The 8th grade math teacher killed in the shooting at Sparks Middle School in Nevada on Monday has been called a hero by colleagues and survivors, who said he died while protecting students in the deadly incident.
"We have a lot of heroes today, including our children ... and our fallen hero, an amazing teacher," Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez said, according to The Associated Press.
"We've got video we have to review, people we've got to talk to," added Tom Robinson, deputy chief of Reno police, USA Today noted. "But in my estimation, he is a hero. We do know he was trying to intervene."
A lone gunman, a student, opened fire on Monday morning on the school's campus outside the building, though motives for the attack have not yet been established. The shooter killed himself after taking the life of 45-year-old former serviceman Michael Landsberry, and wounding two 12-year-old classmates.
"No words of condolence could possibly ease the pain, but I hope it is some small comfort that Nevada mourns with them. I stand by to be of any assistance if there is anything that can be done," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement shortly after the incident.
The actions of the teacher were witnessed by 20 or 30 students, including Jose Cazares, who saw the gunman shoot two students and aim the gun at his chest before Landsberry stepped in and stopped him.
"He was telling him to stop and put the gun down. Then the kid, he yelled out 'No!' Like, he was yelling at him, and he shot him," Cazares said in an interview. "He was calm, he was holding out his hand like, 'put the gun in my hand.'"
The student and his classmates ran and hid after the teacher was shot. His mother, Marisela Cazares, revealed that Landsberry had never taught her son, but was deeply grateful for his actions:
"He sacrificed his life to take our kids into safety. I thank him for that. He's a true hero."
The incident has shocked Sparks, a small town of roughly 90,000 people, with a number of residents expressing their disbelief at what transpired.
"The city itself is very safe, this is just an isolated incident," offered Sparks Mayor Geno Martini at a press conference. "It's very, very tragic, I'm saddened to have to be here."
Landsberry's family said it is no surprise that the math teacher acted courageously.
"To hear that he was trying to stop that is not surprising by any means," said Chanda Landsberry, his sister-in-law.
"He loved his school kids. He loved the Guard," she added of his time serving at Nevada Army National Guard. "It defined him."
Hundreds of people also paid tribute on a Facebook page established in Landsberry's memory.
"Thank you so much! A True American hero," wrote one FB user. "GOD bless."
"I have never been prouder to be a teacher. Thanks and RIP Michael Landsbery," added another.