Created on Thursday, 24 October 2013 Written by SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press
SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — The parents of the two boys wounded by a seventh-grader who fatally shot their teacher before turning a semi-automatic handgun on himself said Wednesday they don't believe their children were targeted in the schoolyard rampage.
Police were interviewing dozens of students who witnessed the shooting as investigators continued to try to unravel the mystery of what motivated the shooter, whom they still have not identified two days after he took his own life on an asphalt basketball court outside Sparks Middle School.
Hundreds of students and others gathered at a candlelight vigil on the school lawn Wednesday night to pay respect to their wounded classmates and beloved, fallen math teacher Michael Landsberry, a 45-year-old ex-Marine who coached basketball and soccer and was known by all as a big fan of Batman.
Sparks police Lt. Erick Thomas said investigators still don't know whether the shooting spree 15 minutes before the start of school Monday morning was random or targeted specific individuals.
But parents of the two 12-year-olds recovering from gunshot wounds said they don't think the boys were singled out. One said her son was trying to help Landsberry when he was shot in the abdomen with a bullet that exited his back.
"We do not believe he was in any way the target in this shooting," Jenifer Davis told reporters outside Renown Regional Medical Center, where she said her son Mason was "doing well ... in good spirits, although saddened by the loss of his friend, Mr. Landsberry."
"From what we've learned from others at the scene, Mason's first instinct was to intervene and he did all he could to help Mr. Landsberry," she said. "It is my understanding that he was trying to help Mr. Landsberry at the time he was shot."
A parent of the other boy, who was shot in the shoulder, declined to be identified or speak with reporters but said in a statement released by the hospital, "We do not believe our son was a target in this shooting."
Some in the crowd of more than 400 at the vigil on the school lawn in the working class neighborhood about 5 miles northeast of Reno clutched babies and others held Batman balloons with their candles as they sang, "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
"We pray for a world where guns and children don't go together — where violence is not the first or second or third way children think of to solve problems," said Julia Rubin of Reno's Temple Sinai. "We pray after we have mourned and comforted each other we can take steps to address the root cause of violence and gun used by children throughout our country."
Spanish Springs Presbyterian Church Pastor Howard Dotson led students in a pledge to "be a peacemaker."
"There is nothing glorious or sexy about guns," they repeated after him.
Investigators have confirmed the 12-year-old shooter acted alone, Thomas said, but little else since Landsberry was killed while trying to talk the boy into turning over his weapon.
"We're still investigating how this all happened. We are investigating the motives, all the facts and circumstances that both led up to it and were involved in it," Thomas told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"It's a very complicated investigation as far as the number of witnesses and the seriousness of the crime," he added.
Thomas, the lead investigator in the case that also involves Reno police and Washoe County School District police, said he couldn't comment on some reports from fellow students that bullying may have played a role in the shooting.
"I can't release any information on any provocation or anything like that," he said.
Adding to the mystery surrounding the case is the fact that police have refused to release the shooter's identity.
The Reno Gazette-Journal published an editorial on its front page Wednesday calling for police to immediately identify the 12-year-old so the circumstances that led to the shooting might be better understood. To do otherwise was a violation of state law, the newspaper said.
Media organizations, including The Associated Press, have filed formal public record requests for the boy's name.
Sparks City Attorney Chet Adams said Wednesday he believes Nevada law exempts information concerning juveniles from public records laws. But he said that even if it didn't, police have not completed their investigation or "generated any document that would be considered a 'record' subject to dissemination."
"Moreover, releasing the requested information will hinder the (Police) Department's ability to thoroughly investigate the incident and draw accurate findings about Monday's events," Adams said in a statement.
Thomas confirmed the investigation extends to the boy's home, where he apparently obtained the gun — something police acknowledged could lead to prosecution of his parents or other adults if they knowingly made it available to the boy. He said he couldn't provide any information as to whether the gun was locked up.
"We're continuing to investigate the weapon and where it was obtained and how it was obtained," Thomas said.
Associated Press writer Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas contributed to this report.