NEWTOWN, Conn. — The suspected killer of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school shot out a glass entrance to get into the building, and then opened fire in two rooms, a law enforcement source told the New Haven Register.
As this small Connecticut town mourned Saturday, teams of detectives continued to go through “every crack and crevice” of the school, where a gunman killed a total of 26 people, and then himself, a state police spokesman said.
Lt. J. Paul Vance said detectives already had recovered “very good evidence in this investigation” that will help determine how and why 20-year-old Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On Saturday, flowers and candles were piling up at the school’s sign near that entrance. Jessica Henderson, who lives in Shelton but attended Newtown High School, teared up after leaving flowers with her boyfriend, Nick Verderame. The scariest part, they said, is that it could have happened anywhere.
"It could have been my little brother," Verderame said. "At that age you don't realize what's going on. This is so real, it's so personal."
On Saturday, authorities said they were preparing to release the names of those killed in the chilling massacre, in which Lanza killed his mother, Nancy, and then traveled to the school to kill the others.
Friends and co-workers identified Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherloch as two of the victims, and news organizations were continuing to identify other victims.
The shooting Friday began just after 9:30 a.m. in the school about 60 miles northeast of New York City, setting off a nightmarish scene in which students and teachers hid under desks and in closets before being escorted to safety and reunited with their families.
Brenda Lebinski, who was still with her daughter, Sofia Lebinksi, a third-grader at the school, near the school on Friday night, said she is "going to count every blessing" that Sofia survived.
"I'm going to hug her, I'm not going to let her go," Lebinksi said. "I’m going to try to help the families and help the community as much as I can."
The death toll at Sandy Hook — 26 students and adults — made it the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, where 32 were killed.
There were multiple reports that Lanza, who lived with his mother, woke up and shot her to death. Then, he took her car and drove to the school, and unleashed bullets in two classrooms. There were also multiple reports that Nancy Lanza worked in some capacity the school, but doubt was being cast on those reports Saturday afternoon and officials told the Associated Press they couldn’t establish a connection between his mother and the school. A law enforcement official speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to it. However, police were investigating whether Lanza was the person who had some kind of alteration with four staffers at the school on Thursday, NBC News reported.
A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack — and perhaps saving many lives — by letting them hear the hysteria going on in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.
Authorities gave few details on exactly how the attack unfolded, saying they are keeping some details “close to our chest” as they continue to investigate the crime scene. But police radio traffic indicated the shooting lasted only a few minutes.
Officers arrived instantaneously, immediately entered the school, breaking windows and searching it completely before finding Lanza dead, Vance said. Later, at least 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. Vance said at a Saturday morning news conference that investigators were tracking the history of each of the three weapons recovered. Lanza also apparently tried to buy a rifle several days before the shooting, but did not succeed.
A law enforcement official said Adam Lanza was known to have some kind of personality disorder, but he did not have a criminal record. His older brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, had been extremely cooperative, and was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records. In some early confusion, Ryan Lanza was initially named as the shooter by police.
The elder brother told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010. Peter Lanza, father of Adam and Ryan, was informed about the shooting Friday afternoon by a reporterwho was waiting outside his home in nearby Stamford. He and Nancy Lanza filed for divorce in 2008.
When President Barack Obama addressed the nation just after 3 p.m. on Friday, he cried.
“I know there is not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” said Obama, who paused several times during his remarks to compose himself and dab his eyes. “They had their entire lives ahead of them. birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
He promised action to prevent such tragedies again but did not say how he would do it.
Gov. Daniel Malloy spoke briefly at a press conference on Friday and said, "It's a tragic, tragic scene.” Later in the day, the somber governor said “evil visited this community.”
Late Friday, thousands gathered at church services to show support for the families who lost loved ones.
At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, people filled the pews, the front yard and nearly spilled out into the road. Children carried stuffed animals.
Megan Olszewski, a 14-year-old freshman at a nearby high school, was in the auditorium when her school went on lockdown and students hid in between seats. She said they were told there had been a shooting at the elementary school, and when they heard the death toll was 27, “it was horrific."
She said classmates said they wished it happened at the high school instead because they believed they might have been able to stop it.