Two days later, Newtown wonders if tragedy could have been prevented
12/16/2012 10:25:47 AM PST
12/17/2012 06:03:30 AM PST
NEWTOWN, Conn. - Two days after 20 first-graders were shot to death in an elementary school, the conversation started to shift from how it happened to whether it could have been prevented.
As police released new details of exactly how 20-year-old Adam Lanza perpetrated the horrific killings and the first funeral was scheduled, President Barack Obama prepared to visit the still-mourning New England town.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pledged to introduce an assault-weapons banon the first day of the new Congress. Since the previous ban expired in 2004, a dozen unsuccessful attempts had been made to reinstate it. Meanwhile, police sources told various news outlets that the shooter's mother, Nancy Lanza, appeared to have been shot while she slept, and Adam Lanza took her car, and guns that may have belonged to herto the school. There, he fired through the school's glass door to get inside, and was met by the school's principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach, whom he promptly shot to death. The Hartford Courant reports he then turned left, bypassed one classroom full of students, and entered another, shooting and killing all 14 children and two teachers inside. Next he moved onto teacher Victoria Soto's classroom, where she and six children were shot.
"There were 14 coats hanging there and 14 bodies. He killed them all," an unnamed law enforcement officer told the Courant.
Lt. J. Paul Vance said detectives already had recovered "very good evidence in this investigation" that will help determine how and why 20-year-old Lanza attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On Saturday, authorities released the names of those killed on a black-and-white printed spreadsheet. Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherloch, along with four other women, were the adult victims. Many families of the dead, especially those with dead children, quickly issued statements asking the media for privacy, and still others talked with reporters about their grief for their fallen loved ones, including the father of Emilie Parker.
The shooting Friday began just after 9:30 a.m. in the school about 60 miles northeast of New York City, setting off a nightmarish scene in which students and teachers hid under desks and in closets before being escorted to safety and reunited with their families.
"I told them that I loved them and that they would be OK," said one of the teacher's who locked the door to her classroom when the shooting began.
The toll at Sandy Hook - 26 students and adults - made it the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, where 32 were killed.
A number of reports have changed since the shooting began. In some early confusion, Adam Lanza's brother, Ryan, was initially named as the shooter by unnamed police sources. There were also multiple reports that Nancy Lanza worked in some capacity the school, but doubt was cast on those reports Saturday afternoon and officials told the Associated Press they haven't established a connection between his mother and the school. A law enforcement official speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to it. However, police were investigating whether Lanza was the person who had some kind of altercation with staffers at the school on Thursday, NBC News reported. Asked about the report, police lieutenant Vance said on Saturday "We never indicated or never reported any indication of any altercation at all," he said.
After the shooting began, 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 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.
Authorities gave few official details Saturday on exactly how the attack unfolded, saying they are keeping some details "close to our chest" as they continue to investigate the crime scene. But police radio traffic indicated the shooting lasted only a few minutes.
Officers arrived instantaneously, immediately entered the school, breaking windows and searching it completely, finding the dead shooter, children and teachers, and leading out survivors, Vance said. Later, at least 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. Vance said at a Saturday morning news conference that investigators were tracking the history of each of the weapons that were recovered. There were reports that Lanza might have tried to buy a rifle several days before the shooting, but did not succeed.
A law enforcement official said Adam Lanza was known to have some kind of personality disorder and was possibly on the autism spectrum, but he did not have a criminal record. His older brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, had been extremely cooperative, and was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records.
The elder brother told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010. Peter Lanza, the father of Adam and Ryan, was informed about the shooting Friday afternoon by a reporterwho was waiting outside his home in nearby Stamford. He and Nancy Lanza filed for divorce in 2008. On Saturday night, he released a statement saying he and his family were grieving for the victims.
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured. Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We, too, are asking why," he wrote.
The scale of the shootings seems to have sparked another debate among politicians about gun laws, with several anti-gun politicians such as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg issuing biting statementsabout the tragedy and the role of firearms in it.
Gov. Daniel Malloy, who apparently was the one to tell some of the parents that their children were dead, gave prepared remarks on Saturday night from his office in Hartford.
"We have all seen tragedies like this play out in other states and countries. Each time, we wondered how something so horrific could occur, and we thanked God that it didn't happen here in Connecticut. But now it has," he said.
On Sunday, the Rev. Robert Weiss announced that practice for St. Rose of Lima's church Christmas pageant would continue even though one of the children who was scheduled to play an angel was killed Friday.