NEWTOWN, Conn.--A shooting rampage in this small Connecticut town on Friday morning left 28 people dead, including 20 children killed inside their elementary school, authorities said.
The dead included the suspected gunman, whom law enforcement sources identified as Adam Lanza, 20. Police said that Lanza first apparently killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at the home they shared in Newtown. Then he drove in her car to Sandy Hook Elementary, the school at which Nancy Lanza taught kindergarten.
In the car, authorities said, were three guns: a .223 caliber “Bushmaster” rifle and two pistols, a Sig Sauer and a Glock.
At the school, authorities said, Adam Lanza shot and killed six adults — including the school’s principal — and 20 children. They were shot in two different rooms of the school, police said.
Police were called to the school after 9:35 a.m., and officers searched the classrooms for a shooter. When they found the gunman, however, he was dead by his own hand. No officer fired a shot.
One other person was injured in the shooting, but survived.
Friday’s shooting became the second-deadliest in U.S. history, after the rampage that killed 32 students at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. It happened in a country that had grown darkly accustomed to public shootings: just five months before, another gunman had killed 12 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July.
But the sheer scale of Friday’s killing — and the nature of its victims, small children shot in the sanctuary of a school — deepened its horror, and unleashed a shaking kind of grief.
President Obama, in one of his most emotional speeches as president, wiped away tears as he spoke about the shooting from the White House’s briefing room. “Our hearts are broken today,” Obama said. He promised “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this,” but did not say specifically what he might do.
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between five and 10 years old,” Obama paused, seemingly unable to continue for a few moments. “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Dorothy Hanson, who is the suspect’s grandmother and Nancy Lanza’s mother, said in a brief phone interview Friday that she could not fathom the violence that ended their lives.
“I just can’t cope with it right now,” Hanson said through tears. “She was my daughter, and a beautiful girl and I loved her. I just can’t make any more comments than that right now.”
Among the dead was the school’s principal, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, according to law enforcement sources. Press reports said Hochsprung had been the school’s principal since 2010, and had been a schools administrator for 12 years before that. Local news organizations reported that she was married, with two daughters and three stepdaughters.
“She was always enthusiastic, always smiling, always game to do anything,” said Kristin Larson, a former secretary of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association. In a phone interview, Larson choked up as she recalled Hochsprung hugging students at the start of the school year. “She wanted them to do well in school,” Larson said, “but she also wanted them to have fun.”
Earlier on Friday, law enforcement sources had misidentified the shooter as Adam’s brother Ryan Lanza, 24. Based on reports from those sources, The Washington Post and many other news outlets also identified Ryan Lanza as the suspected shooter.
Ryan Lanza was taken into custody near his home in Hoboken, N.J. on Friday; news reports showed him being escorted in handcuffs by police. But authorities said they do not believe he was involved in the crime. It was unclear what caused the initial confusion between the brothers.
Beth Israel, who lived for a time on the same street as the Lanzas, recalled Adam Lanza as withdrawn, but not threatening in any way.
“Overall, I would just call him a socially awkward kid, I don’t know, shy and quiet. Didn’t really look you in the eye,” Israel said in a telephone interview Friday night. “Just kind of a weird kid, maybe. I can’t tell you any specific incidents why [I thought so],” she said.
But there was still something that troubled her about Adam Lanza. When Israel heard that Ryan Lanza — Adam’s brother — had been described by law enforcement sources as the shooter, she felt they had the wrong brother: “It has to be Adam, not Ryan,” Israel wrote on Twitter.
Police described the school itself as one of the most horrific crime scenes that many had ever encountered, and officials said the first-arriving responders would be given counseling.
Children who were evacuated from the school said later that they had been told to keep their eyes closed until they were outside.