College and he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2000. He also received a master’s degree in education administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix in 2005.
Landsberry began working for the Washoe County School District at Traner Middle School in August 2001, the same year he enlisted in the Nevada Air National Guard and was assigned to the Aerial Port Flight.
Landsberry deployed in March 2006 to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and performed duties as an airlift validator for the Central Command Deployment and Distribution Center. After working at Traner for four years and Greenbrae Elementary School for one year, Landsberry began teaching math at Sparks Middle School in 2006. He was very involved in athletics, coaching girls soccer at Sparks High School, and coaching boys basketball and girls volleyball.
He deployed again to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in May 2011 where he performed air transportation functions for the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron. Landsberry was the Nevada Air Guard’s noncommissioned officer of the quarter for the first quarter of 2010 and Aerial Porter of the Year for 2009.
“A person like Mr. Landsberry cannot be replaced,” said Superintendent Pedro Martinez. “He was a beloved teacher and father, a great role model, and an even better person. He will not be forgotten. Our school family is devastated by this tragedy and we are working together to support each other and Mr. Landsberry’s family as we cope with this horrible loss. He truly is a hero.”
Washoe school counselors are launching an intensive, district-wide effort to reach out to students, staff, and their families with any assistance they may need in dealing with this tragedy.
“In the aftermath of this terrible incident, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of our students, their families, and staff members who have been affected,” WCSD Board of Trustees President Barbara Clark said. “This is an overwhelming tragedy and we are dedicated to helping them cope with their feelings and fears. On behalf of our staff members, students, and their families, I want to thank the wonderful communities of Sparks, Reno, and Washoe County for your efforts to lend help to our students and our schools during this difficult time.”
During a news conference at the Sparks Police Department, Deputy Chief Tom Miller said the student gunman — whose name is not being released — arrived at Sparks Middle School 7:15 a.m. Monday with a loaded Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Police say he shot two fellow students and fatally shot Landsberry before shooting himself. The gunman and teacher were pronounced dead at the scene, while the two injured students were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center. At the news conference, authorities said both injured students are listed in stable condition.
Sparks Mayor Geno Martini expressed his deepest condolences to the family of the victims of Monday’s events.
“No words from a mayor can make them feel at peace today, but they should know they are in our minds and hearts, and I hope that gives them some comfort,” Martini said.
The community was invited to join a prayer night on Thursday at the Sparks Nazarene Church at 2200 El Rancho Drive. It was a multi-faith event, led by student ministries.
The City of Sparks, in conjunction with the school district, is planning a candlelight vigil at the Sparks Marina this evening. The vigil will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the peninsula on the west side of the Marina, and the public is invited to attend.
The Community Foundation of Western Nevada is hosting a fund to provide financial support to the victims, students, staff, families, and Sparks Middle School in the wake of Monday’s shooting. This fund, The SMS Compassion Fund, is accepting tax-deductible monetary donations. Disbursements will be advised by representatives of the Washoe County School District and the City of Sparks under the oversight of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, to assure the funds are distributed to meet the needs of the school community as they are identified.
For more information, call the Community Foundation of Western Nevada at 775-333-5499. The foundation’s website is located at www.nevadafund.org. Donations may be mailed to: Community Foundation of Western Nevada 1885 South Arlington Avenue Suite 103 Reno, NV 89509. Please reference “SMS Compassion Fund.”
Landsberry’s military awards include: the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon, the Air Force Longevity Service award, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the NATO Medal, the Nevada State Commendation Medal, the Nevada Humanitarian Service Ribbon, the Nevada Air National Guard Overseas Deployment Ribbon, the Nevada Meritorious Service Ribbon and the Nevada Guard Service Ribbon.