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Sparks students in mourning after middle-school shootings

October 23, 2013|By Melanie Mason
  • Children and parents gather at a makeshift memorial for slain teacher Michael Landsberry at Sparks Middle School in Nevada.
Children and parents gather at a makeshift memorial for slain teacher Michael… (Hector Amezcua / Sacramento…)

SPARKS, Nev. -- Shocked students gathered at a makeshift memorial Tuesday night to mourn and try to make sense of the shootings at Sparks Middle School that left a teacher dead and two boys wounded. 

Desiree Zepeda, an eighth-grader, cried as she recalled how slain teacher Michael Landsberry had given her after-school math support last year.

"He helped me even though I wasn't in his class," Desiree said, adding that she passed her test the next day.

PHOTOS: Sparks Middle School shooting

She tearfully embraced her friend Margielle Stewart, another eighth-grader, who said she was a friend of the shooter, a 12-year-old boy who killed Landsberry and wounded the others, both 12, before turning the gun on himself. Police have declined to identify the assailant.

"He was really nice," Margielle said. "He would always make a smile on your face."

Margielle said the shooter had problems with bullies.

"Once I saw people push him in the hallway," she said.

Desiree's mother, Lucy Zepeda, accompanied the girls, who were with two other classmates.

"It's hard for them," Zepeda said. "We never thought this would happen here."

A larger candlelight vigil at the middle school is scheduled for Wednesday evening, as well as a prayer vigil at the Second Baptist Church in Reno. On Thursday, Sparks Nazarene Church will host a multi-faith prayer service.

But Monserate Reyes said she and her friends came by the middle school Tuesday night "just to see the lighting" of the candles at the memorial.

Landsberry was Monserate's soccer coach.

"He was fun," she said. "He'd make us laugh all the time, make us happy."

Monserate, another eighth-grader, said she was just arriving to school Monday morning when shots rang out, and two teachers rushed her into a classroom. The teachers told the children it was a "code red," meaning the students had to wait silently under their desks with the lights off.

Monserate's friend Jessica Garcia, a seventh-grader, said she was taken to the cafeteria during the chaos.

"They told us [the shooter] was in the building," she said. "Then the police came in with guns."

Actually, police said Tuesday that the gunman never entered the school. 

Classes are canceled for the rest of the week. When they resume, Jessica said, it will be hard to get back to normal. 

"I don't think it's going to be the same," she said.


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