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Shooter kills 27, 20 of them children; police say gunman shot mother first

By Sasha Goldstein

Publication: theday.com

Published December 14. 2012 5:00PM   Updated December 16. 2012 12:15AM
Dana Jensen/The Day
People embrace Saturday in front of the memorial at the end the road where Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown is located.

Newtown — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told a devastated state, "We will get through this," after a lone gunman killed 26 people, including 20 students, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday.

"Evil visited this community today," Malloy said as he tried to maintain his composure during a brief set of remarks at Treadwell Park, minutes from the scene of the shooting. He was flanked by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Sen.-elect Chris Murphy.

The suspected gunman was found dead inside the elementary school after the 9:30 a.m. massacre in this town of nearly 30,000 people, which finds itself in the international media spotlight as its residents grieve and try to find answers as to what provoked the crime.

The Associated Press has identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who reportedly took his own life following the morning attack. Lanza allegedly also killed his mother, a Sandy Hook kindergarten teacher, at her Newtown home before carrying out the shooting spree, bringing the death toll to 28.

State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said the medical examiner was beginning the process of identifying the dead at the school — 20 students, six adults and the gunman.

The shootings took place in one section of the building, in two separate classrooms, Vance said. He said no law enforcement officers fired any shots during the response to the scene.

The FBI Crisis Management Team responded to the school Friday, Vance said, and each parent of a missing student has been assigned a state trooper as a direct communication link to the investigation. Vance said the parents would be the first to be notified of any updates.

He said he expects to release the names of the victims today.

Newtown police were called first to the scene but asked for state police assistance, Vance said. Law enforcement searched "every nook and cranny" of the building for the shooter and victims. Survivors were reunited with frantic parents in a staging area outside the school.

Police will continue to process the scene throughout the weekend, Vance said during a press briefing Friday afternoon. No "time stamp" on when that process will be complete has been determined, he said, as police work to recreate the shootings and identify the dead as part of a "massive investigation."

"An investigation like this is like a puzzle," Vance said.

During a second set of remarks Friday, Malloy echoed President Barack Obama's statement about the "beautiful children," who Malloy said "had simply come to school to learn."

"Their day ended in a way we can't even imagine," the governor said.

'It's overwhelming'

Police Lt. George Sinko of the 45-member Newtown police force painted a picture of a quiet community that hadn't had a murder in "probably 10 years."

At 7 p.m., a Mass and vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church drew hundreds of mourners, and residents in other towns and cities across the state and nation held their own vigils in memory of the victims.

The "close-knit community" is "very safe," Sinko said. Residents are preparing for a long healing process, he said, as details of the murderous rampage continue to surface.

"You've heard it before. You don't think it's going to happen to you, and certainly, none of us did," Sinko said. "It's unprecedented for the town. It's overwhelming."

The town has no crime, said Newtown High School seniors Emily Nacewicz, 17, and Nick Sajovic, 18, who stopped by Treadwell Park Friday afternoon.

"It sounds so cliché," Nacewicz said, "but nothing's going on here."

Neither attended the elementary school, which Sajovic said is one of four in town and is about a mile from the 1,700-student Newtown High School.

During Spanish class for Sajovic and during economics for Nacewicz, the high school went into lockdown, a drill they said the school does once or twice a year. Teachers put up paper in classroom windows, locked the doors, turned out the lights and moved the students against a wall.

On Friday, the lockdown remained in place for more than two hours, Sajovic said. Students already had learned through social media what had happened, he said.

Once the lockdown was lifted, Nacewicz said, students were told what had happened and were given the option to stay in class or to go home to be with their families.

Students plan to wear green and white, Sandy Hook's colors, to school next week, but whether school will continue on schedule remains unknown.

Nacewicz and Sajovic later learned a classmate's 6 year-old brother was among those killed, Nacewicz said.

Neither student knew Lanza, who they said graduated from Newtown High School in 2010 and was "a quiet type."

"Even using the word Newtown and Columbine in the same sentence is so gut-wrenching, like I can't even handle it," Nacewicz said, referring to the 1999 shooting at the Colorado high school. "We learned about it in sociology. We learned about school shootings and then to actually have one of the worst school shootings in our town, I just feel like my heart is broken. Unbelievable. I can't even … digest this. This is horrible."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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KEY FACTS

THE TOLL: 28 dead, including the gunman, Adam Lanza; his mother, Nancy Lanza; the elementary school's principal, Dawn Hochsprung; and 20 schoolchildren. A woman who works at the school was wounded.

THE SUSPECT: 20-year-old Adam Lanza wore a pocket protector when he was in high school and was an honor student, and was called "remote" and "one of the goths" by classmates. A law enforcement official said he may have had a personality disorder. He grew up in an affluent neighborhood of well-tended homes with neighbors who worked as executives at companies like IBM. Police shed no light on his motive.

THE SCENE: Police told children to close their eyes as they led them past the carnage from their classrooms. The intercom broadcast screams throughout the school; others heard popping sounds, or, as a boy said, something that sounded like "cans falling." Crying children were escorted through the school's parking lot in line, hands on one another's shoulders, as panicked parents raced to the school to find their children. Witnesses said the shooter said nothing.

WHERE THEY DIED: Most of the dead were found in two classrooms; Lanza's mother, Nancy, was found dead at her home. The children killed were between ages 5 and 10.

GUNS: Two pistols, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, were found inside the school. A .223-caliber rifle was found in the back of the car that Lanza drove to school. Lanza's mother had four weapons legally registered, and his father had two. A Henry repeating rifle, an Enfield rifle and a shotgun were also recovered by police; it was not clear where they were found.

THE FAMILY: Lanza's mother, Nancy, was well-liked and was called a nurturing parent who enjoyed hosting dice games and preparing for the holidays. She divorced Peter Lanza, a tax director who lives in Stamford, Conn., four years ago. Lanza's 24-year-old brother, Ryan, works in Manhattan and was questioned by police near his New Jersey home but is not a suspect. Law enforcement officials initially identified him as the suspect.

THE TOWN: Idyllic, 300-year-old Newtown is a postcard New England town that takes pride in a Lions Club river race that sells yellow rubber ducks for charity, features Halloween displays on Main Street houses, and is home to garden clubs and Christmas tree lightings. The Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy "Adam's Rib" was filmed decades ago on a lake in the town, now a bedroom community of 27,000 where executives commute to Manhattan.

HISTORY: The shooting is the second-deadliest in U.S. history and one of the deadliest mass shootings around the world. A gunman at Virginia Tech University killed 33, including himself, in 2007. Only Virginia Tech and the mass killings of 77 in Norway in 2011 had greater death tolls across the world over the past 20 years.

-- Associated Press

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