December 16, 2012

Conn. school victims shot by rifle multiple times

The Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Investigators on Saturday worked to understand what led a bright but painfully awkward 20-year-old to slaughter 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, while townspeople took down Christmas decorations and struggled with how to get through a holiday season that has suddenly become a time of mourning.

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A police roadblock serves as a makeshift memorial at the corner of Riverside and Cherry Streets on Saturday in Newtown, Conn.

AP

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Jessica Henderson, 19, walks past a sign with a bouquet of flowers to lay at a memorial at The Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., on Saturday.

AP

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The tragedy spurred soul-searching and grief around the globe. Families as far away as Puerto Rico began to plan funerals for victims who still had their baby teeth, world leaders extended condolences, and vigils were held around the U.S.

Amid the sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal who lost her life lunging at the gunman, Adam Lanza, in an attempt to overpower him.

Police shed no light on the motive for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence ... that our investigators will be able to use in painting the complete picture, the how and, more importantly, the why." He would not elaborate.

However, another law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators have found no note or manifesto of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.

The mystery deepened as Newtown education officials said they had found no link between Lanza's mother and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there on Friday.

Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at the home they shared, then drove to the school in her car with at least three of her guns, forced his way inside and opened fire in two classrooms, authorities said. Within minutes, he killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

On Saturday, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said all the victims at the school were killed up close and shot more than once.

The tragedy plunged Newtown into mourning and added the picturesque New England community of handsome colonial homes, red-brick sidewalks and 27,000 people to the grim map of towns where mass shootings in recent years have periodically reignited the national debate over gun control but led to little change.

Signs in downtown Newtown read, "Hug a teacher today," ''Please pray for Newtown" and "Love will get us through."

"People in my neighborhood are feeling guilty about it being Christmas. They are taking down decorations," said Jeannie Pasacreta, a psychologist who was advising parents struggling with how to talk to their children.

Authorities had yet to release the list of the dead, but in the tightly knit town, nearly everyone seemed to know someone who died.

Among the dead: well-liked Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who town officials say tried to stop the rampage and paid with her life; the school psychologist who probably would have helped survivors grapple with the tragedy; a teacher thrilled to have been hired this year; and a 6-year-old girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada.

The Hartford Courant reported that a number of media outlets, including CNN and NBC News, citied sources in reporting that Lanza had been involved in some sort of altercation at the school the day before the shooting. That could not be confirmed by local authorities.

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A couple of volunteer firefighters place flowers at a makeshift memorial at a sign for the Sandy Hook Elementary school on Satuday.

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