Connecticut school shooting: massacre at Sandy Hook leaves 20 children dead
At least 27 people died when Adam Lanza, 20, began firing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the sleepy New England town of Newtown, Connecticut, 60 miles from New York.
He used weapons including a .223 rifle and two handguns, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, according to witnesses.
Sandy Hook teaches children from kindergarten through to the fourth grade, roughly ages five to 10, and many of the victims were reported to be the youngest in the school.
The dead included the gunman’s mother, named as Nancy Lanza, and the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47. The New York Times said last night that the son had walked into his mother’s classroom, shot and killed her and her pupils.
As he attacked, some children fled through nearby woodland and back yards. Other survivors, some crying, were led to safety in a line with their hands on the shoulders of the child in front.
Two young girls described seeing the gunman go into their classroom and shoot their teacher.
President Barack Obama went on television and appeared to weep as he said: “Our hearts are broken today.”
Referring to the dead children, he said: “They had their entire lives ahead of them. There is not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”
He promised “meaningful action” regardless of the politics of gun control in America. He also ordered flags at the White House to be flown at half mast.
The gunman, reportedly all in black and wearing body armour and a mask, was found dead in a classroom, but it was not clear whether he took his own life or was shot by police.
A second man wearing camouflage trousers was seen being handcuffed. One witness described him shouting: “I didn’t do it.”
Adam Lanza's older brother Ryan, 24, was being questioned by police. Lanza's girlfriend and another friend were missing in New Jersey.
A mother who was in a meeting with the principal and half a dozen other people at about 9.30am described having heard a “pop pop pop” in the hallway. She said that the principal, vice-principal and school psychologist went out. “Only one person came back. The vice-principal was shot in the leg or the foot and came crawling back,” she added.
The witness described cowering under a table and said that 100 rounds or more might have been fired. Two bodies were seen in the hallway in a pool of blood and children had to run past.
One nine-year-old boy said: “I was in the gym. We heard lots of bangs and we thought it was the custodian knocking stuff down. Then we heard screaming. Then police came in and said, 'Is he in here?’ Then they ran out and we went to the closet in the gym and hid. Then we ran to the fire house and saw a guy on the floor in handcuffs. We were just happy to be alive.”
Brenda Lebinski, another parent, said that her eight-year-old daughter had been among children saved by a teacher who locked them in a closet.
“My daughter’s teacher is a hero,” she said. “Everyone was in hysterics – parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don’t know if they were shot, but they were bloodied.”
Soon afterwards, police raided a home in the nearby state of New Jersey.
At a separate crime scene, in Newtown, reported to be the gunman’s parents’ home, a body was found by police. Officers said that a possible second gunman was being questioned.
It was the latest in a series of mass shootings over the last several years. In 2007 Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others at Virginia Tech university. In July this year James Holmes killed 12 and injured 58 at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado.
Security expert Lou Palumbo said "When you look at a death toll, with this number of children, we've surpassed any of these prior incidents, of which there have been several in the past few years.."