Sunday, December 16, 2012
More details are emerging about the shooter and his victims in the worst act of deadly violence at an elementary school in U.S. history, as President Obama planned to meet Sunday with families and attend a community vigil.
Grieving relatives were trying to cope with the violence in Newtown, Conn. -- where police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary armed with two handguns and a semi-automatic rifle on Friday morning and gunned down 20 children and six adults, including the school's principal, before killing himself.
UPDATE at 10:35 a.m. ET: Conn. Gov. Dan Malloy tells ABC's This Week that authorities believe Lanza shot himself as first responders closed in.
"We surmise that ... he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy said.)
NPR's Susannah George, reporting from Newtown, says, "there is a constant stream of people coming and going from the makeshift memorial at the entrance to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Many people have come from out of town - some as far as an hour away - to lay flowers and light candles."
Twelve girls and eight boys were killed. Sixteen of them were just 6 years old and four were only 7. School officials say Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, were shot and killed as they tried to stop Lanza. Teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, was killed as she shielded her students, authorities say. Teachers Victoria Soto, 27, Rachel Davino, 29, and substitute teacher Lauren Garbrielle Rousseau, 30, were also among the dead. Nancy Lanza, the first of the six adult victims, was a former stockbroker, who divorced the shooter's father in 2008.
The Harford Courant quoted former classmates of Adam Lanza at Newton High School describing him as a "skinny, shaggy-haired boy 'who never really talked at all'" who was often seen carrying his laptop. The paper writes:
There was a common refrain among acquaintances of Adam Lanza: I knew of him but I didn't know him.
Lanza kept to himself. Over several bloody minutes Friday morning, armed with a rifle, Lanza emerged from his shell long enough to destroy the lives of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He'd gone to the school as a youth, a former classmate said.
Lanza, who lived with his mother in a colonial home in an upscale neighborhood of Newtown, was estranged from his brother, Ryan, and hadn't spoken in four years with his father, Peter Lanza, who is an executive at General Electric. The elder Lanza released a statement on Saturday expressing shock and sadness over the killings.
Ryan Lanza, who was originally misidentified as the shooter, lives in Hoboken, N.J.
The assailant's aunt, Marsha Lanza, spoke with reporters from the doorstep of her home in suburban Chicago on Saturday. She described her nephew as "a very bright boy," who was "different" and quiet.
" ... nice kid good kid, I mean he was definitely challenging family in that house. Every family has one, I have one, they have one, but never in trouble with the law, never in trouble with anything," she said.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports that law enforcement officials would not confirm that Lanza had Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism that is characterized by social awkwardness and other difficulties in relating to others.
The aunt said Lanza's mother "had issues with school she eventually wound up home- schooling him and she battled with the school district. In what capacity, I'm not certain if it was behavior [or] if it was learning disabilities."
Naylor reports that authorities believe the guns used in the assault were all legally obtained by Nancy Lanza.
"A number of reports have quoted family friends saying she and her son had gone to area shooting ranges together," he says.
The New York Times quotes Dan Holmes, an acquaintance of Ms. Lanza, as saying she had several different guns, "I don't know how many," he told the newspaper, adding that "She would go target shooting with her kids."
Police investigators have so far offered no motive for the deadly assault. Officials have said that no letters or diaries have surfaced.
Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police says law enforcement will be at the school for several more days trying to figure out why this happened.
"Our investigators at the crime scene, the school, and secondarily, at the secondary crime scene ... where the female was located deceased, did produce some very good evidence in this investigation that our investigators will be able to use in hopefully painting the complete picture as to how, and more importantly, why this occurred," Vance said.
But Gov. Malloy suggested Saturday that a truly complete picture might never be known.
"When tragedies like this take place, people often look for answers, an explanation how this could have happened. The sad truth is there are no answers. No good ones, anyway," Malloy said.
Later Sunday, Obama was to meet privately with victims' families at Newtown. According to The Associated Press, the president would also meet with emergency personnel who responding to the shooting. Later, he will speak with a vigil at Newtown High School.
The visit will be Obama's fourth as president to a community that experienced a mass shooting.
Separately, The New York Times reports that following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon, Ariz., the Department of Justice drew up guidelines for an expanded firearms background-check system aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of mental ill people and criminals, but that the plans were later shelved "as the election campaign heated up and as Congress conducted a politically charged investigation into the Operation Fast and Furious gun trafficking case."
UPDATE at 10:25 a.m. ET:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, says she will revive a plan to ban new assault weapons.
Meanwhile, Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman tells Fox News Sunday that a national commission could be formed to look into gun laws, the mental health system and the possible role that violent video games and movies might play in mass shootings.
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