Shooting at Connecticut School, More than Two Dozen Killed

"Our hearts are broken today," President Barack Obama said, wiping his eyes during brief but emotional comments to reporters.

 

 
 
 

JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press | | Friday, December 14, 2012

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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

The shooting appeared to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
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Over two dozen killed in Newtown elementary school.
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FULL COVERAGE ON JEMS.COM

NEWTOWN, Connecticut (AP) - A man killed his mother at home and then opened fire Friday inside the elementary school where she taught, 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.

JEMS COVERAGE: Newtown School Shooting

The 20-year-old killer, carrying 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 left 33 people dead 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. "As a country, we have been through this too many times," he said.

Police shed no light on the motive for the attack on two classrooms. The gunman, identified as 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 School 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.

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, and then drove to the school in her car with three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back. Authorities said he shot up two classrooms, but they otherwise gave no details on how the attack unfolded.

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 apparently 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.

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 any 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 has a Facebook page that posted 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 was in the school and 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 said he was in a meeting with other fourth-grade teachers when he heard the gunfire, but there was no lock on the door.

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 a gunman, 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, 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.

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.

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.

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."

___

Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald and Pat Eaton-Robb in Newtown, Bridget Murphy in Boston, Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J., Pete Yost in Washington and Michael Melia in Hartford contributed to this report, as did the AP News Research Center.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Edited Audio: Connecticut School Shooting



RAW VIDEO: Connecticut School Shooting

Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

Victims family leave a firehouse staging area following a shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

Heavily armed Connecticut State troopers are on the scene at the Sandy Hook School following a shooting at the school, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. A man opened fire inside the Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked Friday, killing 26 people, including 18 children, and forcing students to cower in classrooms and then flee with the help of teachers and police. (AP Photo/The Journal News, Frank Becerra Jr.)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

Heavily armed Connecticut State troopers are on scene at the Sandy Hook Elementary School following a shooting at the school, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/The Journal News, Frank Becerra Jr.)


Gallery 1

Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. It was the worst school shooting in the country's history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

State Police are on scene following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

A woman hugs her daughter after being reunited at the Sandy Hook firehouse after a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/The Journal News, Frank Becerra Jr.)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

A mother runs with her children as police above canvass homes in the area following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, right, talks with officials at a staging area following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


Gallery 1

Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

People embrace at a firehouse staging area for family around near the scene of a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

White House press secretary Jay Carney listens to a follow up question regarding the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., after he told reporters that President Barack Obama is receiving updates on the situation, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

A U.S. flag is covered with numbers representing the people that died when a gunman opened fired at Sandy Hook Elementary School during a shooting rampage a day earlier, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn. The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

A condolence sign sits in downtown Sandy Hook, Conn., on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims. (AP Photo/Allen Breed)


Gallery 1

Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

A condolence sign sits in downtown Sandy Hook, Conn., on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims. (AP Photo/Allen Breed)


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Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School

AP Photo



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