Gunman Kills 20 Schoolchildren in Connecticut


Gunman Kills 20 Schoolchildren in Connecticut

People listened to a memorial service through the windows at St. Rose of Lima Church

A 20-year-old man wearing combat gear and armed with semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people — 20 of them children — in an attack in an elementary school in central Connecticut on Friday. Witnesses and officials described a horrific scene as the gunman, with brutal efficiency, chose his victims in two classrooms while other students dove under desks and hid in closets.

Hundreds of terrified parents arrived as their sobbing children were led out of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in a wooded corner of Newtown, Conn. By then, all of the victims had been shot and most were dead, and the gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, had committed suicide. The children who were killed were said to be between 5 and 10 years old.

A 28th person, found dead in a house in the town, was also believed to have been shot by Mr. Lanza. That victim, one law enforcement official said, was Mr. Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, a teacher at the school. She apparently owned the guns he used.

The school principal had buzzed Mr. Lanza in because she recognized him as the son of a colleague. Moments later, she was shot dead when she went to investigate the sound of gunshots. The school psychologist was also among those who died.

The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, in which a gunman killed 32 people and then himself.

Law enforcement officials said Mr. Lanza had grown up in Newtown, and he was remembered by high school classmates as smart, introverted and nervous. They said he had gone out of his way to not attract attention when he was younger.

The gunman was chillingly accurate. A spokesman for the State Police said that only one person had been injured at the school. All the others hit by the barrage of bullets from the guns Mr. Lanza carried — the rifle was similar to a weapon widely used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq — died, suggesting that they were shot at point-blank range. One law enforcement official said the shootings occurred in two classrooms in a section of the single-story Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Some who were there said the shooting occurred during morning announcements, and the initial shots could be heard over the school’s public address system. The bodies of those killed were still in the school as of 10 p.m. Friday.

Law enforcement officials offered no hint of what motivated Mr. Lanza. It was also unclear, one investigator said, why Mr. Lanza — after shooting his mother to death inside her home — drove her car to the school and slaughtered the children. “I don’t think anyone knows the answers to those questions at this point,” the official said. As for a possible motive, he added, “We don’t know much for sure.”

F.B.I. agents interviewed his brother, Ryan Lanza, in Hoboken, N.J. His father, Peter Lanza, who was divorced from Nancy Lanza, was also questioned, one official said.

Newtown, a postcard-perfect New England town where everyone seems to know everyone else and where there had lately been holiday tree lightings with apple cider and hot chocolate, was plunged into mourning. Stunned residents attended four memorial services in the town on Friday evening as detectives continued the search for clues, and an explanation.

Maureen Kerins, a hospital nurse who lives close to the school, learned of the shooting from television and hurried to the school to see if she could help.

“I stood outside waiting to go in, but a police officer came out and said they didn’t need any nurses,” she said, “so I knew it wasn’t good.”

In the cold light of Friday morning, faces told the story outside the stricken school. There were the frightened faces of children who were crying as they were led out in a line. There were the grim faces of three women who emerged with their arms around one another, as if they were protecting the one in the middle. There were the relieved-looking faces of a couple and a little girl in a light blue jacket, riding high on her father’s shoulders. (source)

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