SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — In less than 10 minutes after his mother dropped him off at school on the morning of Oct. 21, 2013, seventh-grader Jose Reyes and a popular middle school teacher lay on the school yard, dead from gunshot wounds. Two classmates were wounded and a school was in panic.
After seventh months and an exhaustive police investigation that produced a report of 1,300 pages, authorities on Tuesday released an in-depth report about the shooting that painted a picture of bullying, depression and a normal school day turning violent in the matter of minutes. Still, authorities aren’t sure they fully understand what motivated the 12-year-old Reyes to take his parents’ 9mm Ruger pistol and two magazines of ammunition to school that day.
Interviews with the boy’s parents, teachers and classmates and the boy’s own writings paint a portrait of a child troubled by depression and feelings of inadequacy at home and tormented by a school life in which he was mocked, teased and mistreated.
Some warning signs were there. His father had taken him to a psychotherapist just three days before the shooting and the doctor proscribed an antidepressant after the boy told of being teased at school, called “gay” and accused of peeing in his pants. His mother had done research on autism after Jose showed signs of it.
A look at his phone and his video viewing habits was more troubling. In addition to phone images of the two teens who committed suicide after killing 13 at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999, Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen said Tuesday investigators found searches on the Reyes family laptop in both July and October for “Super Columbine Massacre Role Playing Game.” Forty-seven of the 69 video games in the boy’s collection were “violent themed first-person shooter or shooter type games” such as “grand Theft Auto V,” ”Assassins Creed” and “Call of Duty 4.”
The youth who had wrestled with speech problems since kindergarten, who students told police been called “stupid” and/or “retard” in the hallways and poked by others in the side, tried to explain in separate suicide notes that offer insight and contradiction.
In one to “teachers and students,” Allen said the boy “clearly expressed anger … over his belief that he was embarrassed and mistreated at school” and “indicated he would get revenge.” Reyes wrote that he’d been called gay, lazy, stupid, an idiot, had his money stolen and been accused of wetting his pants.
“Well that all ends. Today I will get revenge on the students and teachers for ruining my life,” he wrote, adding that he would bring a pistol and rifle to school “to shoot you and see how you like it when someone (sic) making fun of you.”
“Have a great death at school,” he said on the one-page note of spiral notebook paper he closed with a drawing of a tombstone that read: “Sparks Middle School 1965-2013.” But in the second contradictory note to his parents, he said “this shooting is not because of the shooting games, bullying or other stuff.” He said it was because “some bad things in the past cause of me.”
“And now I’m just a monster,” Reyes wrote. “If you hate me and my family doesn’t love me it’s okay. I know that I’m just an idiot. But I love you and I wish the past would be good and better someday.”
Police learned one of the students shot during the rampage had teased Reyes about not having muscles during a physical education class, had called him names and may have played a part in pouring water on him when he was accused of wetting his pants.
The mistreatment didn’t rise to the level to merit bullying charges, Allen said. Police earlier said Reyes’ parents could be charged if they knowingly made the 9 mm pistol available to the boy. But Allen said Tuesday the investigation turned up no evidence that Jose and Liliana Reyes were aware that their son knew where the 9 mm pistol was kept in a kitchen cabinet.
Ken Robison, a Reno lawyer for the parents, said prosecutors indicated to him earlier they would not be charged, but Tuesday’s announcement brought a “sense of relief.” Allen said the boy acted alone and did not communicate his plan to anyone.
“We will never know the complete motive or intent behind this tragic incident as the only person with the true knowledge felt acting out in violence and taking his own life was the best course of action,” he said. “That in itself is a tragedy.”