At approximately 7:15 a.m., just before school got underway, the unidentified suspect shot and killed a math teacher and wounded two other students before apparently turning the gun on himself, police said.
A hospital said that the two boys arrived in critical condition. One was later upgraded to fair.
The slain teacher was identified as Michael Landsberry, a former Marine and a member of the Nevada Air National Guard.
Landsberry’s brother, Reggie, told NBC News that the 8th-grade math teacher is survived by his wife, Sharon, and two of her children from a previous relationship.
Authorities suggested that Landsberry tried to shield students from the gunman, but stressed they were still investigating.
“In my estimation, he is a hero,” said Tim Robinson, deputy chief of the Sparks police.
“To hear he was trying to protect those kids doesn’t surprise me at all,” she told the newspaper. “He could have ducked and hid, but he didn’t. That’s not who he is”
Landsberry had worked in the Washoe County School District since August 2001, according to his Facebook page.
Authorities Monday afternoon were still working to piece together a sequence of events.
Kyle Nucum, a student, told the newspaper that he heard “a pop, like a loud pop, and everybody was screaming.” He said the shooter was wearing a Sparks Middle School uniform, and shot the teacher after the teacher told him to put the gun down.
“The teacher fell and everybody ran away,” Nucum told the newspaper. “We ran across the field to get somewhere safe, and while we were running we heard about four or five more gunshots.”
Police said that the suspect had been “neutralized.” He died after sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said Washoe County School District spokeswoman Katie Holmes.
The shooting happened just after 7 a.m., as buses were still dropping kids off.
Authorities said it was too early to tell whether the gunman was targeting anyone or simply on a spree.
The two boys were being treated at Renown Regional Hospital, said Angela Rambo, a spokeswoman.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said that he was receiving regular updates and was “deeply saddened” to learn of the shooting.
In 2006, a boy using his father’s .38-caliber pistol opened fire at another Reno-area middle school and wounded a boy and girl, both 14, the newspaper said. A gym teacher was honored later for ending the episode by telling the boy to drop the gun and bear-hugging him.
James Scott Newman, 14 at the time of that shooting, pleaded guilty to battery with a deadly weapon and got house arrest.