A middle school student opened fire on campus just before the starting bell on Monday, wounding two boys and killing a staff member who was trying to protect other children, police said.
The lone suspected gunman was also dead, though it’s unclear whether the student committed suicide. Authorities say no shots were fired by law enforcement. The names of the suspect and the employee at Sparks Middle School have not yet been released.
“In my estimation, he is a hero. … We do know he was trying to intervene,” Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said about the fallen staff member.
A motive for the violence was unknown. “As you can imagine, the best description is chaos,” Robinson said. “It’s too early to say whether he was targeting people or going on an indiscriminate shooting spree.”
Police said between 150 and 200 officers responded to the shooting.
Students from the middle school and next door elementary school were removed to the nearby high school, and classes were cancelled.
At the evacuation centre, parents walked with their arms around their children, some of whom were in tears.
“We came flying down here to get our kids,” said Mike Fiorica, whose nephew attends the school. “… It’s really chaotic. You can imagine how parents are feeling. You don’t know if your kid’s okay.”
The shooting happened on the school’s campus, but outside the school building itself, according to police.
Governor Brian Sandoval issued a statement after hearing about the shooting. “I was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific shooting at Sparks Middle School this morning. My administration is receiving regular updates and the Nevada Highway Patrol is assisting at the scene,” he said. Sandoval extended his thoughts and prayers to those affected.
The school, located in a working class neighbourhood, has about 700 students enrolled in Grades 7 and 8.
The violence erupted nearly a year after a gunman horrified the nation by opening fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., leaving 26 dead. The Dec. 14 shooting reignited debate over how best to protect the nation’s schools and whether armed teachers should be part of that equation.
Washoe County School District held a session in the spring in light of the Connecticut tragedy to educate parents on what safety measures the district takes.
Sparks, a city of roughly 90,000 that sprung out of the railway industry, lies just east of Reno.
Mayor Geno Martini spoke at a morning news conference to assure residents that the community was safe.
“It’s a tragic day in the city of Sparks,” he said. “This is just an isolated incident.”