SPARKS, Nev. – After days of saying they could not release his name, Sparks city officials publicly identified the 12-year-old shooter who this week killed a math teacher and wounded two classmates at his middle school before turning the gun on himself.
Officials said the boy, who wielded a 9-millimeter Ruger semiautomatic pistol, was seventh-grader Jose Reyes.
Authorities had said their unorthodox decision not to release the name of the deceased suspect was meant to protect his family’s privacy. But among Sparks’ 90,000 residents, the shooter’s identity was already widely known, originating from eyewitness accounts and the boy’s friends and family.
Since Monday’s shooting, his name has circulated widely through social media sites and the adolescent rumor mill, but without confirmation from officials it was omitted from most media accounts.
“It’s obvious that the name’s out there,” Sparks Mayor Geno Martini acknowledged before the name was released. “But our obligation legally is not to release the name because there’s an ongoing investigation.”
Martini added: “I support my police chief and I support my city attorney. They’re telling me, ‘Legally, this is what we should do and we feel we’re in the right here.’ And I support them.”
The Los Angeles Times had learned Reyes’ identity through interviews with Sparks Middle School students and parents, but had withheld the name while awaiting official confirmation from officials or his family. One day after the shooting, the boy’s aunt posted a photo of him on Facebook and other family members chimed in with their own messages of condolence and loss.
Univision News revealed the boy’s name in broadcast and Web stories Wednesday. The Las Vegas Review-Journal published the name online Thursday. Officials finally released the name Thursday afternoon.
Officials had offered a number of reasons for their continued secrecy. Deputy Police Chief Tom Miller said Tuesday that his department would not release the name of the boy out of respect for his grieving family, which is cooperating with the investigation.
City Attorney Chet Adams said the police investigation had not generated any records that must be disclosed under the Nevada’s public records law. He also said information about juveniles was exempt from disclosure requirements.
“Upon completion of the investigation, the information that can be legally released will be made available,” Adams said in a statement Wednesday.
A Reno Gazette-Journal editorial Wednesday criticized the city’s approach, saying the identity of the shooter is a “crucial fact.”
“Without an official identification, our community must rely on gossip and child eyewitnesses in determining the shooter’s identity,” the editorial said. “This is wholly inappropriate.”
Several news outlets, including the Times and the Gazette-Journal, had filed formal requests for the shooter’s name to be disclosed.