Sandy Hook shooting investigators talk to child survivors
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Police are interviewing children who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as authorities try to piece together a motive for the second-deadliest mass shooting in the U.S.
Detectives are tracing the origins of the four firearms used to kill 28 people, including the gunman himself, Connecticut State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said in a news briefing Sunday. It's too early to say when the school will reopen and whether the two rooms where the slayings took place will ever hold classes again.
"Our people are talking with everybody, slowly but surely, but methodically, too," Vance said. "People's hearts are broken, and we have to be sensitive to that." The details were the latest to emerge on the Dec. 14 killings by a 20-year-old gunman, identified as Adam Lanza by two law-enforcement officials briefed on the case who asked for anonymity. The incident, which also left the suspect's mother dead at the family home nearby, brought worldwide attention to the town about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of New York City and plunged residents into despair.
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President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with families of the victims Sunday and speak at a memorial service in the town of 28,000. It'll mark the fourth time during his presidency he has gone to a city to console families after a mass shooting.
This morning, 42 wooden pews rocked under the weight of congregants sitting elbow to elbow for a two-hour, standing-room-only Sunday service at Newtown United Methodist Church in Sandy Hook. The pastor led a prayer that was focused more on mourning and remembrance than the celebration of "Joy Sunday" and the holiday season.
"But where is the joy, o God?" asked Mel Kawakami, senior pastor at the church. "Today is a day for tears."
All 26 children and adults killed at the school were shot more than once, and some as many as 11 times, H. Wayne Carver II, the state's medical examiner, said Sunday in a briefing. The victims ranged in age from 6 to 56. The children -- 12 girls and eight boys -- were all 6 or 7 years old.
Detectives uncovered "some very good evidence in this investigation that our investigators will be able to use in hopefully painting the complete picture as to how, and more importantly, why this occurred," Vance said Sunday.
It was the worst U.S. massacre since 33 people died in a 2007 rampage at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. So far this year, there have been at least seven mass murders -- killings of four or more people -- that claimed at least 65 lives in the U.S.
Just four days ago, three died when a gunman opened fire inside a mall in suburban Portland, Oregon. In August, a shooter took six lives at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. In July, a masked gunman opened fire at a midnight movie in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and injuring 58.
"Any of these neighborhoods could be our own," Obama said yesterday in his weekly address. Just 24 hours before, that neighborhood was in Newtown.
About 9:30 a.m., police received a call from the school, attended by about 700 children in kindergarten through fourth grade, after the gunman forced his way inside, Vance said. Students later recounted cowering in corners, while parents told of rushing to discover whether their children were among the dead.
Elise Beier, 10, a Sandy Hook fourth-grader, said she could hear gunfire and shouting over the public-address system, which remained on through at least part of the incident. Kaitlin Roig, a first-grade teacher, told her students she loved them, in case those were the last words they heard, she said in an ABC News interview.
State Police provided a list of the dead: Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Rachel Davino, 29; Olivia Engel, 6; Josephine Gay, 7; Ana Marquez-Greene, 6; Dylan Hockley, 6; Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47; Madeleine Hsu, 6; Catherine Hubbard, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; Jesse Lewis, 6; James Mattioli, 6; Grace McDonnell, 7; teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Emilie Parker, 6; Jack Pinto, 6; Noah Pozner, 6; Caroline Previdi, 6; Jessica Rekos, 6; Avielle Richman, 6; teacher Lauren Rousseau, 30; school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56; teacher Victoria Soto, 27; Benjamin Wheeler, 6; and Allison Wyatt, 6.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg led a chorus of gun-control advocates calling for new and stricter gun laws. Obama hasn't made enough of an effort to ban ownership of assault weapons and restrict gun sales to criminals and mentally ill buyers, he said. The mayor, who is co-chairman of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press" program Sunday.
Authorities found two handguns inside the school, a Sig Sauer and a Glock, along with a "civilian modification of an M-16," U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, told reporters. A fourth firearm was found in a car in the parking lot, he said.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dispatched more than 30 people to check with gun ranges and dealers for information on the suspect, said Ginger Colbrun, an agency spokeswoman.
The guns used in the shooting belonged to Nancy Lanza, Adam's mother, according to another law enforcement official who asked for anonymity because of a continuing investigation. Lanza shot her in then face, the official said.
Dan Holmes, the owner of a landscaping business recently employed by Nancy, told Reuters that she was an avid gun collector who often went target shooting with her children.
Her survivors were among the grieving.
"On behalf of Nancy's mother and siblings, we reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for the incomprehensible and profound loss of innocence that has affected so many," Rockingham County Sheriff Michael Downing told reporters outside police headquarters in Kingston, New Hampshire, where Lanza's brother, James Champion, is an officer.
Nancy Lanza and her husband were divorced in 2009, court records show. Louise Tambascio, 70, a friend of Nancy's and the owner of My Place, a restaurant where the suspect's brother used to work, described Adam Lanza as intelligent, quiet and awkward.
He had Asperger's syndrome, she said. He had a personality disorder, AP reported, citing a law-enforcement official briefed on the investigation.
The killer, seen in a picture published by NBC News staring wide-eyed into a camera beneath brown bangs, attempted to buy at least one gun before the shooting, said a federal law- enforcement official who asked for anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
The deadliest shooting in the U.S. was the Virginia Tech attack, in which Seung-Hui Cho took 33 lives, including his own. In 1999, two students shot 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado before killing themselves.