SPARKS, Nev. — Mason heard gunshots while he was outside with classmates, waiting for school to start. Then students were running, and a teacher was lying still on a playground basketball court, hit by gunfire.
The 12-year-old wanted to help him, but a vice principal told him to run. So Mason moved toward the building — and that’s when he saw a friend, a Sparks Middle School classmate, with a gun about 10 to 20 feet away.
“I (said), ‘Please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me,’” Mason said Thursday from a hospital where he was being treated. “I looked at him. I saw (the gun), and he braced it and shot me in the stomach.”
Authorities say Mason was the last of three people that a 12-year-old Sparks Middle School student shot with a 9 mm handgun Monday morning outside the school. Mason and another wounded student — the first to be shot — survived.
Math teacher Mike Landsberry, the second to be hit, died. Investigators say Landsberry probably saved lives by walking toward the shooter — giving others time to flee — on the basketball court after the first student was shot in the shoulder.
The shooter, whose name authorities aren’t releasing, fatally shot himself, police said.
Mason, shot in the abdomen, was able to walk at the hospital Thursday. His mother, Jenifer Davis, said the bullet missed vital parts and exited behind his right hip.
“I’m … very lucky I still have him here,” Davis said.
Now Mason is left wondering what caused his friend to hurt him and a classmate, and kill a teacher that Mason deeply admired.
Mason said the incident began when he heard a few gunshots — he thought they were in the distance — as children gathered outside the school after 7 a.m., waiting for the day to begin.
At first confused about why schoolmates were running, he saw Landsberry lying wounded on the basketball court. A friend called 911. Mason and other students wanted to get Landsberry into the school, he said.
“We tried, and one of my vice principals … said, ‘Get in the building, get in the school fast.’ And that’s when I ran to my backpack, and I (eventually) got shot.”
The shooter — a friend Mason had met at the start of the school year — said nothing as he shot him, Mason recalled.
When Mason was shot, he said, he felt a sharp pain in the abdomen and ran from the shooter. He soon saw a security guard, who told him to lie down and put pressure on his wound, Mason said.
Authorities haven’t said why they believe the boy opened fire. Earlier this week, a 13-year-old Sparks Middle School student said that many people speculated that bullying could have played a role. The shooter, according to the student, “was yelling stuff like, ‘Why are you laughing at me? Why are you doing this to me?’” during the shooting.
Mason said he wasn’t aware of any bullying.
“I don’t think he was being bullied at all … because if he was being bullied and I saw it, I would have stuck up for him. I was one of his friends,” Mason said.
He said the shooter was nice, but sometimes started arguments with people he disagreed with.
“Anything you’re talking about, (if) he doesn’t agree with it, he would start arguing … with that person about what the person said. I (saw) him doing it a lot at school,” Mason said.
Mason said he doesn’t believe the shooter sought him out or the other wounded student during the shooting.
“We never bullied him. We never (did) anything to” him, he said.
“After he shot me, I thought that he wasn’t my real friend,” he added.
Davis, Mason’s mother, said that she grieves for the shooter’s family.
“They lost their son, their baby,” Davis said. “They’re 12-year-old boys … they have no idea what they’re doing.”
‘Keep these guns out of kids’ hands’
The shooter took his parents’ handgun to school, a federal law enforcement source said. Sparks Deputy Police Chief Tom Miller said Tuesday that authorities weren’t positive where the gun came from, but believe it belonged to the boy’s parents.
The Nevada shooting comes almost a year after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, igniting a nationwide debate over gun violence and school safety.
Since the Newtown shootings last December, proposed school security plans across the country have included arming teachers, adding armed security guards and bringing in bulletproof backpacks and white boards.
“It’s really mainly about educating these kids about what guns can do, and also keeping your guns locked up,” Davis said.
“I own a gun, but I also own a safe it goes in,” she said. “That’s why my whole thing is: Keep these guns out of kids’ hands. Protect your guns — that protects your kids.”
Landsberry ‘fun to hang around’
Landsberry was an Alabama native who graduated from high school in Reno, next door to Sparks, in 1986. After a stint in the Marine Corps, he got an education degree from the University of Nevada in Reno. He joined the Air National Guard in 2001, rising to the rank of master sergeant and serving as a cargo specialist in Kuwait and Afghanistan, the Guard said.
A Facebook memorial page for the teacher had more than 10,000 “likes” by early Tuesday. Thousands more honored him on a “Rest Easy Mr. Landsberry” page.
Mason said Landsberry was never his teacher, but losing him is hard. He would visit Landsberry during lunch “because he was funny and friendly, and fun to hang around,” he said.
“(Students) loved him so much,” Mason said.
Davis said she hoped the hospital would release Mason later Thursday or Friday. She said she and her son will have a conversation about when — and whether — he will return to the school.
“We’re going to talk about that. … He would have a lot of support there,” she said.
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