By Jueseppi B.
Police arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary, after the shooting on December 14, 2012.
On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. Before driving to the school, Lanza had shot and killed his mother, Nancy, at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The incident was the second deadliest school shooting in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. It was also the second-deadliest mass murder at an American elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan.
The shooting prompted renewed debate about gun control in the United States, and a proposal for new legislation banning the sale and manufacture of certain types of semi-automatic weapons and magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition.
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
As of November 30, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School had 456 children enrolled in kindergarten through fourth grade. According to school authorities, the school’s security protocol had recently been upgraded, requiring visitors to be individually admitted after visual and identification review by video monitor. The doors to the school were locked at 9:30 am each day, after morning arrivals.
Newtown is located in Fairfield County, Connecticut, about 60 miles (97 km) outside New York City. Violent crime had been rare in the town of 28,000 residents; there was only one homicide in the town in the ten years prior to the school shooting.
Some time before 9:30 a.m. EST on Friday, December 14, 2012, Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, age 52, at their Newtown home. Investigators later found her body, clad in pajamas, in her bed with four gunshot wounds to her head. Lanza then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
At about 9:35 am, using his mother’s Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, Lanza shot his way through a locked glass door at the front of the school. He was wearing black clothing, earplugs and an olive green utility vest carrying magazines for the Bushmaster. Initial reports that he had been wearing body armor were incorrect. Some of those present heard initial shots on the school intercom system, which was being used for morning announcements.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were meeting with other faculty members when they heard gunshots. Hochsprung and Sherlach immediately left the room, rushed to the source of the sounds, and encountered and confronted Lanza. He shot and killed both women.
Hochsprung may have turned on the school intercom to alert others in the building. A nine-year-old boy said he heard the shooter say: “Put your hands up!” and someone else say “Don’t shoot!”, people yelling and many gunshots over the intercom as he, his classmates, and teacher took refuge in a closet in the gymnasium. Diane Day, a school therapist who was at the faculty meeting, heard screaming, followed by more gunshots. Natalie Hammond, lead teacher in the meeting room, pressed her body against the door to keep it closed. Lanza shot Hammond through the door, in her leg and arm. She was later treated at Danbury Hospital. The police reported that a second adult was wounded in the attack, but that individual was not publicly identified.
In a first-grade classroom, Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, was shot and killed. Most of the students in her class were killed; a six-year-old girl was the sole survivor. The girl’s family pastor said that she survived the mass shooting by playing dead and remaining still until the building grew quiet, and she felt it was safe to leave. She ran from the school, and was the first child to escape the building. When she reached her mother, she said, “Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead.” The child described the shooter as a very angry man.
Lanza then went to another first-grade classroom nearby. The classroom’s teacher, Victoria Leigh Soto, was reported to have attempted to hide several children in a closet and cupboards. As Lanza entered her classroom, Soto reportedly told him that the children were in the auditorium. Several of the children then came out of their hiding place and tried to run for safety and were shot dead. Soto put herself between her students and the shooter, who then fatally shot her. Six surviving children from Soto’s class crawled out of the cupboards after the shooting and fled the school. They and a school bus driver took refuge at a nearby home. As reported by his parents, a six-year-old boy in Soto’s class fled with a group of his classmates and the children escaped through the door when Lanza shot their teacher.
Anne Marie Murphy, a teacher’s aide who worked with special-needs students, shielded six-year-old Dylan Hockley with her body, trying to protect him from the bullets that killed them both. Teacher’s aide Rachel D’Avino, who had been employed at the school working with a special-needs student for a little more than one week, also died trying to protect her students.
School nurse Sally Cox, 60, hid under a desk in her office and described the door opening and seeing Lanza’s boots and legs facing her desk from approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) away. He remained standing for a few seconds before turning around and leaving. She and school secretary Barbara Halstead then hid in a first-aid supply closet for up to four hours, after calling 9-1-1. Custodian Rick Thorne ran through hallways, alerting classrooms.
First grade teacher Kaitlin Roig, age 29, hid 14 students in a bathroom and barricaded the door, telling them to be completely quiet to remain safe. School library staff Yvonne Cech and Maryann Jacob first hid 18 children in a part of the library the school used for lockdown in practice drills, but on discovering that one of the doors would not lock, had the children crawl into a storage room as Cech barricaded the door with a filing cabinet.
Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik, 50, barricaded her fourth-graders in a tiny supply closet during the rampage. Lanza arrived moments later, pounding and yelling “Let me in”, while the students in Kristopik’s class quietly hid inside.
Two third graders, chosen as classroom helpers, were walking down the hallway to the office to deliver the morning attendance sheet as the shooting began. Teacher Abbey Clements pulled both children into her classroom, where they hid.
Laura Feinstein, a reading specialist at the school, gathered two students from outside her classroom and hid with them under desks after they heard gunshots. Feinstein called the school office and attempted to call 9-1-1 but was unable to connect because her cell phone did not have reception. She hid with the children for approximately 40 minutes, before law enforcement came to lead them out of the room.
Lanza stopped shooting between 9:46 am and 9:49 am, after firing 50 to 100 rounds. He reloaded frequently during the shooting, sometimes firing only fifteen rounds from a thirty round magazine. He shot all of his victims multiple times, and at least one victim, six-year-old Noah Pozner, 11 times. Most of the shooting took place in two first-grade classrooms near the entrance of the school, killing fourteen in one room and six in the other. The student victims were eight boys and twelve girls, between six and seven years of age, and the six adults were all women who worked at the school. Bullets were also found in at least three cars parked outside the school. After realizing that he had been spotted by a pair of police officers who had entered the building, Lanza fled from their sight and then killed himself with a gunshot to the head with a handgun.
- Nancy Lanza (shot at home)
- Rachel D’Avino, teacher’s aide
- Dawn Hochsprung, principal
- Anne Marie Murphy, teacher’s aide
- Lauren Rousseau, teacher
- Mary Sherlach, school psychologist
- Victoria Leigh Soto, teacher
|First grade students
- Charlotte Bacon
- Daniel Barden
- Olivia Engel
- Josephine Gay
- Dylan Hockley
- Madeleine Hsu
- Catherine Hubbard
- Chase Kowalski
- Jesse Lewis
- Ana Marquez-Greene
- James Mattel
- Grace McDonnell
- Emilie Parker
- Jack Pinto
- Noah Pozner
- Caroline Previdi
- Jessica Rekos
- Avielle Richman
- Benjamin Wheeler
- Allison Wyatt
- Natalie Hammond, lead teacher
- One unnamed adult
Newtown police dispatch first requested officers on the scene at 9:35 am Connecticut State Police received the first call at 9:41 am, and with Newtown police, quickly mobilized local police dog and police tactical units, a bomb squad, and a state police helicopter.
Police locked down the school and began evacuating the survivors room-by-room, escorting groups of students and adults away from the school. They swept the school for additional shooters at least four times. No shots were fired by the authorities. According to a transcript of police radio traffic, Lanza committed suicide within fifteen minutes of the first 911 call being received.
At approximately 10:00 am, Danbury Hospital scrambled extra medical personnel in expectation of having to treat numerous victims. Three wounded patients were evacuated to the hospital, where two children were later declared dead. The other was an unidentified adult.
The New York City medical examiner dispatched a portable morgue to assist the authorities. The victims’ bodies were removed from the school and formally identified during the night after the shooting. A state trooper was assigned to each victim’s family to protect their privacy and provide them with information.
A large quantity of unused ammunition was recovered inside the school, along with three semi-automatic firearms found with Lanza: a .223-caliber Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, a 10mm Glock handgun and a 9mm SIG Sauer P226 handgun. A 30 round magazine was recovered with the rifle. Outside the school, an Izhmash Saiga-12 combat shotgun was found in the car Lanza had driven. At home, Lanza had access to three more firearms: a .45 Henry repeating rifle, a .30 Enfield rifle, and a .22 Marlin rifle.
The weapons were legally owned by Lanza’s mother, who was a gun enthusiast. Police said that Lanza used the Bushmaster rifle to kill the victims at the school. At a press conference on December 15, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the Chief Medical Examiner of Connecticut, was asked about the wounds, and replied “All the ones that I know of at this point were caused by the long weapon.” Under Connecticut law, the 20-year-old Lanza was old enough to carry a long gun, but too young to legally own or carry handguns.
Investigators are not believed to have found a suicide note or any messages referring to the planning of the attack. Janet Robinson, superintendent of Newtown schools, said she had not found any connection between Lanza’s mother and the school, in contrast to initial media reports that stated Lanza’s mother had worked there. Lanza removed the hard drive from his computer and damaged it prior to the shooting, creating a challenge for investigators to recover data. Investigators have evaluated Lanza’s body, looking for evidence of drugs or medication through toxicology tests. Additionally, although unusual for an investigation of this type and unlikely to provide conclusive information,DNA testing of Lanza is being utilized.
Police also investigated whether Lanza was the person who had been in an altercation with four staff members at Sandy Hook School the day before the massacre. It was presumed that he killed two of the four staff members involved in the altercation (the principal and the psychologist) and wounded the third (the lead teacher) in the attack; the fourth staff member was not at the school that day. The state police stated that they did not know of any reports about any altercations at the school.
Police sources initially reported Lanza’s sibling, Ryan Lanza, as the perpetrator. This was likely because the perpetrator was carrying his brother’s identification, Ryan told The Jersey Journal. Lanza’s brother voluntarily submitted to questioning by New Jersey police, Connecticut State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police said he was not considered a suspect, and he was not taken into custody. Ryan Lanza said he had not been in touch with his brother since 2010. Connecticut State Police indicated their concern about misinformation being posted on social media sites and threatened prosecution of anyone involved with such activities.
A yearbook photograph of Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Adam Peter Lanza was born on April 22, 1992, in Exeter, New Hampshire. He and his mother lived in Sandy Hook, 5 miles (8 km) from the elementary school. He did not have a criminal record. He attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for a brief time. Afterward, he attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Newtown, and then Newtown High School, where he was an honors student. Lanza subsequently was home-schooled by his mother, and earned a GED. Lanza’s aunt said his mother removed him from the Newtown public school system because she was unhappy with the school district‘s plans for her son. He attended Western Connecticut State University in 2008 and 2009.
Students and teachers who knew him in high school described Lanza as “intelligent, but nervous and fidgety”. He avoided attracting attention and was uncomfortable socializing. He is not known to have had any close friends in school.
Lanza’s brother told law enforcement that Adam was believed to have a personality disorder and was “somewhat autistic“.An anonymous law enforcement official and friends of Nancy Lanza reported that Adam had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Due to concerns that published descriptions of Lanza’s autism could result in a backlash against others with the condition, autism advocates campaigned to clarify that autism is a brain-related developmental problem and not a mental illness. The predatory aggression demonstrated in the shooting is generally not seen in the autistic population. Adam’s father, a corporate executive, Nancy Lanza was supported by alimony payments. A relative commented that she did not have to work because the divorce settlement had left her “very well off”. There were conflicting reports on whether she had worked as a volunteer at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
According to Nancy Lanza’s sister-in-law, she was a gun enthusiast and owned at least a dozen firearms. She often took her two sons to a local shooting range.
President Obama Cries at Sandy Hook Elementary Speech – Newtown School Shooting Connecticut
President Barack Obama
gave a televised address the day of the shootings, saying, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” Obama expressed “enormous sympathy for families that are affected”. He also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House
and other U.S. federal government facilities worldwide in respect of the victims.
President Obama: ‘Newtown, You Are Not Alone’
On December 16, Obama traveled to Newtown where he met with victims’ families and spoke at an interfaith
vigil. President Obama will honor the six slain adults posthumously with the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal
on February 15, 2013.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy addressed the media the evening of the shootings near a local church holding a vigil for the victims, urging the people of Connecticut to come together and help each other. Malloy said, “Evil visited this community today, and it is too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut, we are all in this together, we will do whatever we can to overcome this event, we will get through it.” Hundreds of mourners, including Malloy, attended vigils in various churches in Newtown. On December 17, Malloy called for a statewide moment of silence and church bells to be tolled 26 times at 9:30 am on Friday, December 21, exactly one week after the school shooting
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said “… our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves. We will do everything in our power to assist and support the healing and recovery of Newtown.”
The day after the shootings, Lanza’s father released a statement:
“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. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired.”
Leaders from many countries and organizations throughout the world also offered their condolences through the weekend after the shooting.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School makeshift memorial on Berkshire Road in Newtown, CT. 12 days after shooting. (Wed 12/26)
In his speech at the December 16 vigil, Obama called for using “whatever power this office holds”, to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Within 15 hours of the incident, 100,000 Americans signed a petition at the Obama administration’s We the People petitioning website in support of a renewed national debate on gun control. President Obama later affirmed that he would make gun control a “central issue” at the start of his second term of office, in a speech on December 19. The President formed a Gun Violence Task Force to be led by Vice President Joe Biden to address the causes of gun violence in the United States.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Joe Lieberman called for an assault weapon ban, with Feinstein intending to introduce a ban bill on the first day of the new Congress, while former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and injured in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, has launched Americans for Responsible Solutions to raise money for further gun control efforts in light of the Sandy Hook shooting. Fear of future restrictions on firearms led to a spike in sales of guns, ammunition, and magazines in the weeks following the shooting.
A month after the shooting, President Obama cited the incident while announcing proposals for increased gun control. His proposals included universal background checks on firearms purchases, an assault weapons ban, and limiting magazine capacity to 10 cartridges. Relatives of the victims in the shooting and survivors from other mass shootings were official guests during the announcement.
On December 21, 2012, the National Rifle Association called on the United States Congress to appropriate funds for the hiring of armed police officers in every American school to protect students. The NRA also announced the creation of a school protection program called the National School Shield Program, which would be led by former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator and United States Congressman Asa Hutchinson.
Impact on the community
The school was closed indefinitely following the shooting, partially because it remained a crime scene. Sandy Hook students returned to school on January 3, 2013 at Chalk Hill Middle School in nearby Monroe at the town’s invitation. Chalk Hill is a previously unused facility, refurbished after the shooting, with desks and equipment brought in from Sandy Hook Elementary. The Chalk Hill school has been temporarily renamed “Sandy Hook”. The University of Connecticut created a scholarship for the surviving children of the shootings.
On January 31, 2013, the Newtown school board voted unanimously to ask for police officer presence in all of its elementary schools; previously other schools in the district had such protection, but Sandy Hook had not been one of those.
NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Response To The Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre
Published on Dec 21, 2012
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre made a statement today in reaction to last week’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn. LaPierre called for armed security at America’s schools saying “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
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