26 Dead, Many Children, in Conn. Elementary School Massacre

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newton-carouselNEWTOWN, Conn. —  Major crime investigators from the Connecticut state police were combing the entire elementary school Saturday where, a day earlier, a gunman shot dead 20 children and six adults before apparently killing himself.

The bodies of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown were transported to the office of the state medical examiner for post-mortem examinations, state police said.

Authorities were expected to announce the identities of the dead as early as Saturday, said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police.

There were more questions than answers about the possible motive of the shooter, identified by three law enforcement officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza — who authorities say appeared to have taken his own life, turning his gun on himself in the school.

Police say Lanza, who grew up in the tight-knit community of 27,000, killed his mother at her Newtown home before going to the school where he primarily targeted two classrooms.

Within minutes, Lanza killed 26 people with chilling efficiency, leaving only one wounded survivor, according to Vance. Among the adults killed were Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s beloved principal, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach.

“Stuff like this does not happen in Newtown,” roughly 60 miles northeast of New York City, said Renee Burn, a teacher at another school in town.

Until Friday, only one homicide in the past 10 years had been reported in the upscale community of expansive homes surrounded by woods, where many residents commute to jobs in Manhattan and the nearby Connecticut cities of Stamford and Hartford.

The number of young victims, between the ages of 5 and 10, sent shockwaves across the nation.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” President Barack Obama said, wiping away tears.

In a televised address from the White House, the president recalled shootings this year at an Oregon mall, a Wisconsin Sikh temple and a Colorado movie theater.

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics,” he said.

The president stopped short of calling for gun control measures, though the White House later said Obama supports a reinstatement of a federal ban on assault weapons.

With the death toll at 26, the massacre in Newtown is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, behind the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting that left 32 dead.

Flags were lowered to half-staff in a number of states, and vigils were held at houses of worship and at schools amid a national outpouring of grief that had many asking one question: Why?

There are, for now, few answers.

Lanza may have had access to at least five guns, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation said Saturday.

Three weapons were recovered from the school on Friday: a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle made by Bushmaster was found in a car in the school parking lot, and two pistols made by Glock and a Sig Sauer were found with suspected gunman Lanza’s body, a law enforcement source said previously.

The weapons were legally purchased by Lanza’s mother, said the official, who was not authorized to release details of the case to the media.

After killing his mother, investigators believe Lanza took her guns and made his way to the elementary school. There, dressed in black fatigues and a military vest, according to a law enforcement official, Lanza reportedly targeted two classrooms of kindergartners and first-graders.

How he got into the school remains a question because the doors were locked. At about 9:30 a.m., as announcements were read over the loudspeaker to the nearly 700 students, the first shots rang out.

Students described being ushered into bathrooms and closets by teachers after hearing the first shots.

It sounded like “pops, gunshots,” Janet Vollmer, a kindergarten teacher, said.

Vollmer locked her classroom doors, covered the windows and moved her 19 pupils toward the back of the room.

“We’re going over in a safe area,” she told the 5-year-olds. Then, she opened a book and started to read.

Outside Vollmer’s classroom, a gunman was moving through the hallway of the one-story building.

In the first few minutes, the gunman is believed to have shot the principal, Hochsprung, and the school’s psychologist, Sherlach.

One parent who was at the school in a meeting with Hochsprung, Sherlach and the vice principal said she heard a “pop, pop, pop.” All three left the room and went into the hall to see what was happening. The parent ducked under the table and called 911.

“I cowered,” she told CNN. The gunman “must have shot a hundred rounds.”

At the police station, dispatchers began to take calls from inside the school.

“Sandy Hook school. Caller is indicating she thinks someone is shooting in the building,” the dispatcher told fire and medical personnel, according to 911 tapes.

Then, another caller reported gunshots. And then another.

“Units responding to Sandy Hook School at this time; the shooting appears to have stopped. The school is in lockdown,” the dispatcher said.

The dispatcher warned police and medical personnel that callers were reporting “multiple weapons, including one rifle and a shotgun.”

Then, a police officer or firefighter called for “backup, ambulances, and they said call for everything.”

The dispatcher, according to the 911 tapes, asked how many ambulances were needed.

“They don’t know. They’re not giving us a number,” the officer or firefighter said.

Inside a classroom, Vollmer was still reading to the children when police officers banged on the locked door.

The kindergartners were told to line up and cover their eyes as they were led by police past bodies, presumably of their fellow schoolmates, Vollmer said.

As reports of the shooting made their way around town, frantic parents descended on a nearby firehouse where the children had been taken.

“Why? Why?” one woman wailed as she walked up a wooded roadway leading from the school.

Inside the firehouse, Vollmer’s kindergartners were beginning to understand something terrible had happened.

“They saw other people upset,” Vollmer said. “We just held them close until their parents came.”

By nightfall, the firehouse became a gathering point for parents and family members whose loved ones would never walk out of the school.

Authorities, meanwhile, in Hoboken, New Jersey, were questioning Ryan Lanza, the suspected gunman’s older brother, law enforcement sources said, though they did not label him a suspect. Lanza’s father, Peter, who lives in Connecticut, was similarly questioned, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Earlier Friday, investigators identified Ryan Lanza as the shooter. It was not clear what caused the confusion among investigators.

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  • Dianne Bates

    Why bother having an app if it’s useless? And your website isn’t much better. KTLA used to be my favorite news station but most CA hotels don’t carry it and neither do some cable companies. For this reason you need to make your online presence much better.

  • Meghann

    Most of the children were in KINDERGARTEN! So young and innocent, this is truly a tragedy! My heart and prayers go out to the families, I could not even begin to imagine the pain they are going through!

  • Jaleesa

    I can't believe someone did this…what gives you the right to take another human life especially kids. My heart aches right now for the families and those poor babies. Makes me want to get my baby from school and tell her how much I love her and give her a big hug…

    • Barbette

      My heart to and I have a one year old grandson who hasn't started school yet. I'm really considering home school even more. At least you will know at all times that your kids are with you during school hours. This is very scary. Small babies who was looking for Christmas on the following Tuesday. Its a sad Day.
      Why did we even take prayer out of the schools??????????????????

  • Tahoechick

    Senseless & tragic, little kids dead? The shooter (s) will have to face a higher being for what they’ve done. Families are devastated & little kids who’ve witnessed this terrible event will have this memory burned into their psyche. No words can express the sadness felt throughout the country on this day :'(

  • mike3688

    Bible prophecies are happening right in front of our eyes.

    •2 Timothy 3:13 "But wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled."
    •2 Timothy 3:1-5 "But know this, that IN THE LAST DAYS critical times hard to deal with will be here. Formen will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self‐assuming,
    haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self‐control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."
    •Psalms 92:7 "When the wicked ones sprout as the vegetation
    And all the practicers of what is hurtful blossom forth,
    It is that they may be annihilated forever."

  • Laura Ann Ostermeyer

    My heart goes out to everyone involved in this. Our country desperately needs to do more relative to helping people with mental illness so they are able to get the help they need or to have them in places where they cannot harm others. We need to have some serious dialogue on this and make it a priority and also stop it from being so taboo. We are seeing way too many episodes of this kind of action.

  • Michelle

    Laura Ann, Thank you so much for having the courage to post your comments. I knew I would come onto this site and read comments about what an evil monster this person is, and how they just do these horrifying acts for notoriety. But Laura is right. It is taboo to have compassion for those suffering from mental illness is stunning. As the mother of a child with schizophrenia, I can tell you that it took weeks of phone calls and begging to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Probably 20 offices told me "We are not taking any new patients at this time." And we have excellent insurance in addition to medi-cal! It took over 2 months to get him in to see a psychiatrist… and several months for the meds to reach a therapeutic level. Imagine if a sick person were in charge of managing this alone? The mental health system is broken. We do need serious dialogue about it. Why did Frank cut off Eric when he was trying to report that people he was talking to were suggesting this? He instantly tried to change the subject and say "We don't know that he is mentally ill." Who could do this in their right mind? There is a very good chance he is mentally ill. It's easier to villianize the mentally ill, than to care about or help them.
    That said, my heart truly aches for the families of those lost or hurt in this awful tragedy. My prayers are with all of them.

    • guest

      yes so true. but all the big tv corp. can't risk law suits, Just like when you know someone commited a crime it's aledged? Good luck and God Bless to you and your loved one. Sounds like this is something that you should try to push through so your son and others can have and enjoy a normal life.

  • Brie

    So very sad. Im speechless about what is wrong with our world today. My heart goes out to all those involved in this senseless tragedy.

  • Anthony

    I have a very heavy heart over the events that took place in Connecticut. I’m concerned that many will blame guns for the violence, but guns don’t make anyone commit mass murders. Unfortunately this was caused by a person or persons who have a mental illness. Instead of outlawing guns, our society would be better served by making mental health awareness more front-page, and learn to recognize the signs of mental illness and treat the cause before such a tragedy occurs. Counseling should be made more available and government subsidized, and not just AFTER something like this happens. To outlaw guns won’t solve the issue. The result may have been the same had the offender used a steak knife or even a screwdriver.

  • Lisa

    This has happened too many times, to too many innocent victims. There will always be crazies out there with malicious intentions of harming schools. Our schools need tighter security. Metal detectors and wrought iron gates with security doors. Our children are the future and we need to do everything possible to protect them now. May God embrace every innocent victim and their families.

  • EarnestBlofeld

    I dont about anyone else but i think its time Corporal punishment was reinstated in the USA. Someone does something terrible like this, they get executed.

  • 💔

    This is just horrible. Why is all we could ask. I live in California but as soon as I heard this I was crying. These were just little kids and they couldn’t defend themselves at all. What a piece of shit hope that man burns in hell. My prayers go out to the families who lost a child and to those children who are probably traumatized to see and realize what a horrible world they live in.

  • Carmen

    My heart filled with questions with blankness total pain. I cannot understand why America has to experience this pain before the holidays. Bless all the children and adults that lost their lives today in the hands of a crazy sick person. Too many people feel disbelief that this can happen. I pray that GOD gives these people what they deserve. These kids were looking foward to playing , laughing, growing up and seeing their children how could anyone at all take that away, if anyone out there feels like they want to hurt anyone pick up the phone and call someone anyone to help you. These kids didn’t deserve it and its too senseless to even imagine their little faces in complete terror over someone that is just needing attention .

  • kali

    This is a very crazy situation….im lost for words and my heart is broke I can only imagine what these parents are feeling….sleepless nights and sorrow im going to keep these parents..children..and families in my prayers

  • shenaye

    to take a childs life is to take away pieces of gods heart,no one will ever understand why people do what they do but their punishment is to go to hell. If you want to die just take your own lives and not others who value and deserve their place on this earth. I pray that these families broken hearts will eventually heal into happiness again one day, May those babies and adults whos lives were taken be at peace.

  • Peter

    In 20 or 30 years, these 5-10 year olds will be the ones running the show. I sincerely hope that they do a better job of it than we have done. Today has been a very sad day. I pray that someday we look back on today and are able to say that some good has come of this. Right now, that seems so far away.

  • Kelly

    There are no words, This is just sooo sad. I have 3 children one in kindergarden and cant imagine if this happened at their school. I have one question, where is safe anymore? This violence has to stop.