Former River Ridge teacher shot, killed by neighbor

Adam Ladner was a 5th grade teacher at River Ridge
Elementary from 2009 through 2015.


A former River Ridge Elementary teacher was killed last weekend when a dispute with a neighbor turned violent.

Adam Ladner, 41, a Leander ISD science teacher and girls soccer coach at Running Brushy Middle School in Cedar Park, was shot multiple times in what police say started as a noise complaint on Jan. 26. His neighbor, 64-year-old Larry Wayne Smith, was arrested and charged with murder.

It is the second shooting death in Cedar Park in less than a week.

“The Running Brushy Middle School and Leander (school district) family is saddened to learn of the unexpected death of a faculty member, Adam Ladner,” Jim Rose, the school’s principal, said in a statement. Rose used to be the principal at RRE. “His passing has affected students and staff members deeply. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Cedar Park police responded to a reports of shots fired in the 1000 block of Savanna Lane, in the Forest Oaks subdivision near 183A, about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 26. Officers found Ladner dead upon arrival, having suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

The neighbors reportedly argued over a noise complaint that led to a physical altercation, Cedar Park police said in a press conference Monday afternoon. Officers had previously responded to a call at the same address earlier that evening over loud talking. Police were at the house eight minutes prior to the shooting, they said.

Also before the shooting, CP police say there was a physical altercation between Ladner and Smith.

Smith’s arrest mugshot shows two prominent bandages and what appears to be a black eye, and Ladner’s body was found in front of Smith’s house.

According to CBS Austin, “in the affidavit, the suspect’s wife says that Smith shot Ladner and walked back inside their home, leaving the Glock 43 9mm handgun on top of a desk.”

“Police searched the home and found the gun, which had blood on the barrel and the left side of the slide.”

Ladner’s family said in a released statement. “With a shocked and heavy heart, we are all in disbelief of what happened to Adam. He was a devoted dad, son, uncle, nephew, fiancé and friend to everyone that knew him. He was a very well respected gentleman and loved everyone in his life including his family and kids with all his heart… Anyone who knew Adam, knows that he had a huge heart and would help anyone who needed it. We greatly appreciate the outpouring from the community for their support during this difficult time.”

Ladner started with Leander ISD in the 2007-2008 school year at Plain Elementary. After a year teaching in Plano ISD, Ladner returned to LISD in the 2009-10 school year at River Ridge, where he remained through the 2014-2015 school year. After spending a year at Cox Elementary, Ladner moved to Running Brushy Middle School. He taught science and physical education, coaching cross country, girls basketball and most recently volleyball and soccer.

“We understand there will be a variety of emotions and responses to Coach Ladner’s passing,” Rose said. “The most important things we can do are offer support and encourage an open expression of feelings.”

The district made its crisis team, which offers grief counseling, available to students and staff members beginning on Monday.


River Ridge Elementary students at recess with in 2009 Adam Ladner. It was the year the first fifth grade class graduated. Ladner opened

Leander ISD’s Paul Smith, teacher and former River Place Elementary principal, worked at River Ridge
Elementary with Adam Ladner. “This one says it all. His love for the Longhorns and for his students. This was
at our River Ridge 4th and 5th grade track day. He pushed his student in her wheelchair for the 100 m dash.
Look at their facial expressions! Adam was a perennial student favorite.”

Christina Morales: “As a parent he assured me my ADD son was going to be okay because he had ADD. Loved that
about him. Also that my son had so much fun with him. Who can forget ‘The Impossible Shot’”.

“He always stood on his tippy toes (hard to see in this picture but he is) to be taller than my son. By end of 5th
grade they were the same height! He loved to play h basketball with him and the other boys! Outside the classroom rarely seen without a smile on his face,” said Amy Miller.

“My daughter, Sydney, who is now a Vandegrift senior, was one of the many lives Ladner touched,” Brady Wunsch said. “He even let me try ‘the impossible shot’ multiple
times. Tragic.”

“I gave Mr. Ladner a jar of red and black M&Ms the first day of school and he gave me this strange look. For some reason, he thought the colors were for Texas Tech. I laughed and said it was River Ridge’s school colors. He loved the Longhorns and he loved his students,” Clarice Bendorf said.