Gunman kills 26 at Conn. school, commits suicide

20 children killed

John Christoffersen/Associated Press, Published:

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A man killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday inside an elementary school, massacring 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in fear to the sound of gunshots reverberating through the building and screams echoing over the intercom.

The 20-year-old killer, carrying at least two handguns, committed suicide at the school, bringing the death toll to 28, authorities said.

The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives in 2007.

"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain his composure, said at the White House. He called for "meaningful action" to prevent such shootings, saying, "As a country, we have been through this too many times."

Police shed no light on the motive for the attack. The gunman, Adam Lanza, was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.

Panicked parents looking for their children raced to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, a prosperous New England community of about 27,000 people 60 miles northeast of New York City. Police told youngsters at the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school to close their eyes as they were led from the building so that they wouldn't see the blood and broken glass.

Schoolchildren — some crying, others looking frightened — were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, then drove to the school in her car with at least three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back of the vehicle, and shot up two classrooms around 9:30 a.m.

Authorities gave no details on exactly how the attack unfolded, but police radio traffic indicated the shooting lasted only a few minutes.

A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack — and perhaps saving many lives — by letting them hear the hysteria going on in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.

State police Lt. Paul Vance said 28 people in all were killed, including the gunman, and a woman who worked at the school was wounded. The school's principal was believed to be among the dead.

A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to the place.

At least one parent said Lanza's mother was a substitute teacher there. But her name did not appear on a staff list. And the law enforcement official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, but a law enforcement official said he was not believed to have had a role in the rampage. Investigators were searching his computers and phone records, but he told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

At one point, a law enforcement official mistakenly identified the gunman as Ryan Lanza. Brett Wilshe, a friend of Ryan Lanza's, said Lanza told him the gunman may have had his identification. Ryan Lanza apparently posted Facebook page updates Friday afternoon that read, "It wasn't me" and "I was at work."

Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher. "That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."

He said the shooter didn't utter a word.

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said. "It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. His daughter was uninjured.

Theodore Varga was in a meeting with other fourth-grade teachers when he heard the gunfire. He said someone had turned on the intercom so that "you could hear people in the office. You could hear the hysteria that was going on. I think whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."

Also, a custodian ran around, warning people there was someone with a gun, Varga said.

"He said, 'Guys! Get down! Hide!'" Varga said. "So he was actually a hero." The teacher said he did not know if the custodian survived.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, said he heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was uninjured, heard a scream come over the intercom. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.

On Friday night, hundreds of people packed a Newtown church and stood outside in a vigil for the victims. People held hands, lit candles and sang "Silent Night" at St. Rose of Lima church. Anthony Bloss, whose three daughters survived the shootings, said they are doing better than he is. "I'm numb. I'm completely numb," he said at the vigil.

Mary Pendergast said her 9-year-old nephew was in the school at the time of the shooting but wasn't hurt after his music teacher helped him take cover in a closet.

Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, told him that he heard a noise that sounded like "cans falling." The boy said a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the children huddle in the corner until police arrived.

"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."

On Friday afternoon, family members were led away from a firehouse that was being used as a staging area, some of them weeping. One man, wearing a T-shirt without a jacket, put his arms around a woman as they walked down the middle of the street, oblivious to everything around them. Another woman with tears rolling down her face walked by, carrying a car seat with a baby inside.

"Evil visited this community today and it's too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut — we're all in this together. We'll do whatever we can to overcome this event," Gov. Dannel Malloy said.

Adam Lanza and his mother lived in a well-to-do part of Newtown where neighbors are doctors or hold white-collar positions at companies such as General Electric, Pepsi and IBM.

At least three guns were found — a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car, authorities said. A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of the guns used in the attack may have belonged to Lanza's mother, who had legally bought five weapons.

The shootings instantly brought to mind such tragedies as the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 in 1999 and the July shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead.

"You go to a movie theater in Aurora and all of a sudden your life is taken," Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis said. "You're at a shopping mall in Portland, Ore., and your life is taken. This morning, when parents kissed their kids goodbye knowing that they are going to be home to celebrate the holiday season coming up, you don't expect this to happen."

He added: "It has to stop, these senseless deaths."

Obama's comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.

"The majority of those who died were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said.

He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened to Obama.

"They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own," Obama continued about the victims. "Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children."

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  • rickywayne, I don't doubt the validity of the quote cited, but one quote from a Lt. col. does not equate to the very broad and all encompassing statement that you made that our government is actively targeting military strikes on children. However, having said that, I still did not realize that Lt. Col. were saying (and maybe doing) such things...thanks for posting it. That is shocking to me. And to answer your question regarding 911, I agree that it was provoked by our meddling foreign policy in the middle east...while I hardily disagree that it was justified and that the deaths were collateral damage, by definition. That is NOT what collateral damage is. Collateral damage is damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. The towers, et. al, WERE the intended target. And that ain't misplaced patriotism talkin'. ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ tafuget, i never said that monsters were born, although I think that the jury is still out on nature vs. nurture. We will be debating that one until we become extinct. I don't think that they have found the monster gene just yet, but that does not mean that propensities are not passed on genetically...they certainly are. But they are not the quintessential or all-important element determining human behaviour. I am all for providing alternatives AND mental health treatment to those who commit such acts, as they almost always leave a trail a mile long before hand.

  • @anonymous_1713 There was an article recently release by Military Times with a quote by Lt Col Marion Carrington, … Carrington told the Marine Corp Times that children, as well as “military-age males”, had been identified as a potential threat because some were being used by the Taliban to assist in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. “It kind of opens our aperture,” said Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.” Link: http://my.firedoglake.com/wendydavis/2012/12/08/targeting-children-in-afghanistan/ So yes, there is truth and if you would and the rest of the country quick to desk chair jokey on important matters to the world, would do their due-diligence in researching facts before jumping to attack a factual statement because of your misplaced patriotism then we might could actually engage in a meaningful discussion on the pressing topics of our times. Furthering your "terror babies/collateral damage" thesis, was not 9/11 collateral damage from our governments meddling in areas of the world where it's only business is to protect multi-billion dollar oil industry?

  • i respectfully disagree monsters are born, '1713. everyone is a product of their environment. so you're saying if there was a test for the monster gene, you could honestly murder that child to prevent their violence against others? i didn't think so. perhaps changing attitudes is a simplistic approach, but people commit desperate acts when they feel they no longer have alternatives. my simplistic solution is to provide alternatives.

  • rickywayne, " I also don't think it's that far of a stretch to draw some kind of a connection to the shootings today with how the government says it actively targets children in drone strikes." .............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. First of all, there is NO truth to your statement that our "government says it actively targets children in drone strikes", much less that it actually does that. Our government DOES target high value terrorists that "actively targets children" in their terrorist strikes. Maybe that is where you are confused. Sometimes these targeted terrorists use children as human shields, and sometimes they are with their own children (Momma, don't let your babies kids grow up to be terrorists) when they are hit. That is what you call collateral damage. As we can easily deduce, it is one thing to be a religious fanatic terrorist and risk your own miserable life in the name of Allah, thinking that if you are killed while conducting a fatawah that you will become a a martyr. But it entirely another thing to wipe out your entire gene pool in that process. Let's call this collateral damage what it is...a strong deterrent. I also cannot see the connection that tafugate is trying to make that these acts are perpetuated by that 47% that Romney and Republicans say lack personal responsibility...or the "takers". Really? That kind of simplistic linear thinking is the stuff of Fox News poisoning. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ When I was growing up my Dad told me that there was no such thing as monsters. As an adult with a few miles under my belt, I can say that there are monsters...guys like Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza, Osama bin Laden, there always have been and there always will be.

  • No! How devastating. Children go to school to learn and to become leaders with a hope of bright tomorrow-not to be savagely murdered. This was something that did not have to be. So sorry that the faculty also were murdered by a "mad man" and another faculty injured. Why? We may never know. But, what is even more perplexing is those children who left home never to see their parents, siblings, and other relatives again. The guns must go! Now we are left behind to "pick up the pieces." We talk about gun control, but how is it effective if people are being murdered every day because guns are in the hands of emotionally/ mentally disturbed individuals? Just a few days ago there was a shooting in a Portland, Oregon Mall; then we can not forget about the victims in Colorado this summer that were at the movie. So many questions; unfortunately it seems that nobody has an answer. Although I support Second Amendment Rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution, when the end result is what happened yesterday, it necessitates "drawing the line" in determining at what point you do not have the right to bear arms due to a predisposition to violence. We can not just sit around and wait for this to happen again. May God who is able to sustain us all wrap his loving arms around us and remind us that His Grace is sufficient for all trials. To the victims, may you rest in peace until we meet again. Judith La Rone Perkins, Jeffersontown, Ky. 40299

  • wow, rick, you're even more cynical of our government than i. i do agree, however, there's a disconnect between our elected officials and those of us who elect them. we do live in a plutocracy of special interests. but the senseless mass violence on an innocent public didn't begin with jared loughner. and the violence isn't confined to young people. we're simply much more privy to the violence that goes on today due to the 24/7/365 news networks. and i don't believe the violence is any product of fluoridated water or cia airstrikes against villages in columbia. i think it's more a result of our growing victim mentality, and lack of personal responsibility. what's the fix? start making people of all agres accountable for their actions. the sooner we ween ourselves of this uber politically correct society, the sooner we'll evolve.

  • starting with jared lougner in arizona, and continuing with the kid in Aurora CO It as coalesced in my mind that mental evaluations beginning at age 18 and once a year need to be a part of a healthcare system in our country if guns are going to be as available as they are here.. There seems to be some sickness that develops in the minds of young males at this age and is closer to the heart of the problem. I also don't think it's that far of a stretch to draw some kind of a connection to the shootings today with how the government says it actively targets children in drone strikes. No one in America speaks about those tragedies but don't think it's not discussed in the communities that it is perpetrated on. There's a breakdown between we the people and the governing class of mostly millionaires who vote on the laws. They don't write them any longer, that is done by lobbying groups who work for money. vast quantities of cash. Two mass shootings in nearly as many days by obviously disturbed young men in two vastly different geographical locations of the United States of America says to me that the issue is as much a mental health issue as it is gun control issue.