Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Adam Lanza: What We Know

Police block a road near the house of Nancy Lanza in Newtown, Conn., on Saturday. Authorities say Lanza's son Adam killed her before opening fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.
Don Emmert
Police block a road near the house of Nancy Lanza in Newtown, Conn., on Saturday. Authorities say Lanza's son Adam killed her before opening fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.

In the confusion and panicked swirl of information after Friday morning's shootings in a Connecticut elementary school, one question stood out: Who could do such a thing? By the end of the day, authorities had a name, but the answer to the question was still far from clear -- and remains so.

Law enforcement sources eventually said the shooter was Adam Lanza, 20, but only after mistakenly identifying the gunman as Lanza's older brother.

As of late Saturday, little else was known about the dead gunman, whose body was found among the 27 dead children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the town of Newtown.


Lanza has since become the subject of much speculation and little substantiated information. Authorities descended upon his home Friday and indicated they may have more details to offer on Sunday. Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police told reporters Saturday that officials had found evidence that would help them understand the shootings.

Meanwhile, news organizations, including NPR, have been working to stitch together a picture of Lanza and what exactly happened on Friday. Here is what we can say as of Saturday evening.

Lanza grew up in Newtown. His parents divorced in 2008. He lived with his mother, Nancy, in a handsome colonial house in an upscale neighborhood. Lanza's father, Peter, an executive at GE, moved to nearby Stamford and remarried. His older brother, Ryan, lives in Hoboken, N.J.

Law-enforcement sources tell NPR that Nancy Lanza was a gun collector. They also say she was the person found dead during the search of a Newtown home investigated in the wake of the school attack.

A law enforcement official told NPR that authorities have recovered three weapons from inside the school: a Sig Sauer handgun, a Glock handgun and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle. All three were legally purchased and have ties to Nancy Lanza. She had also purchased other weapons, the source said.


Adam Lanza's aunt, Marsha Lanza, addressing reporters on her doorstep in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, said her sister-in-law grew up in New Hampshire and was familiar with firearms. She also said that the Lanzas were nurturing parents, the type who wouldn't hesitate to seek help for their son if he needed it.

Speculation about Lanza's mental state has popped up in the media, but the news so far has appeared to be a mix of hearsay and unsubstantiated claims.

It's unclear why, but at some point, Nancy Lanza pulled her son out of the Newtown public schools. The AP quotes a former classmate as saying Adam Lanza was a smart kid:

"Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High in 2009 and belonged to the school technology club with him, said that Lanza was generally a happy person but that he hadn't seen him in a few years.

" 'We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart,' Joshua Milas said. 'He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius.' "

A report in The News-Times of Danbury, Conn., described Lanza as notably quiet in a bustling school population.

"Marsha Moscowitz, 56, a former school bus driver, said Saturday that Adam was very shy, reserved and memorable for being a loner in the hustle and bustle of the daily rides to and from school.

" 'Not every student sticks out,' Moscowitz said. 'You know how certain kids stick out? He stuck out because he never really talked.' "

The New York Times also quoted a former classmate who remembered a kid who seemed to pass by unnoticed.

" 'You could tell that he felt so uncomfortable about being put on the spot,' said Olivia DeVivo, also now at the University of Connecticut. 'I think that maybe he wasn't given the right kind of attention or help. I think he went so unnoticed that people didn't even stop to realize that maybe there's actually something else going on here -- that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help. In high school, no one really takes the time to look and think, "Why is he acting this way?" ' "

Despite these early anecdotes, we may not know who Lanza was or why he killed so many innocent people until officials release more information from their investigation and more people who knew him tell their stories.

State medical examiner H. Wayne Carver II said at a news conference Saturday that his office would examine the gunman's body early Sunday and would have more information then -- possibly including the cause of his own death.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit