Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses. (December 2012)

Newtown, located within
Fairfield County of Connecticut

Location Newtown, Connecticut, U.S.

Coordinates 41°25′12″N 73°16′43″W

Date December 14, 2012
c. 9:35 a.m. – c. 9:49 a.m.[2][3](EST)

Target Students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Weapon(s) Recovered at the school:[4][5]

Deaths 27 at the school (including the perpetrator), plus Nancy Lanza (killed at home); 28 total[6][7]

Injured 2[8]

Perpetrator Adam Peter Lanza[9][10]

Motive Unknown

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Peter Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Connecticut.[6][7] Before driving to the school, he had shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their nearby Newtown home.[9][11][12] After shooting the students and staff members, he committed suicide.

The massacre was the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre; it was the second-deadliestmass murder at an American elementary school, after the Bath School bombings of 1927.[13][14]

As of November 30, 2012, 456 students were enrolled in Sandy Hook School, in kindergarten through fourth grade.[15] School authorities stated that they had recently upgraded the school's security protocol, requiring visitors to be individually admitted after visual and identification review by video monitor. The doors to the school were locked at 9:30 a.m. each day after morning arrivals.[16]

Newtown, located in the Fairfield County suburbs of New York City, was known for its "rural charm" and its family-oriented environment. Violent crime is rare in the town of 28,000 residents: there had been only one homicide in the town in the ten years prior to the school shooting.[17]


The first killings

Some time before 9:30 a.m. (1430 UTC) on December 14, 2012, Adam Peter Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, aged 52, with a .22 Marlin rifle at their Newtown home.[12] Investigators later found her body in her bed, wearing pajamas, with four gunshots to her head.[18] Lanza then drove his mother's car to Sandy Hook Elementary School.[11][12]

Red circle: Sandy Hook Elementary School
Black circle: Lanza household

At about 9:35 a.m., using his mother's Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, Lanza shot his way in through a locked glass door at the front of the school.[19][20]He was wearing black military-style gear, including a bulletproof vest and mask.[21][22] Some of those present reported that initial shots were heard on the school intercom system, which was being used for morning announcements.[16]

Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were in a meeting with other faculty members when they heard gunshots outside. Hochsprung and Sherlach immediately left the room and rushed to the source of the sounds and encountered Lanza, who shot both women dead as they confronted him.[23] Hochsprung may have turned on the school intercom to alert others in the building. A 9-year-old boy in the gymnasium also reported hearing the shooter say "Put your hands up!" over the intercom system and someone else saying "Don't shoot!" The child said he also heard people yelling and many gunshots over the intercom as he, his classmates, and teacher took refuge in a closet in the gymnasium.[24] Diane Day, a school therapist who was at the faculty meeting as well, reported hearing 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 the leg and arm, for which she was later treated at Danbury Hospital.[23][25]

Classroom slayings

Teacher Victoria Soto attempted to hide several children in a closet and cupboards.[26][27] As Lanza entered her classroom, Soto 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.[27] 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 the nearby home of Gene Rosen, a retired psychologist.[28]

Anne Marie Murphy, a teacher's aide who worked with special needs students, shielded 6-year-old Dylan Hockley with her body, trying to protect him from the bullets that killed them both.[29][30]Paraprofessional 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.[31]

In a nearby first grade classroom, Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher since October, was shot in the face and killed. All but one of the children in her classroom were also shot dead. A 6-year-old girl was the sole survivor. Her family pastor said that the child 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, covered in blood, and was the first child to escape the building. When she reached her mother, she said, "Mommy, I'm OK, but all my friends are dead." The child described the shooter as a very angry man.[32]

According to his parents, a 6-year-old boy in one of the classes gathered a group of his classmates and the children all escaped out the door when the gunman shot their teacher.[33]

Elsewhere in the building

School nurse Sarah Cox, 60, hid under a desk in her office and described seeing Lanza enter her office and stand 20 feet away 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.[34] The custodian ran through hallways, alerting classrooms.[35]

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.[36][37] 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.[6][38][24]

Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik, 50, barricaded her fourth-graders in a tiny supply closet during the rampage.[39] Lanza arrived moments later, pounding and yelling "Let me in", while the students in Maryrose Kristopik's class quietly hid inside.[40]

Two third graders, chosen as classroom helpers, were walking down the hallway to the office to deliver the morning attendance sheet during the shooting. Teacher Abbey Clements pulled both children into her classroom, where they hid, saving their lives.[41]

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.[42] 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 finally came to lead them out of the room.[43]

Lanza stopped shooting between 9:46 a.m. and 9:53 a.m., after firing approximately 50 to 100 rounds.[44] He shot all of his victims multiple times, and at least one victim, 6-year-old Noah Pozner, 11 times.[45][46] He shot mostly in two first-grade classrooms, 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,[47] and the six adults were all women who worked at the school. Lanza shot himself in the head as first responders arrived.[48][49][50][51]

First response

Police arrive in front of the elementary school after the shooting.

Newtown police dispatch first requested officers on the scene at 9:35 a.m.[44] State police received the first call at 9:41 a.m.,[36] and with Newtown police, quickly mobilized local K9 and Police Tactical Units, a bomb squad, and a state police helicopter.[52] Police began to evacuate the locked-down school room-by-room, escorting groups of students and adults away from the school.

The school was swept for additional shooters at least four times by the police. No shots were fired by the authorities. Starting around 10:00 a.m.,Danbury Hospital scrambled extra medical personnel in expectation of having to treat numerous victims. Only three wounded patients were evacuated to the hospital, where two were later declared dead.[52][53] In addition, there was a fourth victim who was injured in the attack, but survived.[8] The New York City medical examiner dispatched a portable morgue to assist with the aftermath.[16]

Nancy Lanza, 52, perpetrator's mother (at home)

School staff
Rachel D'Avino, 29, teacher's aide[57]
Dawn Hochsprung, 47, principal[58]
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, teacher's aide[59]
Lauren Rousseau, 30, teacher[60]
Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist[61]
Victoria Soto, 27, teacher

Charlotte Bacon, 6[62]
Daniel Barden, 7[63]
Olivia Engel, 6[64]
Josephine Gay, 7[65]
Dylan Hockley, 6[66]
Madeleine Hsu, 6[67]
Catherine Hubbard, 6[68]
Chase Kowalski, 7[69]
Jesse Lewis, 6[70]
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6[71][72]
James Mattioli, 6[73]
Grace McDonnell, 6[74]
Emilie Parker, 6[75]
Jack Pinto, 6[76]
Noah Pozner, 6[77]
Caroline Previdi, 6[78]
Jessica Rekos, 6[79]
Avielle Richman, 6[80]
Benjamin Wheeler, 6[81]
Allison Wyatt, 6[82]

Natalie Hammond, 40, lead teacher[83]
1 unnamed adult[8]


The victims' bodies were removed from the school and formally identified during the night after the shooting.[84][85] A state trooper was assigned to each of the victims' families to protect their privacy and to provide information directly to them ahead of press releases by the authorities.

A large quantity of unused ammunition was recovered from the school along with three semi-automatic firearms found with Adam Lanza: a .223caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle,[86] a 10mm Glock 20 SF handgun[5][87] and a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun.[4][88] A shotgun was found in the car Lanza had driven to the school.[5] At home, Lanza had access to three more firearms: a .45 Henry repeating rifle, a .30 Enfield rifle, and a .22 Marlin rifle.[13][89][90] Lanza used the .22 Marlin rifle to kill his mother, but did not bring that weapon to the school.[91] The weapons were legally owned by Lanza's mother, who was a gun enthusiast.[92][93] Police said Lanza used the Bushmaster rifle against most of the victims, and according to the medical examiner all victims were shot multiple times with the same "long weapon".[94][95][96] Under Connecticut law,[97] the 20-year-old Lanza was old enough to carry a long gun,[98] but too young to legally own or carry handguns.[99]

Investigators are not believed to have found a suicide note or any messages referring to the planning of the attack.[100] Janet Robinson, the school superintendent, said she had not found any connection between Lanza's mother and the school, in contrast to initial accounts from the authorities that stated Lanza's mother had worked there.[96] Lanza removed the hard drive from his computer and damaged it prior to the shooting, creating a challenge for investigators to recover data.[101]

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.[102] The Connecticut State Police stated that they did not know of any reports about any altercations at the school.[103]

At the time of the shooting, Adam Lanza was carrying identification of his older brother Ryan,[104] initially leading police sources to report the sibling as the perpetrator. Ryan Lanza 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 was not taken into custody.[11][105] Ryan Lanza said he had not been in touch with his brother since 2010.[106][107] Connecticut State Police indicated their concern about misinformation being posted on social media sites, and threatened prosecution of anyone involved with such activities.[108]

According to anonymous reports, authorities were investigating whether Lanza attempted to buy a rifle at a sporting goods store in Danbury, Connecticut two days before the massacre. Anonymous sources claimed Lanza was turned down because he did not want to undergo abackground check or abide by the state's waiting period for gun sales.[109] On December 18, a spokesperson for a sporting goods store chain named in some reports said, "At this time, reports that the suspect visited one of our stores last week have not been confirmed by law enforcement."[110]


Adam Peter Lanza was born on April 22, 1992 in Exeter, New Hampshire.[111] Nancy Lanza had married his father on June 6, 1981.[112] They also had another son, Ryan Lanza, born just a few years before Adam.

Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary for a time.[113] Afterwards he attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Newtown[114] andNewtown High School, where he was an honors student.[115] An aunt of his, Marsha Lanza, said Adam's mother had removed him from the Newtown public school system because she was unhappy with the school district's plans for her son.[116] Lanza subsequently was home-schooled by his mother and earned a GED. He attended Western Connecticut State University in 2008 and 2009.[117] Lanza did not have a criminal record.[9][118][119]

Adam Lanza

Lanza's parents divorced in September 2009.[120] Nancy Lanza was supported by alimony paid by her ex-husband of Stamford, a corporate executive.[121][122][123]Nancy stayed home to take care of Adam.

Lanza lived with his mother at her house in Sandy Hook, 5 miles (8 km) from the elementary school.[124] According to her sister-in-law, she was a gun enthusiast and owned at least a dozen firearms.[125][126][127][128] She often took her two sons to a local shooting range.[121]

Students and teachers who knew him in high school described Lanza as "intelligent, but nervous and fidgety". He avoided attention and was uncomfortable with socializing. He is not known to have had any close friends in school.[124]

Lanza's brother told law enforcement that Adam was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and was "somewhat autistic".[129] A law enforcement official[130]and friends of Nancy Lanza[131] reported that Adam had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.[132] Several medical experts have stated that there is no link between violence and either Asperger's or autism in general.[133][134][135]


President Obama's remarks on the day of the shooting

President Barack Obama gave a televised address at 3:16 p.m. EST on 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."[136] Obama paused twice during the address to compose himself and wipe away tears, and expressed "enormous sympathy for families that are affected".[137][138][139] He also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other US federal government facilities worldwide in respect of the victims.[140] On December 16, Obama traveled to Newtown where he met with victims' families and spoke at an interfaith vigil.[141]

Flowers for the victims from people of Newtown

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."[17][142][143] Hundreds of mourners, including Governor Malloy, attended vigils in various churches in Newtown.[144][145] On December 17, Governor Malloy called for a statewide moment of silence and church bells to be tolled 26 times at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, December 21.[146]

US 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."[147]

The day after the shootings, Adam 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.[123]

Leaders from many countries and organizations throughout the world also offered their condolences through the weekend after the shooting.[148]

The school was closed indefinitely following the shooting, partially because it remains a crime scene.[149] The nearby town of Monroe invited the school to use the facilities at their former Chalk Hill Middle School site.[150][151] The University of Connecticut created a scholarship for the surviving children of the shootings.[152]

In his speech at the December 16 vigil, Obama called for a renewed push for a better America, using "whatever power this office holds", to prevent similar tragedies in the future.[153] Within 15 hours of the massacre, 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.[154]Senators Dianne Feinstein and Joe Lieberman called for an assault rifle ban, with Feinstein intending to introduce a ban bill on the first day of the new Congress.[155][156] The National Rifle Association of America said it was shocked and saddened by the tragedy in Newtown, and is "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again".[157]

See also
Dunblane school massacre, a similar attack in 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland
Gun violence in the United States
List of attacks related to primary schools
List of school-related attacks
List of school shootings in the United States


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