Good Morning
Good Morning

Official: Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 27

Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima

Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 14, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- A gunman dressed in black fatigues opened fire inside two classrooms Friday morning at the rural Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked, killing 20 children and six adults, authorities said.

Children as young as 5 hid in corners and closets, or cowered under their desks, as the 20-year-old killer, armed with at least two handguns, unloaded a barrage of bullets.

The gunman committed suicide at the school, according to law enforcement sources. Police officials did not provide a motive for the attack.

Police later found the killer's mother dead in the home they shared in Newtown, raising the death toll to 28.

The rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, a community of about 27,000 people 60 miles northeast of New York City, stunned the town and sent shock waves across the nation, even moving President Barack Obama to tears.

The attack was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting -- surpassed only by the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007, which claimed the lives of 33 people.

The Connecticut gunman was identified by law enforcement sources as Adam Lanza. A neighbor of Lanza's brother and a law enforcement source said Lanza was developmentally disabled.

"At this point in time we feel confident we have the shooter [identified]," said Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance.

The handguns -- a Glock and a Sig Sauer -- were found inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle was recovered from the back of Lanza's car, according to news reports.

Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, was a teacher at the school, sources said. His brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned by Hoboken police last night, but a source said he had been "extremely cooperative" and was not believed to be connected to the shootings.

The identities of the victims at the school, including the principal, were not immediately released. A medical examiner was at the school last night identifying the bodies, said Newtown police Lt. George Sinko.

State police said 18 children died at the scene and two more died at a local hospital.

As news of the shooting spread, panicked parents raced to Sandy Hook Elementary, a school with about 630 students nestled among wooded hills and suburban tracts in Fairfield County.

Students said they were told by police to close their eyes as they were led from the building.

Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.

"That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point.

He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.

Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."

The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.

"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."

Tricia Benvenuti rushed to the school after getting an emergency voice mail from the school district and a call from a frantic friend.

"I parked and ran, and I didn't know what I was going to find. Parents were crying and screaming," she said. "I remember thinking, 'Please not mine.' "

She was relieved to find her 8-year-old son, James, a third-grader, among the survivors.

Former school board chairwoman Lillian Bittman was too upset to speak, but a man who identified himself as her husband said many in the community were in shock and disbelief about how an elementary school could become the scene of such indiscriminate killing.

"It's a wonderful school. The parents are wonderful. Our kids went there for 15 years, so it's very much a shock," said the man, unable to contain sobs. "We are kind of going crazy trying to find some logic here and there won't be."

A grandmother of the suspect and mother of the teacher killed was also too distraught to speak when reached by telephone at her home in Brooksville, Fla.

"I just don't know, and I can't make a comment right now," Dorothy Champion, 78, said in a shaky voice as she started to cry. She declined to comment further.

As he addressed the nation hours after the shootings, Obama spoke in a halting tone, describing the tragedy as a "heinous crime" and saying that he reacted to the news "not as a president, but as anybody else would -- as a parent."

He had to stop, sigh, and wipe tears several times as he tried to describe the magnitude of what had taken place.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered state flags flown at half-staff until the victims are buried.

"Evil visited this community today," Malloy said. "We're all in this together. We will get through it. But this is a terrible time for this community, for these families."

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the shooting a "senseless and horrific act of violence," and said "all New Yorkers stand together with the people of our neighboring state to grieve the loss of life and help bear the pain and anguish."

With AP as well as Laura Figueroa and Mackenzie Issler in Newtown, Conn., and Kevin Deutsch in Hoboken, N.J.

News Photos and Videos