Skip to main content

Slain Nevada teacher Michael Landsberry calmly gave others time to escape

By Steve Almasy and Victor Hollingsworth, CNN
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Tue October 22, 2013
  • NEW: Wife writes on Facebook: "He was My Everything, My World!"
  • Teacher walked toward shooter, police confirm
  • Boy with gun killed the teacher, wounded two students
  • Identity of shooter, who killed himself, not yet released

(CNN) -- Chaos erupted after the first student was shot. Children ran screaming and crying. Almost everyone on the playground sprinted away from the boy who had just fired a pistol at his schoolmate.

Not Michael Landsberry.

The 45-year-old math teacher calmly walked toward the gunman as he crossed the basketball court. Landsberry raised his hands to show he was no threat.

He tried to reason with the boy.

A student who witnessed the shooting said Landsberry was trying to make the shooter put his weapon down. He did not. "He took the shot right then and there," the witness said.

The entire tragedy unfolded in a mere three minutes. A popular teacher, coach and member of the Nevada Air National Guard lay dead.

His students and fellow guardsmen were stunned by his devastating death, but no one was surprised by how, directly in the face of danger, he tried to solve the crisis.

"That was the kind of person that Michael was," his brother, Reggie Landsberry, said. "He was the kind of person that if somebody needed help he would be there."

Col. Jeffrey Burkett, commander of the Nevada Air Guard's 152nd Airlift Wing, said he liked to think that Michael Landsberry -- who had been deployed once to a busy base in Afghanistan -- was using his military training when he confronted the shooter.

"He was trying to save the children. He was trying to save that child," Burkett said.

A parent escorts his child from Agnes Risley Elementary School after a shooting Monday, October 21, at nearby Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada. A student opened fire at the middle school, police said, killing a teacher and wounding two students. A parent escorts his child from Agnes Risley Elementary School after a shooting Monday, October 21, at nearby Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada. A student opened fire at the middle school, police said, killing a teacher and wounding two students.
Nevada middle school shooting
Photos: Nevada middle school shooting Photos: Nevada middle school shooting
Mayor: Teacher was very well liked
Student: Nevada shooter was bullied

That child, the 12-year-old shooter, later turned the 9 mm pistol on himself. His identity has not been released.

Landsberry couldn't save the shooter or himself, but he did delay the gunman from going immediately after more victims.

"Mr. Landsberry's heroic actions, by stepping toward the shooter, allowed time for other students in the playground area to flee," Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said.

Beloved teacher slain by 'nice kid'

As news of the shooting was reported on Twitter, students and former students tweeted about Mr. Landsberry, who taught eighth-grade math.

He can't be dead, they wrote to each other. He's strong, he'll make it, one said.

Soon the ugly realization came that he was gone.

He leaves a wife and two stepdaughters. His wife, Sharon, posted a note on Facebook, thanking her friends for their condolences.

"He was My Everything, My World!! He has touched so many lives and was an incredible Man!!," she wrote Monday night.

Landsberry, who joined the Marines after he graduated from high school in Reno in 1986, had an associate's degree in law enforcement and a bachelor's degree in education, according to a statement from the Guard. He began teaching in 2001, the same year he enlisted in the Guard, the statement said.

He worked at two other schools before moving to Sparks Middle School in 2006.

In addition to being a math teacher he also coached basketball, cross country, track and volleyball, as well as girls soccer at Sparks High School, the Guard said.

Reggie Landsberry said caring for others was something he and his brother learned from their father, who served in the Marines for 22 years. Michael Landsberry, also a veteran of the Corps, was "just a good all-around individual," his brother said.

The colonel said Landsberry "was close to a lot of people out here on the base."

A Facebook memorial page posted in Landsberry's honor had more than 16,100 likes on Tuesday afternoon.

Among the comments:

"Once a hero, always a hero! RIP."

"God bless you for the greatest act of courage and love."

"From one Air Force vet to a USMC vet, I salute you. Rest in peace, brother."

Thousands more honored the slain teacher on a "Rest Easy Mr. Landsberry" page.

On a website for his students, "Mr. Landsberry's Math Class," the slain teacher had posted pictures of himself hiking in the wilderness and standing with a weapon beside an armored vehicle.

"One of my goals is to earn your respect while you earn mine," he wrote in a message to students. "I believe that with mutual respect that the classroom environment will run smoothly."

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini called the loss of Landsberry "devastating."

"It's very unfortunate that (the life of) someone like that, who protected our country over there and came back alive ... had to be taken at his work, at a school," Martini said.

Landsberry attained the rank of corporal and served as a field wireman, Marine spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney said. The Guard said he was a master sergeant, who was also once deployed to Kuwait.

"A lot of lives saved by this Marine. May he guard the gates of heaven. Semper Fi, Sir," one commenter wrote on Facebook, referencing the "Always Faithful" motto of the Marines.

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy, Amanda Watts and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
School shootings
What if police could pinpoint where a school shooter is? Some schools are betting on it as they install technology that will be wired to local law enforcement.
updated 12:03 PM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
After a shooting at an Oregon high school, many media outlets, including CNN, reported that there have been 74 school shootings in the past 18 months.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
School security plans have changed to include arming teachers, adding police officers and armed security guards, and changing how schools are designed.
updated 5:24 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Here is a list of incidents of random elementary, middle and high school (excludes colleges and universities) violence with fatalities, from 1927 to the present.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
Dr. Angela Sauaia intended to study the impact modernized playground equipment had on lowering children's injury rates. They ended up studying kids' injury rates from guns instead.
updated 10:12 AM EDT, Fri April 19, 2013
Katie Lyles, who teaches third graders in Colorado, was a student at Columbine during the massacre 14 years ago.
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed May 1, 2013
What do you do with the guns in your house? This question appears to be one that parents are asking more often before sending their kids on play dates and sleepovers.
updated 10:14 PM EST, Tue January 14, 2014
Opinion: Parents need to be proactive when it comes to their children's school security plans. Every parent should ask their school administrators the following questions.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
When Nelba Marquez-Greene lost her 6-year-old daughter in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, she chose to cope with her loss in a unique way: by writing a letter.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Sat August 17, 2013
A Maryland company that makes bulletproof whiteboards has contracted with a university seeking to offer its professors greater protection in the event of a school shooting.
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
Along with math, science and social studies, gun safety could soon be part of the first-grade curriculum in some Missouri public schools.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Some parents say recent school shootings confirm the need to protect children and teach them to defend themselves using guns.
updated 5:57 PM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
The Dunblane massacre, which killed 16 children and a teacher, stunned Scotland, but what did the UK do to try to prevent such a tragedy happening again?
updated 7:30 AM EDT, Fri April 12, 2013
Opinion: The AAP says the best preventive measure against firearm injuries and deaths is not to own a gun. However, if you choose to have firearms in your home, adhere to these rules for gun safety.
updated 10:51 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Federal law makes it illegal to sell or give a firearm to anyone who "has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution" but private sellers and gun shows have no background check requirement.
updated 4:37 PM EST, Wed February 27, 2013
Nearly three-fourths of the nation's teachers say they personally would not bring a firearm to their school if allowed.