President Obama To Meet Families Of CT Massacre Victims
NEWTOWN, Connecticut (CNN) – In a town still numb from an inexplicable massacre of children, relatives of the victims will meet with President Barack Obama on Sunday when the president visits.
Questions and anguish abound two days after police said a gunman shot his mother before killing 20 students and six adults at a nearby elementary school. He apparently turned a weapon on himself, silencing any way for the world to understand fully what was in his mind.
While the community grieves, authorities continue chipping away for clues as to why the tragedy unfolded.
Here’s the latest on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown:
All the victims died from gunshot wounds and were struck multiple times, said H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner. Their deaths were classified as homicides.
“This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen,” Carver told reporters.
All 20 of the slain children were either 6 or 7 years old.
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy said he released the names of victims to families who had been anxiously waiting for word in a nearby firehouse.
“The parents had been gathered for hours, clinging to hope,” he told CNN on Sunday. “And you can never be prepared for that, to tell 18 to 20 folks, or actually families, that their loved one would not be returning to them.”
Among those killed was 6-year-old Emilie Parker. Her father struggled to hold back tears while recalling the life cut far too short.
“As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts, we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was and how many lives that she was able to touch in her short time here on Earth,” Robbie Parker told reporters.
“She loved to use her talents to touch the lives of everyone that she came in contact with,” he added. “She always carried around her markers and pencils so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her.”
Robbie Parker also offered his condolences to all the families affected.
“This includes the family of the shooter,” he said. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family, and our love and support goes out to you as well.”
Six adults were also killed in the school rampage, including principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, first-grade teacher Vicki Soto and substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau.
Hochsprung recently oversaw the installation of a new security system requiring every visitor to ring the front entrance’s doorbell after the school doors locked at 9:30 a.m.
Authorities said the first emergency call about the shooting came in at “approximately” 9:30 a.m. Friday.
The shooter used a gun to force his way into the building, Connecticut’s governor said Sunday.
“What we know is he shot his way into the building. He was not buzzed in,” Malloy said. “He penetrated the building by literally shooting an entrance into the building. That’s what an assault weapon can do for you.”
Investigators have been combing “every crack and crevice” of the school and have found some “very good evidence” there and at suspect Adam Lanza’s home, where his mother, Nancy, was killed.
“The detectives will certainly analyze everything and put a complete picture together of the evidence that they did obtain, and we’re hopeful — we’re hopeful — that it will paint a complete picture as to how and why this entire unfortunate incidence occurred,” said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for Connecticut State Police.
The gunman terrorized the elementary school wearing black fatigues and a military vest, according a law enforcement official.
A parent who was inside the school at the time of the attack said she heard what sounded like at least 100 rounds fired.
The gun control debate
The deadly shooting that shattered this quiet New England town also reignited the ongoing debate about gun laws in America.
Adam Lanza was found dead next to three guns — a semiautomatic .223-caliber rifle made by Bushmaster and two handguns made by Glock and Sig Sauer, a law enforcement source told CNN. All belonged to his mother.
Carver, who performed autopsies on seven of the victims, said the wounds he knew about were caused by a “long weapon” and that the rifle was the primary weapon used.
Nancy Lanza was a gun collector and recently showed off a newly bought rifle to fellow Newtown resident Dan Holmes, who owns a landscaping business in the town.
Besides the three weapons found at the school, the shooter also had access to at least three more guns, a law enforcement source said.
The few relatives and acquaintances who have spoken out about Adam Lanza were at a loss to explain how this could have happened.
An aunt and a former classmate described him as very intelligent and quiet. He had no known criminal record.
The suspect’s father, Peter Lanza, released a statement Saturday expressing condolences to the families of victims.
“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,” the statement read. “We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can.”
The suspect’s father and brother have been questioned by authorities, law enforcement officers said.
The massacre in Newtown is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, behind the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting spree that left 32 dead.
“Stuff like this does not happen in Newtown,” said Renee Burn, a teacher at another school in the town, which is roughly 75 miles northeast of New York.
Until Friday, only one homicide in 10 years had been reported in the upscale community of expansive homes surrounded by woods, where many residents commute to jobs in Manhattan and the nearby Connecticut cities of Stamford and Hartford.
Gene Rosen, who lives near the Sandy Hook school, told CNN affiliate WFSB-TV in Hartford he was surprised when a group of young children ran onto his front lawn Friday. They mentioned a gun, and their teacher. Rosen called their parents. At the time, it wasn’t clear how the children got to his house, or exactly what had happened.
Choking back tears, Rosen told the CNN affiliate that the children, ages 6 to 8, were clear about one thing: “They just said, ‘I can’t go back to that school.’ “