December 28, 2013

Police file on Newtown yields chilling portrait

The thousands of pages include text, photos and recordings of 911 calls, but shooter Adam Lanza’s motives may never be known.

By John Christoffersen
The Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Connecticut police released thousands of pages Friday from their investigation into the Newtown massacre, providing the most detailed and disturbing picture yet of the rampage and Adam Lanza's fascination with murder, while also depicting school employees' brave and clear-headed attempts to protect the children.

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A makeshift memorial with crosses for the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre stands outside a home in Newtown, Conn., earlier this month on the one-year anniversary of the shootings. Connecticut authorities Friday released state police documents from the investigation.

The Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

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This undated identification file photo provided Wednesday, April 3, 2013, by Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Conn., shows former student Adam Lanza, who authorities said opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, killing 26 students and educators. State police said their report from the investigation into last year's Newtown school massacre will be released at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.

Key findings in newly released Newtown documents

— Five teachers were meeting in Classroom 20 between 9 and 9:30 a.m. when they heard banging. Someone entered the room and told them to leave because he thought he smelled gunpowder. They began to hide, and then broke a window to climb out. Four of the five crawled out, but one couldn't get through the window and stayed behind. The ones who escaped ran to a Subway restaurant across the street from the school.

— Teachers told investigators they heard janitor Rick Thorn confront gunman Adam Lanza and attempt to get him to leave the school. One teacher, who was hiding in a closet in the math lab, heard Thorn yell, "Put the gun down!" Thorn was not killed.

— A male friend of Lanza's mother, Nancy, told investigators she had planned to sell their home in Newtown and move to Washington state or North Carolina, where she hoped Adam could get a job. She planned to buy an RV for Adam Lanza to sleep in. If they went to Washington, Nancy said, there was a special school where she planned to enroll him. In North Carolina, she said, a friend owned a computer firm and had agreed to give Adam a job and teach him the business.

— Images taken at the Lanza home show an open case of earplugs used to protect the hearing of someone firing a gun, curved ammunition magazines and gun cases. One room's windows are covered with dark plastic bags. In Nancy Lanza's room, where she was killed in bed, the rifle used by her son lay on the floor nearby.

Included in the file were photographs of the home the 20-year-old Lanza shared with his mother. They show numerous rounds of ammunition, gun magazines, shot-up paper targets, gun cases, shooting earplugs and a gun safe with a rifle in it.

A former teacher of Lanza's was quoted as telling investigators that Lanza exhibited anti-social behavior, rarely interacted with other students and obsessed in writings "about battles, destruction and war."

"In all my years of experience, I have known (redacted) grade boys to talk about things like this, but Adam's level of violence was disturbing," the teacher told investigators. The teacher added: "Adam's creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared."

The documents' release marks the end of the investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Lanza went to the school after killing his mother, Nancy, inside their home. He committed suicide with a handgun as police arrived at the school.

The documents also fill in more details about how the shooting unfolded and how staff members looked out for the youngsters.

Teachers heard janitor Rick Thorne try to get Lanza to leave the school. One teacher, who was hiding in a closet in the math lab, heard Thorne yell, "Put the gun down!" An aide said she heard gunfire and Thorne told her to close her door. Thorne survived.

Teacher Kaitlin Roig told police she heard "rapid-fire shooting" outside of the school, near her classroom. She rushed her students into the classroom's bathroom, pulled a rolling storage unit in front of the bathroom door as a barricade and then closed and locked the door.

She heard a voice say, "Oh, please, no. Please, no." Eventually, police officers slid their badges under the bathroom door. Roig refused to come out and told them that if they were truly police, they should be able to get the key to the door — which they did.

Others weren't so lucky.

Police Lt. Christopher Vanghele said he and another officer found what appeared to be about 15 bodies, mostly children, packed in another bathroom "like sardines." So many people had tried to cram inside the bathroom that the door couldn't be closed, and the shooter gunned them all down, Vanghele surmised.

The paperwork, photos and videos were heavily blacked out to protect the names of children and to withhold some of the more grisly details of the crime.

In a letter accompanying the files, Reuben F. Bradford, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, wrote that much of the report was disturbing but that it also showed teachers trying to protect their children, law enforcement officials putting themselves in harm's way, and dispatchers working calmly and efficiently.

"In the midst of the darkness of that day, we also saw remarkable heroism and glimpses of grace," he wrote.

In the documents, a friend told police that Nancy Lanza reported that her son had hit his head several days before the shootings. And an ex-boyfriend told police that she canceled a trip to London on the week of the shooting because of "a couple last-minute problems on the home front."

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