ME: Adam Lanza's rifle rigged to reload quickly; Sandy Hook autopsies 'worst I've seen'

Connecticut State Police say a gunman who massacred 26 children and adults at an elementary school before committing suicide forced his way into the building. (Dec. 15)

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The gunman who killed 20 first-graders and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, shooting many multiple times, used a military-style rifle rigged to quickly reload, the state's chief medical examiner said Saturday.

Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the medical examiner, said the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown died Friday morning from "a very devastating set of injuries."

Carver said of the seven autopsies he personally performed, the victims had "three to 11 wounds apiece" and were shot in the head, extremities and torso -- two of them at close range.


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"I believe everybody was hit more than once," he said.

Carver said the shooter was able to reload so quickly because he had taped two magazines together.

Carver said he couldn't say with certainty whether the victims had suffered painful deaths, but added: "If so, not for very long."

All the child victims were first-graders, Carver said -- the slain teachers were discovered in classrooms, while the principal and school psychologist were found in the school hallway.

Of the 4,000 autopsies Carver said he has performed, and of the 40,000 to 50,000 autopsies he has overseen in his career spanning more than three decades, "This is the worst I've seen."

As the town woke up to another day of mourning, the motive behind the rampage remained a mystery. While few details about the shootings emerged yesterday, more heartbreaking stories surfaced.

Robbie Parker, 30, said he had kissed his 6-year-old daughter Emilie, who died in the shooting, one last time before heading to work Friday.

"She said that she loved me and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door," Parker said.

He said his daughter was "the type of person that could just light up a room. This world is a better place because she's been in it."

A survivor of the rampage, third-grader Maleeha Ali, said, "I heard screaming, crying and I also heard guns . . . I'd never heard that before."

Her mother, Sabeena Ali, said her daughter told her after the shooting: "One good thing happened today. I didn't die."

Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said police have "some very good evidence" that will enable investigators "in hopefully painting the complete picture as to how, and more importantly why, this occurred." He declined to elaborate.

Carver said families identified victims not personally at the morgue, but through post-mortem photographs that officials showed them.

As parents continued to cope with their losses, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for love, courage and compassion. He said the time for a discussion about public policy would come in the future, but that for now, "We can hug someone we love a little tighter."

After the gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, burst into the school Friday morning wearing dark clothing, children as young as 5 hid in corners and closets, or cowered under their desks.

Meanwhile, the school's principal, Dawn Hochsprung, sacrificed her life, school officials said, trying to protect the children from the gunman, who had forced his way into the school.

"He was not voluntarily let into the school at all," said Vance, who did not explain how Lanza had gained entry.

Town officials said Hochsprung died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

Police on Saturday released the identities of the victims. Of the 20 children, 16 of them were 6 years old. The other four children were 7 years old. All were in the first grade.

Officials said the shooter fatally shot himself at the school. Law enforcement sources said the shooter's mother was found dead in the home she shared with her son.

Carver said he would perform an autopsy on Lanza and his mother, Nancy Lanza, 52, this morning. A sheriff in New Hampshire, where Nancy Lanza once lived, read a statement Saturday, saying the family is trying to understand "the tremendous loss."

Rockingham County, N.H., Sheriff Michael Downing said Nancy Lanza's brother James Champion, a retired police captain in Kingston, N.H., and other relatives express their "heartfelt sorrow" and "the whole family is traumatized by this event."

Newtown school Superintendent Janet Robinson said Saturday that there was no evidence that Nancy Lanza was a teacher at the school, as previous news reports had indicated.

Asked about reports that Adam Lanza, a former student, had an altercation at the school a few days before the shooting, Vance said police received no such report.

Lanza, who according to law enforcement sources was developmentally disabled, shot his mother then drove to the school in her car with at least three of her guns and opened fire in two classrooms around 9:30 a.m. Friday, said law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Two handguns -- a Glock and a Sig Sauer -- were found inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle was also recovered, according to news reports. Only the rifle was used on the victims, authorities said.

Peter Lanza, the father of the gunman, made his first public comments yesterday, saying in a statement, "Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected." He said "no words can truly express how heartbroken we are" and that relatives are "in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can."

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to offer solace and prayers. "Every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt," the president said.

Obama called on Americans to extend a hand to the families of the victims, and come together "to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics."

The White House said Obama will meet Sunday with families of the victims and speak at a memorial service.

Mourners on Saturday left flowers, stuffed animals and candles near the school's entrance. And a local florist left an arrangement of 20 teddy bears in the shape of a heart -- one toy for each child who died. With AP

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