28 Dead, Including 20 Children, After Shooting Rampage At Sandy Hook School In Newtown

December 14, 2012|The Hartford Courant Staff

NEWTOWN — After killing his mother in her Newtown home, 20-year-old Adam Lanza drove her car to Sandy Hook Elementary, where officials said she taught, and gunned down 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

Most of the dead were found in two first-grade classrooms, police said.

Students described being ushered from their classrooms hand-in-hand, with their eyes closed, to the safety of a nearby fire station as police converged on the school. Anguished parents rushed to the scene.

State police sources told The Courant that Lanza had his brother Ryan Lanza’s identification, which initially led to confusion about his identity, police said. He was dressed in black fatigues, police said.

His motives are unknown.

State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said officials will work through the night to identify victims and process the scene. Tomorrow, they will interview one adult who survived the attack.

“She’ll be a good witness,” he said.

Woodbury First Selectmen Gerald Stomski said late Friday Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Hochsprung was killed in the shooting. Hochsprung had been the principal in the Bethlehem and Woodbury school district before taking the job in Newtown two years ago.

“We were saddened to see her leave, but I know she was excited for that job,” Stomski said. “She was very charismatic and had an incredible way with students and parents.”

Stomski said Hochsprung lived in Woodbury even after she took the job in Newtown. He said word spread through town Friday afternoon that she had died.

“She died protecting the children that she adored so much. It’s just incredibly shocking,’’ he said.

A law enforcement official said the boys' mother, Nancy Lanza, works at the school as a teacher.

A grandmother of the suspect — who is also the mother of teacher believed killed — was too distraught to speak when reached by phone at her home in Brooksville, Fla.

“I just don't know, and I can't make a comment right now,” Dorothy Champion, 78, said in a shaky voice as she started to cry. She said she hadn't heard anything official about her daughter and grandsons. She declined to comment further and hung up.

Friends and neighbors said Nancy Lanza, 52, was a kind woman with a sense of humor. Slender, with short hair, Lanza was a fixture at neighborhood events such as the Labor Day parade, and had a special interest in Christmas lights.

Lanza lived on Yogananda Street, in a hilly, affluent neighborhood in the east end of town. Neighbors call it a children- and family-friendly place, a description backed up by the kids riding their bikes and the folks walking their dogs despite the crush of television trucks and reporters waiting near the Lanza home. 

Though many interviewed in the neighborhood said they didn't know Nancy Lanza, or merely knew that a family by that name lived nearby, those that did know her said the day's events were too much.

Lanza's friend and neighbor Rhonda Cullens fought back tears Friday afternoon in the doorway of her home on Founders Lane, just around the corner from the Lanza residence.

She said she met Nancy Lanza playing bunco, a popular dice game, with a group of women in the neighborhood, but she hadn't seen her for years since she stopped playing with the group. “She was just a sweet, caring person."

The gunman drove to the school in his mother's car, an official said. 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. Officials said later Friday that more guns were found in the school.

President Obama, in an emotional address to the nation Friday afternoon, said "These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children."

“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do," he said. "The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. … They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own." 

“Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to help their children achieve their dreams,” he said. 

State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said two children died at a local hospital and another was injured.

Shortly after 9:40 a.m., police reported that a shooter was in the main office of the school. A person in one room had “numerous gunshot wounds,” police said.

“A minute after our officers were there, they realized what a horrific scene we had there,” said Newtown Police Lt. George Sinko.

Once they know how serious the incident was, they called for help.

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