SPARKS — Juliet Solomon said she was more anxious than her 12-year-old son as he returned to Sparks Middle School on Monday, the first day of classes since a fellow seventh-grader last week fatally shot a popular math teacher and wounded two classmates before killing himself.
“I’m still scared. I still have bad feelings,” Solomon said after dropping off her boy before the morning bell. “My son is so innocent. I’m more worried than him.”
Police are still trying to determine what prompted 12-year-old Jose Reyes to kill Michael Landsberry, 45, a math teacher who also had served as Marine. Landsberry tried to talk the youth into turning over the semi-automatic handgun before Reyes shot him in the chest as students arrived for class last Monday.
Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said more officers and counselors were on hand to greet the students, but he wouldn’t discuss any other potential changes in safety procedures at the school about 5 miles northeast of downtown Reno.
Students began the school day with a moment of silence for the victims.
“There are a lot of adults walking around the school, but not so many that it’s overwhelming to them — just enough so that they are seeing lots of smiles,” said Katherine Loudon, the school district’s director of counseling, equity and diversity.
District Assistant Police Chief Jason Trevino said he didn’t expect any information about the investigation would be released Monday.
“Our main concern for the kids today is that they do, in fact, feel safe coming back to school,” Trevino said as the sun rose and students filtered onto the campus. “I think overall the kids are doing real well. They seemed happy to see their friends and teachers.”
Police have said Reyes got the gun from his home, and Washoe County prosecutors said a parent or guardian could be charged if they knowingly made the weapon available to the boy. They said they have not been presented with any such criminal case at this point.
It was a crisp autumn morning when Solomon arrived at the school to drop off her son last Monday, apparently within minutes of the attack. Reyes shot one 12-year-old boy in the shoulder. He then shot Landsberry in the chest and another 12-year-old in the stomach before committing suicide on an asphalt basketball court behind the school.
“I had already heard sirens, and there were a lot of police cars when we got here,” Solomon told The Associated Press. “A police lady starting yelling, ‘Get out of here! Get out of here!’ So I told my son to stay in the car.”
She said she has discussed the shooting with her son and tried to reassure him his school is safe.
“We always tell him we love him and don’t worry, we will always be here for him,” she said.
Bridgette Grider said her seventh-grade daughter, Skylah, was among those finding it difficult to talk about the shooting. Skylah was scared to return to school because she remembers hearing gunshots and walking past the bodies on the ground, she said.
“All I can do is be there for her,” Grider told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “We are just taking it day by day.”
Washoe County School Superintendent Pedro Martinez greeted students as they returned to the school with an enrollment of 630. He said the building was full and believed very few had decided to stay home.
“Many seem happy to be back,” Martinez said. “Especially with middle-schoolers, I think they are looking for some sense of normalcy. It’s still going to take a while, but this is the beginning of the healing process.”
Friends of Reyes added a tribute to him before classes resumed with a sign and a small wooden cross at a makeshift memorial on a school fence that mostly praised Landsberry.
“We will miss you Jose. You were a good friend. We love you Jose. Goodbye Jose,” said the cardboard sign decorated with magic markers.