After serving as a Marine and doing several tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada Air National Guard, 45-year-old Michael Landsberry died a hero on his home turf yesterday, in a civilian role. The 8th grade math teacher and soccer coach was killed while trying to protect students from a school-aged gunman.
The scene has become all too familiar in the U.S. A student or other perpetrator brings a gun to school and opens fire. A school employee intervenes to try to stop him. Lives are lost.
In this case, the Associated Press reports, a student at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev., came to campus before school started and shot two 12-year-old classmates, who are now in stable condition, and killed the teacher and himself.
This morning on the TODAY Show, Sparks student Jose Cazares explained that he was outside with friends when he saw the gunman shoot the two students. The gunman also pointed the weapon at Cazares' chest, but he was able to get away. Landsberry jumped in, Cazares said:
[Landsberry] was telling him to stop and put the gun down, and then the kid, he yelled out "No!" like yelling at him, and then he shot him. ... [Landsberry] was calm and he was holding out his hand like, "Put the gun in my hand," like to just stop.
Cazares' mom said she is "forever grateful for everything that [Landsberry] did." (See the video below for full the interview.)
Students took to Twitter to register their emotion about the loss of a much-loved teacher, according to the New York Daily News. "If Mr. Landsberry wanted to be recognized as anything, it'd be a hero, which is exactly what he is," read one tweet. Some also contributed to a Facebook page called "Rest Easy Mr. Landsberry."
"To hear that he was trying to stop that is not surprising by any means," Landsberry's sister-in-law told the AP.
Like Victoria Soto, who died shielding her 1st graders from a spray of bullets in Newtown, Conn., and Antoinette Tuff, who prevented a school shooting near Atlanta by talking down an unstable gunman, we add Landsberry's name to the sadly growing list of hero educators.
Photo: A Sparks Middle School student is comforted after being released from a nearby elementary school, where some students were evacuated to after a shooting at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev., on Monday. Kevin Clifford/AP