Young gunman suspected to have killed mother before shooting 20 children, 6 adults in US elementary school
NEWTOWN, Connecticut: The residents of an idyllic Connecticut town were reeling in horror yesterday from the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a school, in one of the worst mass shootings in US history.
The heavily armed young gunman shot dead 18 children inside Sandy Hook Elementary School, said Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance. Two more died of their wounds in hospital, Vance said.
Six adults at the school were also killed, he added, before the gunman, clad in black body armour according to media reports, was shot – either by his own hand or by police. US media said the school principal was among those killed.
Authorities offered little clue as to the motive for the shootings in Newtown, a wooded and picturesque small town north-east of New York City.
Hours after the shooting, hundreds of people gathered for a vigil, the crowd filling the church to capacity and spilling outside its doors. Some lit candles while others joined hands to sing Christmas songs.
“This is a kind of community, when things like that happen, they really pull together,” the priest, Robert Weiss, said during the Mass.
David Connors, whose triplets were at the school during the shooting but were unharmed, said he was still horrified.
“It’s hard. I’ve never imagined a thing like that could happen here.”
“Evil visited this community today,” State Governor Dan Malloy said earlier.
President Barack Obama, wiping away tears and struggling to maintain his composure, said he was aghast over the tragedy.
Vance said just one person suffered an injury and survived, indicating that the gunman was unusually accurate or methodical in his fire.
The majority of killings, which began at around 9.30am, “took place in one section of the school, in two rooms,” Vance added.
The children were aged between five and ten, officials said.
US media reported that the killer was Adam Lanza, 20, and that police had earlier confused him with his brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, whose identity card he had been carrying with him when he went into the school.
The surviving brother was in custody and being questioned, according to US television reports.
Many news outlets said the extra victim found in a home in Newtown – the 28th body in the day’s bloodshed was the shooter’s mother, who was a teacher at Sandy Hook and whom he had killed before driving to the school.
Police said they expected to be able to make public the identities of the victims later yesterday.
Vance described a “massive investigation” and said that law enforcement agents working at the scene were having a hard time coping.
“Between our personal experience, we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s heart wrenching for us,” he said.
Witnesses described an intense fusillade fired at the elementary school, possibly numbering some 100 rounds, and seeing a corridor splattered with blood.
“I was going back to my classroom and I heard like a person kicking on the door and I turned around I smelled smoke,” an eight-year-old boy told NBC.
“Then bullets whizzed by and then a teacher pulled me into her room,” he said, describing “total panic.”
Police swarmed into the leafy neighborhood after the shooting, while other area schools were put under lock-down.
“We locked all the doors in our school and remained in our classrooms until it was safe,” said Bobby Haskins, a 14-year-old student at a nearby school.
He said he’d heard accounts of the horror from friends at the elementary school.
“The little brother of my friend was able to make it out by the back door and run to the centre where he was picked up by a man and carried to the fire house,” Haskins recounted. — AFP