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October 25, 2013

Nevada school shooting probe includes bullying video

SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — As they try to understand what prompted a 12-year-old boy to open fire at his school, district officials were examining an anti-bullying video that includes a dramatization of a child taking a gun on a school bus to scare aggressors.

The video, which uses the scene as an illustration of the wrong way to respond, was being studied as students and faculty members prepared to return to Sparks Middle School, where a boy fatally shot a teacher, wounded two classmates and killed himself Monday.

Sparks city spokesman Adam R. Mayberry identified the shooter Thursday as Jose Reyes.

Washoe County School District spokeswoman Victoria Campbell said school officials were examining the video but couldn’t comment because it’s part of the broader investigation into the shooting just outside the school building about 5 miles northeast of downtown Reno.

Reno’s KRNV-TV reported that some students said they watched the video, entitled “Bully,” earlier this month. The station has broadcast excerpts.

Katherine Loudon, the school district’s director of counseling, equity and diversity, said anything that would have been presented to children would have been part of a district-wide bullying prevention and intervention initiative that includes all schools in the county.

“We’ve been told by Sparks Police Department to not discuss that particular curriculum,” Loudon said.

It wasn’t clear if the video had been seen by the young shooter, whom police previously refused to identify. Police had said they wanted to respect the boy’s family but came under pressure from media organizations over that decision.

City officials previously acknowledged a report from the Univision affiliate in Reno that disclosed the name and said they decided to release it publicly to be fair to families and other media outlets.

About 700 people, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, students, parents and siblings, attended a private ceremony Thursday morning in the school’s gymnasium, which students had decorated with posters, tributes, balloons and stuffed animals in recognition of their beloved math teacher, Michael Landsberry.

The 45-year-old had served as a Marine and coached basketball and soccer. He was known by all as a big fan of Batman. In addition to drawings and references to the cartoon super hero, one unidentified veteran left the U.S. Navy Medal for Meritorious Service he earned in Iraq, with a note that read, “You deserve the medal of honor in my book.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” school district police chief Mike Mieras said Thursday as he gazed at the growing pile of mementos.

Loudon said it was important for the children to have a chance to get back inside the school before classes resume on Monday.

“As all of you can imagine, this has been a very difficult week,” she said. “Kids want to know, ‘What does their building look like? Is it OK? What is everything like?”’ she said.

School Superintendent Pedro Martinez said in an extensive email to all district parents that officials are reaching out to provide counseling and other services. Parents were encouraged to do the same.

“It is difficult to imagine something of this nature happening in our own community and impacting us so closely,” Martinez said. “We know we will be feeling many emotions as we struggle to understand and cope with this incident,” he wrote.

Martinez outlined a variety of resources available to families, including a crisis call center and Northern Nevada Mental Health Services.

The email was sent Wednesday night while hundreds of students and others gathered at a candlelight vigil outside the school, where community leaders and clergy offered prayers and words of encouragement.

“We pray for a world where guns and children don’t go together — where violence is not the first or second or third way children think of to solve problems,” said Julia Rubin of Reno’s Temple Sinai. “We pray after we have mourned and comforted each other we can take steps to address the root cause of violence and gun use by children throughout our country.”

Meanwhile, the mother of one of the wounded boys told reporters she’s committed to helping promote gun safety in the community, and her son said he used to think of guns as a toy, but not anymore.

Jenifer Davis said it’s a “miracle” that her 12-year-old son, Mason Kamerer, survived.

“As a result of this incident, I will be getting involved with issues around gun safety in the hopes of preventing this kind of situation in the future,” said Davis, who said she has owned guns and always kept them locked but will be even more proactive in the future.

Mason told CNN he heard what sounded like distant gunfire and spotted Landsberry lying motionless on the ground before he found himself within 10 to 20 feet of the shooter, who said nothing before firing a single shot.

 

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