Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
|Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting|
Police arrive in front of the elementary school after the shooting.
|Location||Sandy Hook, Connecticut, United States|
|Date||December 14, 2012
c. 9:35 am – c. 9:40 am (EST)
|Target||Students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School|
|Attack type||School shooting, murder–suicide, matricide, spree shooting|
|Deaths||28 total; 27 at the school (including perpetrator) and perpetrator's mother (at home)|
|Perpetrator||Adam Peter Lanza|
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. Before driving to the school, Lanza had shot and killed his mother Nancy at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The incident is the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. It is the second deadliest mass murder at an American elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan. It is the most deadly school shooting in any public school in the United States.
The shootings prompted renewed debate about gun control in the United States, and a proposal for new legislation banning the sale and manufacture of certain types of semi-automatic firearms and magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition.
As of November 30, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School had 456 children enrolled in kindergarten through fourth grade. According to school authorities, the school's security protocol had recently been upgraded, requiring visitors to be individually admitted after visual and identification review by video monitor. The doors to the school were locked at 9:30 am each day, after morning arrivals.
Newtown is located in Fairfield County, Connecticut, about 60 miles (97 km) outside New York City. Violent crime had been rare in the town of 28,000 residents; there was only one homicide in the town in the ten years prior to the school shooting.
Some time before 9:30 a.m. EST on Friday, December 14, 2012, Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, age 52, at their Newtown home. Investigators later found her body, clad in pajamas, in her bed with four gunshot wounds to her head. Lanza then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
At about 9:35 am, using his mother's Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, Lanza shot his way through a locked glass door at the front of the school. He was wearing black clothing, earplugs and an olive green utility vest, carrying magazines for the rifle. Initial reports that he had been wearing body armor were incorrect. Some of those present heard initial shots on the school intercom system, which was being used for morning announcements.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were meeting with other faculty members when they heard gunshots. Hochsprung, Sherlach and lead teacher Natalie Hammond immediately left the room, rushed to the source of the sounds, and encountered and confronted Lanza. A faculty member who was at the meeting said the three women called out "Shooter! Stay put!" which alerted their colleagues to the danger and saved their lives. Lanza shot and killed both Hochsprung and Sherlach. Hammond ran back to the meeting room and pressed her body against the door to keep it closed. Lanza shot Hammond through the door, in her leg and arm. She was later treated at Danbury Hospital.
Hochsprung may also have turned on the school intercom to alert others in the building or it may have been left on following morning announcements. A nine-year-old boy said he heard the shooter say: "Put your hands up!" and someone else say "Don't shoot!", people yelling, and many gunshots over the intercom as he, his classmates, and teacher took refuge in a closet in the gymnasium. Diane Day, a school therapist who was at the faculty meeting with Hochsprung, heard screaming, followed by more gunshots. The police reported that a second adult was wounded in the attack, but that individual was not publicly identified. Later reports indicated that the second wounded teacher was closing a door further down the hallway when she was hit in the foot with a ricochet bullet. Lanza never entered her classroom.
First grade students
Lanza entered a first-grade classroom where Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, had herded her first grade students to the back of the room and was trying to hide them in a bathroom. Rousseau and most of the students in her class were killed; a six-year-old girl was the sole survivor. The girl's family pastor said that she survived the mass shooting by playing dead and remaining still. When she reached her mother, she said, "Mommy, I'm okay, but all my friends are dead." The child described the shooter as a very angry man.
Lanza next went to another first-grade classroom nearby. The classroom's teacher, Victoria Leigh Soto, had concealed five children in a closet and some of the other students were hiding under desks. Soto was walking back to the classroom door to lock it when Lanza entered the classroom. Lanza walked to the back of the classroom, saw the children under the desks and shot them. First grader Jesse Lewis shouted at his classmates to run for safety, which several of them did. Lewis was looking directly at Lanza when Lanza fatally shot him. Six of the children who ran out of the classroom escaped, perhaps when Lanza's rifle jammed or when he erred in reloading it. Earlier reports said that as Lanza entered her classroom, Soto reportedly told him that the children were in the auditorium. When several of the children came out of their hiding places and tried to run for safety, Lanza fatally shot them. Soto put herself between her students and the shooter, who then fatally shot her. Six surviving children from Soto's class and a school bus driver took refuge at a nearby home. Police found the five children who had been hidden in the closet unharmed when they entered the classroom. Eleven children from Soto's class survived.
Anne Marie Murphy, a teacher's aide who worked with special-needs students, shielded six-year-old Dylan Hockley with her body, trying to protect him from the bullets that killed them both. Teacher's aide Rachel D'Avino, who had been employed for a week at the school to work with a special-needs student, also died trying to protect her students.
School nurse Sally Cox, 60, hid under a desk in her office. She later described seeing the door opening and Lanza's boots and legs facing her desk from approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) away. He remained standing for a few seconds before turning around and leaving. She and the school secretary Barbara Halstead called 9-1-1 and hid in a first-aid supply closet for up to four hours. Custodian Rick Thorne ran through hallways, alerting classrooms.
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. Lanza is believed to have bypassed her classroom because, following a lockdown drill weeks earlier, Roig failed to remove a piece of black construction paper covering the small window in her classroom door. Lanza may have believed that Roig's classroom was empty because the door was closed and the window was covered.
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. Discovering that one door would not lock, they had the children crawl into a storage room, where Cech barricaded the door with a filing cabinet.
Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik, 50, barricaded her fourth-graders in a tiny supply closet during the rampage. Lanza arrived moments later, pounding and yelling "Let me in", while the students in Kristopik's class quietly hid inside.
Two third graders, chosen as classroom helpers, were walking down the hallway to the office to deliver the morning attendance sheet as the shooting began. Teacher Abbey Clements pulled both children into her classroom, where they hid.
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. Feinstein called the school office and tried to call 911 but could not connect because of lack of reception on her cell phone. She hid with the children for approximately 40 minutes, before law enforcement came to lead them out of the room.
Lanza stopped shooting between 9:46 am and 9:49 am after firing 154 rounds with the rifle. After realizing he had been spotted by a pair of police officers who had entered the building, Lanza fled from their sight, then fatally shot himself in the head with a Glock 10mm handgun in Soto's classroom.
Authorities determined that Lanza reloaded frequently during the shootings, sometimes firing only fifteen rounds from a thirty-round magazine. He shot all of his victims multiple times, and at least one victim, six-year-old Noah Pozner, 11 times. Most of the shooting took place in two first-grade classrooms near the entrance of the school, where he killed 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, and the six adults were all women who worked at the school. Bullets were also found in at least three cars parked outside the school, leading police to believe that he was firing at a teacher who was standing near a window.
Newtown police dispatch first requested officers on the scene at 9:35 am Connecticut State Police received the first call at 9:41 am, and with Newtown police, quickly mobilized local police dog and police tactical units, a bomb squad, and a state police helicopter.
Police locked down the school and began evacuating the survivors room by room, escorting groups of students and adults away from the school. They swept the school for additional shooters at least four times. No shots were fired by the authorities. According to a transcript of police radio traffic, Lanza committed suicide within fifteen minutes of the first 911 call being received.
At approximately 10:00 am, Danbury Hospital scrambled extra medical personnel in expectation of having to treat numerous victims. Three wounded patients were evacuated to the hospital, where two children were later declared dead. The other was an unidentified adult.
The New York City medical examiner dispatched a portable morgue to assist the authorities. The victims' bodies were removed from the school and formally identified during the night after the shooting. A state trooper was assigned to each victim's family to protect their privacy and provide them with information.
Investigators are not believed to have found a suicide note or any messages referring to the planning of the attack. Janet Robinson, superintendent of Newtown schools, said she had not found any connection between Lanza's mother and the school in contrast to initial media reports that stated Lanza's mother had worked there. 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. The state police stated that they did not know of any reports about any altercations at the school.
Police sources initially reported Lanza's sibling, Ryan Lanza, as the perpetrator. This was likely because the perpetrator was carrying his brother's identification, Ryan told The Jersey Journal. Lanza's brother voluntarily submitted to questioning by New Jersey State Police, Connecticut State Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police said he was not considered a suspect, and he was not taken into custody. Ryan Lanza said he had not been in touch with his brother since 2010. Connecticut State Police indicated their concern about misinformation being posted on social media sites and threatened prosecution of anyone involved with such activities.
A large quantity of unused ammunition was recovered inside the school along with three semi-automatic firearms found with Lanza: a .223-caliber Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle (with a 30 round magazine), a 10mm Glock handgun, and a 9mm SIG Sauer P226 handgun. Outside the school, an Izhmash Saiga-12 combat shotgun was found in the car Lanza had driven.
Shortly after the shooting, police announced that Lanza used the rifle to kill the victims at the school. At a press conference on December 15, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the Chief Medical Examiner of Connecticut, was asked about the wounds, and replied "All the ones that I know of at this point were caused by the long weapon." When asked if the children suffered before dying, Carver replied by stating that "If so, not for very long". Under Connecticut law at the time, the 20-year-old Lanza was old enough to carry a long gun, such as a rifle or shotgun, but too young to own or carry handguns.
On March 28, 2013, court documents released from the investigation showed that the school shooting had occurred in the space of less than five minutes with 155 shots fired. This comprised 154 shots from the rifle and one shot from the 10mm pistol used by Adam Lanza to kill himself.
Investigators evaluated Lanza's body, looking for evidence of drugs or medication through toxicology tests. Additionally, although unusual for an investigation of this type and unlikely to provide conclusive information, DNA testing of Lanza was utilized. Lanza's autopsy showed no tumors or gross deformities in his brain.
Lanza removed the hard drive from his computer and damaged it prior to the shooting, creating a challenge for investigators to recover data. Police believe that Lanza extensively researched earlier mass shootings, including the 2011 Norway attacks and the 2006 Amish school shooting at a one-room school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
Details of the investigation were reported by law enforcement officials at a meeting of the International Association of Police Chiefs and Colonels held during the week of March 11, 2013. An article published in the New York Daily News on March 17, 2013, provided purported details of this report by an anonymous law enforcement veteran who had attended the meeting. The source stated that the investigation had found that Lanza had created a 7-by-4 foot sized spreadsheet listing around 500 mass murderers and the weapons they used, which was considered to have taken years of work and to have been used by Lanza as a "score sheet". On March 18, 2013, Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police responded that the information from this meeting was "law enforcement sensitive information" and considered the release to be a leak. Lt. Vance also stated that the investigation is ongoing and that police will not speak directly to the public or release information prior to informing families involved in the shooting.
The March 28 documents also provided details on items found at Lanza's home, including three samurai swords, a newspaper article about the Northern Illinois University shooting, and a National Rifle Association certificate. The NRA denied that Adam Lanza or Nancy Lanza were members and reporters noted that the NRA site provides training certificate completion templates for courses offered by NRA affiliated instructors. A gun safe was found in a bedroom and investigators found more than 1,400 rounds of ammunition and other firearms. At home, Lanza had access to three more firearms: a .45 Henry rifle, a .30 Enfield rifle, and a .22 Marlin rifle. These were legally owned by Lanza's mother who was described as a gun enthusiast.
According to the New York Times, two law enforcement officials who were initially involved in the investigation said they believed that Adam Lanza had spent most of his time in the basement of the home, primarily playing a warfare video game, Call of Duty. According to these officials, it also appeared that Lanza "may have taken target practice in the basement".
Adam Peter Lanza (April 22, 1992 – December 14, 2012) and his mother lived in Sandy Hook, 5 miles (8 km) from the elementary school. He did not have a criminal record. He attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for a brief time. Afterward, he attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Newtown, and then Newtown High School, where he was an honors student. Lanza subsequently was home-schooled by his mother, and earned a GED. Lanza's aunt said his mother removed him from the Newtown public school system because she was unhappy with the school district's plans for her son. He attended Western Connecticut State University in 2008 and 2009.
Students and teachers who knew him in high school described Lanza as "intelligent, but nervous and fidgety". He avoided attracting attention and was uncomfortable socializing. He is not known to have had any close friends in school.
Lanza's brother told law enforcement that Adam was believed to have a personality disorder and was "somewhat autistic". An anonymous law enforcement official and friends of Nancy Lanza reported that Adam had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. According to the Hartford Courant and Frontline, Lanza was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder when he was about 6. This disorder does not have official status by the medical community as a formal diagnosis but is frequently one of the characteristics of autism.
Following her divorce from Adam's father, a corporate executive, Nancy Lanza was supported by alimony payments. A relative commented that she did not have to work because the divorce settlement had left her "very well off". There were initially conflicting reports on whether Nancy Lanza had worked as a volunteer at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Her sister-in-law described Nancy Lanza as a "gun enthusiast who owned at least a dozen firearms". She often took her two sons to a local shooting range and had them learn to shoot.
Due to concerns that published accounts of Lanza's autism could result in a backlash against others with the condition, autism advocates campaigned to clarify that autism is a brain-related developmental problem and not a mental illness. The predatory aggression demonstrated by Lanza in this rampage is generally not seen in the autistic population.
President Barack Obama gave a televised address 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." Obama expressed "enormous sympathy for families that are affected". He also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other U.S. federal government facilities worldwide in respect of the victims. On December 16, Obama traveled to Newtown where he met with victims' families and spoke at an interfaith vigil. President Obama honored the six slain adults posthumously with the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal on February 15, 2013.
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." Hundreds of mourners, including Malloy, attended vigils in various churches in Newtown. On December 17, Malloy called for a statewide moment of silence and church bells to be tolled 26 times at 9:30 am on Friday, December 21, exactly one week after the school shooting.
U.S. 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."
The day after the shootings, 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."
As a result of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed in 2005, the maker of the weapon used in the shootings cannot be sued for negligence, as occurred after the 2002 Beltway sniper shootings.
Leaders from many countries and organizations throughout the world also offered their condolences through the weekend after the shooting.
In his speech at the December 16 vigil, Obama called for using "whatever power this office holds", to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Within 15 hours of the incident, 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. President Obama later affirmed that he would make gun control a "central issue" at the start of his second term of office, in a speech on December 19; signing 23 executive orders and proposing 12 congressional actions regarding gun control, one month after the shooting. The President formed a Gun Violence Task Force to be led by Vice President Joe Biden to address the causes of gun violence in the United States. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Joe Lieberman called for an assault weapon ban, with Feinstein intending to introduce a ban bill on the first day of the new Congress, while former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and injured in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, has launched Americans for Responsible Solutions to raise money for further gun control efforts in light of the Sandy Hook shooting. Fear of future restrictions on firearms led to a spike in sales of guns, ammunition, and magazines in the weeks following the shooting.
On December 21, 2012, the National Rifle Association called on the United States Congress to appropriate funds for the hiring of armed police officers in every American school to protect students. The NRA also announced the creation of a school protection program called the National School Shield Program, which would be led by former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator and United States Congressman Asa Hutchinson.
A month after the shooting, President Obama cited the incident while announcing proposals for increased gun control. His proposals included universal background checks on firearms purchases, an assault weapons ban, and limiting magazine capacity to 10 cartridges. Relatives of the victims in the shooting and survivors from other mass shootings were official guests during the announcement.
On January 17, 2013, the Utah Sheriffs’ Association sent a letter to President Obama criticizing attempts "to demonize firearms". In the letter, they suggested that they would refuse to uphold federal laws that restricted the Second Amendment rights of their constituents.
On April 17, 2013, a bill that would have seen the restrictions on gun control, known as the Manchin-Toomey Background Checks Bill, failed to pass the U.S. Senate by six votes, with 48 democrats and 4 Republicans voting for the bill, and 5 democrats and 41 Republicans voting against. The NRA released a statement critiquing the bill, stating that "expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools."  In a speech the following day, Obama called the failing of the bill "shameful" and stated how the Republicans had "wilfully lied" about the proposal on background checks, while Ted Cruz, a leading opponent of the bill, stated that making a registry is the only way to make the background checks effective.
Impact on the community
The school was closed indefinitely following the shooting, partially because it remained a crime scene. Sandy Hook students returned to school on January 3, 2013, at Chalk Hill Middle School in nearby Monroe at the town's invitation. Chalk Hill at the time was an unused facility, refurbished after the shooting, with desks and equipment brought in from Sandy Hook Elementary. The Chalk Hill school has been temporarily renamed "Sandy Hook". The University of Connecticut created a scholarship for the surviving children of the shootings.
On January 31, 2013, the Newtown school board voted unanimously to ask for police officer presence in all of its elementary schools; previously other schools in the district had such protection, but Sandy Hook had not been one of those.
After the town clerk's office was inundated with requests from the media, Connecticut House of Representatives Republican Dan Carter introduced legislation that would restrict access to public information available under the Freedom of Information Act.
On May 10, 2013, a task force of 28 appointed members voted to demolish the existing Sandy Hook Elementary school and have a new school built in its place. The $57 million proposed project will go to the Newtown Board of Education for approval, followed by being placed on a public ballot.
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- List of school-related attacks
- List of school shootings in the United States
- Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories
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