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Gov.: Gunman shot self as 1st responders closed in
JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press
MATT APUZZO,Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — The gunman in the Connecticut shooting rampage committed suicide as first responders closed in, the governor said Sunday, raising the specter that Adam Lanza had planned an even more gruesome massacre and was stopped short.

Lanza blasted his way into the building and used a high-power rifle to kill 20 children and six adults, including the principal who tried to stop him, authorities said.

As President Barack Obama prepared a visit and churches opened their doors to comfort a grieving town Sunday, federal agents fanned out to dozens of gun stores and shooting ranges across Connecticut, chasing leads they hoped would cast light on Lanza's life.

Among the questions: Why did his mother, a well-to-do suburban divorcee, keep a cache of high-power weapons in the house? What experience did Lanza have with those guns? And, above all, what set him on a path to go classroom-by-classroom, massacring 6- and 7-year-olds?

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Gov. Dannel Malloy said Lanza shot himself as police entered the building.

"We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy said.

Malloy offered no possible motive for the shooting and a law enforcement official has said police have found no letters or diaries left behind that could shed light on it.

Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, to death at the home they shared Friday, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School in her car with at least three of her guns, forced his way in by breaking a window and opened fire, authorities said. Within minutes, he killed the children, six adults and himself.

All the victims at the school were shot with a rifle, at least some of them up close, and all were apparently shot more than once, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said. There were as many as 11 shots on the bodies he examined.

All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys and 12 were girls.

Asked whether the children suffered, Carver said, "If so, not for very long." Asked how many bullets were fired, Carver said, "I'm lucky if I can tell you how many I found."

Parents identified the children through photos to spare them some shock, Carver said.

The terrible details about the last moments of young innocents emerged as authorities released their names and ages — the youngest 6 and 7, the oldest 56. They included Ana Marquez-Greene, a little girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada; Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who apparently died while trying to hide her pupils; and principal Dawn Hochsprung, who authorities said lunged at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

The tragedy has plunged Newtown into mourning and added the picturesque New England community of 27,000 people to the grim map of towns where mass shootings in recent years have periodically reignited the national debate over gun control but led to little change.

Residents and faith leaders were sure to reflect Sunday on the mass shooting and what meaning, if any, to find in it. Obama planned to attend an interfaith vigil — the fourth time he will have traveled to a city after a mass shooting.

On Saturday, overflow crowds packed St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Richard Scinto, a deacon, gave a homily.

"In the past 48 hours I've said the phrase 'I don't know' about 1,000 times," he said. "That not knowing has got to be the worst part of this whole thing."

At St. John's Episcopal Church, 54-year-old Donna Denner, an art teacher at an elementary school in nearby Danbury whose classroom was locked down after the shooting, said she feels the same way she did after 9/11 but isn't sure the rest of the country does.

"I don't know if the rest of the country is struggling to understand it the same way we are here," she said. "Life goes on, but you're not the same. Is the rest of the country — are they going about their regular activities? Is it just another news story to them?"

In the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims and tourists Sunday that he is praying for the families of the victims.

"I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer," the pope said. "May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain."

The gunman's father, Peter Lanza, issued a statement Saturday relating his own family's anguish in the aftermath.

"Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are," he said. "We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. ... Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."

The rifle used was a Bushmaster .223-caliber, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation who was not authorized to speak about it and talked on condition of anonymity. The gun is commonly seen at competitions and was the type used in the 2002 sniper killings in the Washington, D.C., area. Also found in the school were two handguns, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm.

A law enforcement official said Saturday that authorities were investigating fresh leads that could reveal more about the lead-up to the shooting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Ginger Colbrun, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said earlier there was no evidence Lanza was involved in gun clubs or had trained for the shooting. When reached later in the day and asked whether that was still true, she said, "We're following any and all leads related to this individual and firearms."

Dean Price, director of the Wooster Mountain State Range — a shooting range in Danbury — said two ATF agents visited the range Friday night and stayed into the early morning looking through thousands of names on sign-in logs.

He said that he had never seen Adam or Nancy Lanza there and that agents told him they did not find their names on the sign-in sheets.

Law enforcement officials have said they have found no note or manifesto from Lanza of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.

Education officials said they had found no link between Lanza's mother and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there Friday.

Authorities said Adam Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job. Lanza was believed to have suffered from a personality disorder, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism often characterized by social awkwardness.

People with the disorder are often highly intelligent. While they can become frustrated more easily, there is no evidence of a link between Asperger's and violent behavior, experts say.

The law enforcement officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

Richard Novia, the school district's head of security until 2008, who also served as adviser for the high school technology club, of which Lanza was a member, said he clearly "had some disabilities."

"If that boy would've burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically," Novia said in a phone interview. "It was my job to pay close attention to that."

Amid the confusion and sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of Hochsprung, 47, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, rushing toward Lanza in an attempt to stop him. Both died.

There was also 27-year-old teacher Victoria Soto, whose name has been invoked as a portrait of selflessness. Investigators told relatives she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.

"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about," a friend, Andrea Crowell, told The Associated Press. "She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day."

There was also 6-year-old Emilie Parker, whose grieving father, Robbie, talked to reporters not long after police released the names of the victims but expressed no animosity, offering sympathy for Lanza's family.

"I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you," he said.


Conn. police find 'very good evidence' on gunman
JIM FITZGERALD,Associated Press
JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — The massacre of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, a 20-year-old described as brilliant but remote, was driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims.

Investigators were trying to learn more about Adam Lanza and questioned his older brother, who was not believed to have been involved in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary. Police shed no light on the motive for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

APTOPIX-Connecticut-S Sidd

ABOVE: Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead a line of children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 after a shooting at the school. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks) FRONT PAGE: A woman waits to hear about her sister, a teacher, following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

In tight-knit Newtown on Friday night, hundreds of people packed St. Rose of Lima Church and stood outside in a vigil for the 28 dead — 20 children and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself, who committed suicide. People held hands, lit candles and sang "Silent Night."

"These 20 children were just beautiful, beautiful children," Monsignor Robert Weiss said. "These 20 children lit up this community better than all these Christmas lights we have. ... There are a lot brighter stars up there tonight because of these kids."

Lanza is believed to have suffered from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation.

Asked at a news conference whether Lanza had left any emails or other writings that might explain the rampage, state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence" and hoped it would answer questions about the gunman's motives. Vance would not elaborate.

The tragedy plunged the picturesque New England town of 27,000 people into mourning.

"People in my neighborhood are feeling guilty about it being Christmas. They are taking down decorations," said Jeannie Pasacreta, a psychologist who volunteered her services and was advising parents struggling with how to talk to their children.

Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, 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, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman, and someone switched on the intercom, perhaps saving many lives by letting them hear the chaos in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner, duck under their desks or hide in closets as shots reverberated through the building.

The well-liked principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was believed to be among the dead. A woman who worked at the school was wounded.

Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library, was in there with 18 fourth-graders when they heard a commotion and gunfire outside the room. She had the youngsters crawl into a storage room, and they locked the door and barricaded it with a file cabinet. There happened to be materials for coloring, "so we set them up with paper and crayons."

After what she guessed was about an hour, officers came to the door and knocked, but those inside couldn't be sure it was the police.

"One of them slid his badge under the door, and they called and said, 'It's OK, it's the police,'" she said.

A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to it. It was not clear whether he held a job.

At least one parent said Lanza's mother was a substitute teacher at the school. But her name did not appear on a staff list. And the official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, of Hoboken, N.J., was questioned, and investigators searched his computers and phone records, but he told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.

For about two hours late Friday and early Saturday, clergy members and emergency vehicles moved steadily to and from the school. The state medical examiner's office said bodies of the victims would be taken there for autopsies.

The gunman forced his way into the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school, authorities said. He took three guns into the school — a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both semiautomatic pistols, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle, according to an official who was not authorized to discuss information with reporters and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The weapons were registered to his slain mother.

Lanza and his mother lived in a well-to-do part of prosperous Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, where neighbors are doctors or hold white-collar positions at companies such as General Electric, Pepsi and IBM.

His parents filed for divorce in 2008, according to court records. His father, Peter Lanza, lives in Stamford, Conn., and works as a tax director for GE.

The gunman's aunt Marsha Lanza, of Crystal Lake, Ill., said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who would not have hesitated to seek mental help for him if he needed it.

"Nancy wasn't one to deny reality," Marsha Lanza said, adding her husband had seen Adam as recently as June and recalled nothing out of the ordinary.

Catherine Urso, of Newtown, said her college-age son knew the killer. "He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths," she said.

Lanza attended Newtown High School, and several news clippings from recent years mention his name among the honor roll students.

Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High in 2009 and belonged to the school technology club with him, said that Lanza was generally a happy person but that he hadn't seen him in a few years.

"We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart," Joshua Milas said. "He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius."

The mass shooting is one of the deadliest in U.S. history, and among school attacks is second in victims only to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 people dead, including the gunman. Reaction was swift and emotional in Newtown and beyond.

"It has to stop, these senseless deaths," said Frank DeAngelis, principal of Colorado's Columbine High School, where a massacre in 1999 killed 15 people.

In Washington, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence organized a vigil at the White House, with some protesters chanting, "Today IS the day" to take steps to curb gun violence. In New York's Times Square, a few dozen people held tea lights in plastic cups, with one woman holding a sign that read: "Take a moment and candle to remember the victims of the Newtown shooting."

President Barack Obama's comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.

"The majority of those who died were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said at a White House news briefing. He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the attack as a "senseless and incomprehensible act of evil."

"Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken," Gillard said in a statement.

In Japan, where guns are severely restricted and there are extremely few gun-related crimes, the attack led the news two days before parliamentary elections. In China, which has seen several knife rampages at schools in recent years, the attack quickly consumed public discussion.

In Newtown, 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."

He said the shooter didn't utter a word.

Kaitlin Roig, a teacher at the school, said she implored her students to be quiet.

"I told them we had to be absolutely quiet. Because I was just so afraid if he did come in, then he would hear us and just start shooting the door. I said we have to be absolutely quiet. And I said there are bad guys out there now and we need to wait for the good guys to come get us out," Roig told ABC.

"If they started crying, I would take their face and say, 'It's going to be OK. Show me your smile,'" she said. "They said, 'We want to go home for Christmas. Yes, yeah. I just want to hug my mom.' Things like that, that were just heartbreaking."

CLICK HERE to read articles posted on the Newtown Bee's Website.

 


Police, world wonder about Conn. shooting motive
JIM FITZGERALD,Associated Press
JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — The massacre of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, a 20-year-old described as brilliant but remote, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims.

Skook victims

Victims family leave a firehouse staging area following a shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) 

Investigators were trying to learn more about the gunman, Adam Lanza, and questioned his older brother, who is not believed to have been involved in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary. Police shed no light on the motive for the nation's second-deadliest school shooting.

In tight-knit Newtown on Friday night, hundreds of people packed St. Rose of Lima church and stood outside in a vigil for the 28 dead — 20 children and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself, who committed suicide. People held hands, lit candles and sang "Silent Night."

"These 20 children were just beautiful, beautiful children," Monsignor Robert Weiss said. "These 20 children lit up this community better than all these Christmas lights we have. ... There are a lot brighter stars up there tonight because of these kids."

Lanza is believed to have suffered from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation.

Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, drove to the school in her car with at least three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back of the vehicle, and shot up two classrooms around 9:30 a.m. Friday, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman, and someone switched on the intercom, perhaps saving many lives by letting them hear the chaos in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.

The well-liked principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was believed to be among the dead. A woman who worked at the school was wounded.

A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Lanza attended the school several years ago but appeared to have no recent connection to it.

At least one parent said Lanza's mother was a substitute teacher there. But her name did not appear on a staff list. And the official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, of Hoboken, N.J., was questioned, but a law enforcement official said he was not believed to have had a role in the rampage. Investigators were searching his computers and phone records, but he told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

At one point, a law enforcement official mistakenly identified the gunman as Ryan Lanza. Brett Wilshe, a friend of Ryan Lanza's, said Lanza told him the gunman may have had his identification. Ryan Lanza apparently posted Facebook page updates Friday afternoon that read, "It wasn't me" and "I was at work."


Routine morning, then shots and unthinkable terror
JOCELYN NOVECK,Associated Press
JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN,Associated Press

 NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — First, he killed his mother.

Nancy Lanza's body was found later at their home on Yogananda Street in Newtown — after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School; after a quiet New England town was scarred forever by unthinkable tragedy; after a nation seemingly inured to violence found itself stunned by the slaughter of innocents.

Shook runners

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, a police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)

 

Nobody knows why 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, why he then took her guns to the school and murdered 20 children and six adults.

But on Friday he drove his mother's car through this 300-year-old town with its fine old churches and towering trees and arrived at a school full of the season's joy. Somehow, he got past a security door to a place where children should have been safe from harm.

Theodore Varga and other fourth-grade teachers were meeting; the glow remained from the previous night's fourth-grade concert.

"It was a lovely day," Varga said. "Everybody was joyful and cheerful. We were ending the week on a high note."

And then, suddenly and unfathomably, gunshots rang out. "I can't even remember how many," he said.

The fourth-graders, the oldest children in the school, were in specialty classes like gym and music. There was no lock on the meeting room door, so the teachers had to think about how to escape, knowing that their students were with other teachers.

Someone turned the loudspeaker on, so everyone could hear what was happening in the office.

"You could hear the hysteria that was going on," Varga said. "Whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."

Gathered in another room for a 9:30 a.m. meeting were principal Dawn Hochsprung and school therapist Diane Day along with a school psychologist, other staff members and a parent. They were meeting to discuss a second-grader.

"We were there for about five minutes chatting, and we heard Pop! Pop!, Pop!" Day told The Wall Street Journal. "I went under the table."

But Hochsprung and the psychologist leaped out of their seats and ran out of the room, Day recalled. "They didn't think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on," she said. Hochsprung was killed, and the psychologist was believed to have been killed as well.

A custodian ran around, warning people there was a gunman, Varga said.

"He said, 'Guys! Get down! Hide!'" Varga said. "So he was actually a hero."

Did he survive? The teacher did not know.

___

Police radios crackled with first word of the shooting at 9:36, according to the New York Post.

"Sandy Hook School. Caller is indicating she thinks there's someone shooting in the building," a Newtown dispatcher radioed, according to a tape posted on the paper's website.

___

In a first-grade classroom, teacher Kaitlin Roig heard the shots. She immediately barricaded her 15 students into a tiny bathroom, sitting one of them on top of the toilet. She pulled a bookshelf across the door and locked it. She told the kids to be "absolutely quiet."

"I said, 'There are bad guys out there now. We need to wait for the good guys,'" she told ABC News.

"The kids were being so good," she said. "They asked, 'Can we go see if anyone is out there?' 'I just want Christmas. I don't want to die, I just want to have Christmas.' I said, 'You're going to have Christmas and Hanukkah.'"

One student claimed to know karate. "It's OK. I'll lead the way out," the student said.

In the gym, crying fourth-graders huddled in a corner. One of them was 10-year-old Philip Makris.

"He said he heard a lot of loud noises and then screaming," said his mother, Melissa Makris. "Then the gym teachers immediately gathered the children in a corner and kept them safe."

Another girl who was in the gym recalled hearing "like, seven loud booms."

"The gym teacher told us to go in a corner, so we all huddled and I kept hearing these booming noises," the girl, who was not identified by name, told NBC News. "We all started — well, we didn't scream; we started crying, so all the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us."

An 8-year-old boy described how a teacher saved him.

"I saw some of the bullets going past the hall that I was right next to, and then a teacher pulled me into her classroom," said the boy, who was not identified by CBSNews.com.

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."

He said the shooter didn't utter a word.

___

"The shooting appears to have stopped," the dispatcher radioed at 9:38 a.m., according to the Post. "There is silence at this time. The school is in lockdown."

And at 9:46 a.m., an anguished voice from the school: "I've got bodies here. Need ambulances."

___

Carefully, police searched room to room, removing children and staff from harm's way. They found Adam Lanza, dead by his own hand after shooting up two classrooms; no officer fired a gun.

Student Brendan Murray told WABC-TV it was chaos in his classroom at first after he heard loud bangs and screaming. A police officer came in and asked, "Is he in here?" and then ran out. "Then our teacher, somebody, yelled, 'Get to a safe place.' Then we went to a closet in the gym and we sat there for a little while, and then the police were, like, knocking on the door and they were, like, 'We're evacuating people, we're evacuating people,' so we ran out."

Children, warned to close their eyes so they could not see the product of his labors, were led away from their school.

Parents rushed to the scene. Family members walked away from a firehouse that was being used as a staging area, some of them weeping. One man, wearing a T-shirt without a jacket, put his arms around a woman as they walked down the middle of the street, oblivious to everything around them.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other public officials came to the firehouse. So did clergymen like Monsignor Robert Weiss of Newtown's St. Rose Roman Catholic Church. He watched as parents came to realize that they would never see their children alive again.

"All of them were hoping their child would be found OK. But when they gave out the actual death toll, they realized their child was gone," Weiss said.

He recalled the reaction of the brother of one of the victims.

"They told a little boy it was his sister who passed on," Weiss said. "The boy's response was, 'I'm not going to have anyone to play with.'"

___

Jocelyn Noveck reported from New York. Jim Fitzgerald and Pat Eaton-Robb in Newtown and Bridget Murphy in Boston contributed to this report.

 

 


Newtown: A special town shattered by tragedy
CHRISTOPHER SULLIVAN,Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — At the crossroads that marks the center of this three-century-old New England postcard town stands a flagpole that's a kind of barometer. Every day, says Susan Osborne White, who has lived here all her life, "it tells me which way the wind is blowing" — and she calls the local newspaper whenever the flag is lowered to half-staff, to ask why.

No one is asking that now as the flag forlonly hangs over a heartbroken, uncomprehending town.

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A flag in Newtown, Conn., flys at half-staff following Friday's shooting — the second worst in U.S. history —  that left 27 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School (AP Photo)

Along streets where every window twinkles with holiday candles, police sirens wailed Friday. Over horse pastures in what was until fairly recently a rural town, helicopters' rotors thudded. In shops, televisions set to news stations blared.

Gesturing at a TV image of the shooting scene behind him at Newtown Hardware, Kyle Watts gave a pained cry, "I know that place," and shook his head. He's 18 and had gone to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and yet he and others working at the store felt they hardly knew where they were.

"A week or two ago," he said in disbelief, "we had the Christmas tree lighting. There was singing."

In normal times, this is a place that marks the year with a community tree lighting, an endless Labor Day parade running past the Main Street flagpole in which it's said everyone is either a participant or spectator or both, and an annual fund-raising lobster dinner at one of the five volunteer fire companies. It's a place where a benefactress, Mary Hawley, donated the classically designed town hall and the large, re-brick library, both set among towering oaks and maples. On a lake in town, part of one of the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedies was filmed.

It's become a bedroom community for commuters to Manhattan and Connecticut's more toney coastal towns, but it has retained the rural character that was set in 1708 when the colonial assembly of Connecticut permitted 36 men to lay out a new town. Some houses today date from not long after that, but there are typical modern subdivisions, too.

"It's still very much a small town in its heart. People really know each other," said Dan Cruson, the town's historian who has written a number of books about Newtown.

Sandy Hook is a section of town where the first grist mill was built along the rocky, rushing Pootatuck River. Other mills followed, and manufacturing grew in Sandy Hook. "It's always had its own identity," Cruson said, and in recent years it has been revitalized with smart restaurants and shops in Sandy Hook's center.

Every year, the local Lions Club raises thousands of dollars with a charity event along the river: Thousands of numbered yellow rubber ducks are sold for $5 each, then dumped in the swift current for a "race," the winner of which might get a big screen TV or a weekend in Manhattan 60 miles away.

In the crowd watching and cheering and at events like the fire department's lobster dinner, "everyone knows everyone. All of Sandy Hook is so tight," said Watts.

Maybe the school shooter was recognized when he entered and didn't seem a threat because he was known, he and others at the hardware store speculated. "You would never think ..." he said, leaving the thought incomplete.

The closeness has another dimension, of course.

"Everybody in town is going to help out. ... All of the churches are open tonight," said his co-worker Francis Oggeri, who's 22.

Scudder Smith agreed. "I was just down at the firehouse. Restaurants were sending in food," said Smith, publisher of the Newtown Bee, the weekly paper that has published since 1877.

He said Newtown is "getting bigger than the little country town that I grew up in. I've been here 77 years.... But it still has the feeling between neighbors that it always had."

The Bee had closed this week's edition — with front-page reports on the schools "performing at or above target," on vandalism at a cemetery, and other stories — when the first word of the shooting came in.

"We've been putting everything on our website. We were the first ones down there," Smith said. "We've had calls from Turkey, all over Europe."

A police scanner alerted the newsroom, and reporter Shannon Hicks said, "I listened long enough to figure out where this was unfolding and headed out." Her photo of terrified children being led across a school parking lot appeared around the world.

Asked about the town, Hicks said, "It's a good town. We have our issues" — squabbling over the local budget, police news and the like — "but this is not the kind of thing that's supposed to be one of them."

Standing by the cluttered antique wooden desk of the publisher, she looked down sadly. "I've already heard comparisons to Columbine," she said.

Folks here want to tell about the town that was here for 300 years before Friday's attack.

At the Bee, they mention how Halloween brings out so many children to Main Street houses — one was made into a "princess castle" this year, another for years had a three-story web and giant spider in front — that the paper has used clickers and counted more than 2,000 kids some years.

They mention the homely, simple things that might counter the horror.

"We have two garden clubs, and they get along, they don't hate each other," said Susan White, who checks the flagpole every day.

She laughed but then grew more serious, mentioning that her father was on the school board that authorized the building of the Sandy Hook school. "That was my school," she said.

Telling about an award her mother recently received for work on a 75-year-old scholarship fund in town, she said of the ceremony, "It was a Norman Rockwell moment."

And was this a Norman Rockwell town?

"We've got our ups and downs, but we're a very real town. 'Norman Rockwell' sounds like we're perfect ... but we're not very different from any other town," she said.

And now, she added, "People will stick together. They have to."

For about two hours late Friday and early Saturday, clergy members and emergency vehicles moved steadily to and from the school. The state medical examiner's office said bodies of the victims would be taken there eventually for autopsies.

At least three guns were found — a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car, authorities said. A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of the guns used in the attack may have belonged to Lanza's family. His mother had legally registered four weapons, his father two.

Authorities also recovered three other guns — a Henry repeating rifle, an Enfield rifle and a shotgun. It was not clear exactly where those weapons were found.

Adam Lanza and his mother lived in a well-to-do part of prosperous Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, where neighbors are doctors or hold white-collar positions at companies such as General Electric, Pepsi and IBM.

Lanza's parents filed for divorce in 2008, according to court records. His father, Peter Lanza, lives in Stamford, Conn., and works as a tax director for General Electric.

The gunman's aunt Marsha Lanza, of Crystal Lake, Ill., said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who would not have hesitated to seek mental help for him if he needed it.

"Nancy wasn't one to deny reality," Marsha Lanza said, adding her husband had seen Adam as recently as June and recalled nothing out of the ordinary.

Catherine Urso, of Newtown, said her college-age son knew the killer and remembered him for his alternative style. "He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths," she said.

Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School, and several news clippings from recent years mention his name among the honor roll students.

Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High in 2009 and belonged to the school technology club with him, said Adam Lanza was generally a happy person but that he hadn't seen him in a few years.

"We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart," Joshua Milas said. "He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius."

An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was not clear that Adam Lanza had a job, and there was no indication of law enforcement interviews or search warrants at a place of business.

The mass shooting is one of the deadliest in U.S. history, and among school attacks is second in victims only to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 people dead, including the gunman. Reaction was swift and emotional in Newtown, a picturesque New England community of 27,000 people, as well as across the country and around the world.

"It has to stop, these senseless deaths," said Frank DeAngelis, principal of Colorado's Columbine High School, where a massacre in 1999 killed 15 people.

In Washington, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence organized a vigil at the White House, with some protesters chanting, "Today IS the day" to take steps to curb gun violence. In New York's Times Square, a few dozen people held tea lights in plastic cups, with one woman holding a sign that read: "Take a moment and candle to remember the victims of the Newtown shooting."

President Barack Obama's comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.

"The majority of those who died were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old," Obama said at a White House news briefing. He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the attack as a "senseless and incomprehensible act of evil."

"Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken," Gillard said in a statement.

In Japan, where guns are severely restricted and there are extremely few gun-related crimes, the attack led the news two days before nationwide parliamentary elections. In China, which has seen several knife rampages at schools in recent years, the attack quickly consumed public discussion.

At the Newtown vigil, Anthony Bloss, whose three daughters survived, said they are doing better than he. "I'm numb. I'm completely numb," he said.

Panicked parents looking for their children had raced earlier in the day to Sandy Hook, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school where police told youngsters to close their eyes as they were led from the building so that they wouldn't see the blood and broken glass.

Schoolchildren — some crying, many looking frightened — were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on one another's shoulders.

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."

He said the shooter didn't utter a word.

Kaitlin Roig, a teacher at the school, said she implored her students to be quiet.

"I told them we had to be absolutely quiet. Because I was just so afraid if he did come in, then he would hear us and just start shooting the door. I said we have to be absolutely quiet. And I said there are bad guys out there now and we need to wait for the good guys to come get us out," Roig told ABC News.

"If they started crying, I would take their face and say it's going to be OK. Show me your smile," she said. "They said, we want to go home for Christmas. Yes, yeah. I just want to hug my mom, things like that, that were just heartbreaking."

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Pat Eaton-Robb and Matt Apuzzo and videographer Robert Ray in Newtown; Bridget Murphy in Boston; Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J.; Pete Yost in Washington; Michael Melia in Hartford; and the AP News Research Center in New York.


Sympathy over US school shooting stretches globe
GRANT PECK,Associated Press

Skook vigil

A man hugs his young daughters as they attend a vigil Friday at Saint Rose of Lima church in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK (AP) — Images of a tearful President Barack Obama speaking after a shooting rampage in Connecticut resonated around the world, with many outside the United States expressing hope Saturday that America's latest school massacre would prompt the country to strengthen gun control.

Shock and sympathy were the initial reactions to the rampage that left 28 people dead, including 20 children at an elementary school. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the attack as a "senseless and incomprehensible act of evil."

"Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken," Gillard said in a statement, referring to the U.S. leader's emotional expression of condolence.

The gunman killed his mother at their home before opening fire Friday inside the school in Newtown, Connecticut, where he killed 26 people, including 20 children, police said. The killer, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, then committed suicide.

Australia confronted a similar tragedy in 1996, when a man went on a shooting spree in the southern state of Tasmania, killing 35 people. The mass killing sparked outrage across the country and led the government to impose strict new gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

Gillard's sentiments echoed those of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he "was shocked and deeply saddened" to learn of the "horrific shooting."

"My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones," he said. "It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them."

Initial official reaction at the national level did not touch on perceptions of the United States as a violent society, or its generally lax gun laws. On social media sites such as Twitter and in mainstream media outlets, however, there were plenty of comments about the causes of such incidents.

The attack quickly dominated public discussion in China, rocketing to the top of topic lists on social media and becoming the top story on state television's main noon newscast.

China has seen several rampage attacks at schools in recent years, though the attackers there usually use knives. The most recent attack happened Friday, when a knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in central China.

Much of the discussion after the Connecticut rampage centered on the easy access to guns in America, unlike in China, where even knives are sometimes banned from sale. But with more than 100,000 Chinese studying in U.S. schools, a sense of shared grief came through.

"Parents with children studying in the U.S. must be tense. School shootings happen often in the U.S. Really, can't politicians put away politics and prohibit gun sales?" Zhang Xin, a wealthy property developer, wrote on her feed on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, where she has 4.9 million followers. "There will always be mental patients among us. They should not be given guns."

In India, Kiran Bedi, a retired pioneering policewoman who is now a major anti-corruption activist, expressed her concerns, tweeting in the shorthand style familiar to users of text services that: "Firearms in hands of unbalanced r security threat! Gun/even Driving license issue needs due diligence! They r responsibility before a right!"

Some in South Korea, whose government does not allow people to possess guns privately, blamed a lack of gun control in the United States for the high number of deaths in the Connecticut shooting. Most people on the Internet expressed utter shock at the scale of the tragedy, many of them calling it frightful and unimaginable and expressing condolences to the families of the victims.

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's top daily, speculated in an online report that it appears "inevitable" that the shooting will prompt the U.S. government to consider tighter gun control.

In Thailand, which has one of Asia's highest rates of murder by firearms and has seen schools attacked by Islamist insurgents in its southern provinces, a columnist for the English-language daily newspaper The Nation blamed American culture for fostering a climate of violence.

"Repeated incidents of gunmen killing innocent people have shocked the Americans or us but also made most people ignore it quickly," Thanong Khanthong wrote on Twitter. "Because each Hollywood movie, namely Batman and Spiderman, have hidden the message of violence and brutal killings."

"Intentionally or not, Hollywood and video games have prepared people's mind to see killings and violence as normal and acceptable," he wrote.

In Japan, where guns are severely restricted and there are extremely few gun-related crimes, public broadcaster NHK led the noon news Saturday with the shooting, putting it ahead of an update on the final day of campaigning before Sunday's nationwide parliamentary elections.

NHK, which had a reporter giving a live broadcast from the scene, said that five of the children at the school were Japanese, and that all five were safe. Its report could not immediately be independently confirmed.

Several Japanese broadcasters ran footage from Newtown, showing scenes of people singing outside churches Friday evening, as well as part of Obama's tearful press conference.

Condolences poured in also from Baghdad.

"We feel sorry for the victims and their families. And this tragic incident shows there is no violence-free society in the world, even in Western and non-Muslim countries," said Hassan Sabah, 30, owner of stationary shop in eastern Baghdad.

Samir Abdul-Karim, a 40-year-old government employee from eastern Baghdad said that "this attack shows clearly that U.S. society is not perfect and the Americans do have people with criminal minds and who are ready to kill for the silliest reasons.

"This ugly attack against innocent children should be condemned and it shows that such acts of violence are not limited to Islamic countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. If such attack happened in Iraq or Afghanistan, I am sure that the U.S. media would have seized the chance to depict the Arabs or Muslims as savage people who do not hesitate to kill children. "

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent a condolence message to Obama. "We express our condolences to the families of the victims," he said. "The sympathy of the Japanese people is with the American people."

In the Philippines, a society often afflicted by gun violence, President Benigno Aquino III said he and the Filipino people stand beside the United States "with bowed heads, yet in deep admiration over the manner in which the American people have reached out to comfort the afflicted, and to search for answers that will give meaning and hope to this grim event.

"We pray for healing, and that this heartbreak will never be visited on any community ever again," Aquino said in a statement tweeted by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union's executive Commission, said that "''Young lives full of hope have been destroyed. On behalf of the European Commission and on my own behalf, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy."

___

Associated Press writers Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok, Cassandra Vinograd in London, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Malcolm Foster and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Charles Hutzler in Beijing, Ravi Nessman in New Delhi, Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Oliver Teves in Manila, Philippines, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad, and Don Melvin in Brussels contributed to this report.


How to talk to your kids about Conn. mass shooting
MICHELLE R. SMITH,Associated Press

The killings at a Connecticut elementary school left parents struggling to figure out what, if anything, to tell their children.

President Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, would tell their daughters that they love them and hug them a little tighter. Experts say that's a good example to follow. Parents also should allow children to talk about their feelings in the coming days while sheltering them from the 24/7 media coverage of the event, they say.

A man gunned down more than two dozen people Friday, most of them kids at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The shooter was among the 28 people left dead, apparently from a self-inflicted wound.

Whitney Finucane wasn't sure how and when she would talk with her son, Nico, about the shooting. She kissed and hugged him when he came out from kindergarten at Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary in Providence, R.I., on Friday.

"I don't know how to explain insanity and evil to a 5-year-old," she said. "I don't know that he can really grasp it."

Even the youngest schoolchildren are likely to hear about it, said Glenn Saxe, chairman of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center.

"It's really important, especially at this time, for parents to check in with their kids, to be attuned to how they're feeling, how they're doing, and to answer questions honestly and straightforwardly," he said. "For any other kid in school, this has meaning. Parents need to understand that even in surprising ways, this can affect their kids."

Parents can start by asking their children what they've already heard and what questions they have, said David Schonfeld, a pediatrician and director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. If they ask why someone would do something like this, it's OK to say you don't know.

"I wouldn't provide false reassurance or dismiss legitimate concerns," he said. "We don't help children by telling them they shouldn't be afraid of things that are frightening."

Parents can tell their kids, "What is most important is that you're safe and you're going to be safe," said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Above all, parents need to try to help their children feel safe, he said. Helping kids return to or maintain normal routines can help minimize their anxiety, Kraus said.

Some children may ask the same questions over and over as a way to seek reassurance, and parents shouldn't dismiss them, said Dr. David Fassler, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt.

"Acknowledge and validate the child's thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate," he said.

Parents of young children should keep their children from hearing reports on TV, radio, and social media and to closely monitor exposure to media for all children, several experts said. Children who show persistent signs of anxiety and stress, including recurring nightmares or sleep problems and fears about leaving home, should see their pediatrician or a mental health expert, Kraus said.

While parents might feel the need to teach their children what do in such an emergency, the next few days is not the time to develop or bring up your family's disaster preparedness or to teach your young children to dial 911, Saxe said.

"Right now, kids' sense of safety and security is shattered," Saxe said. "It's very good parenting practice, in general, to have a kid know what to do in times of emergency, but it undermines the immediate message that you're trying to convey."

Schonfeld said if children bring it up themselves, you can talk about what's being done to keep them safe.

As students head back to their classrooms on Monday, parents and children should know that school shootings are rare and schools still are among the safest places, said William Lassiter of the Center for the Prevention of School Violence. Parents can ask their principal or parent-teacher group for a copy of their school crisis plan.

Notice whether schools stick to their own security plans, he said. Do people have to check in at the door and sign in at the front office, for example?

"A lot of times, the parents are the ones who need to remind the school," he said.

Schools should have an emergency plan that is available to parents that explains what the school will do in various emergencies, such as a fire, hazardous materials spill, lockdown or evacuation. It should also say how the school will communicate with the parents: for example on its Twitter feed, Facebook page, website, or by email or automated phone call, said Kitty Porterfield, a spokeswoman for the American Association of School Administrators.

From the moment a child starts school, they are learning safety procedures such as lining up and following the teacher, she said. School districts in most major metropolitan areas also hold drills in which teachers and administrators practice what to do in a shooting or similar emergency. Most don't involve children so that they aren't upset, but some do, she said.

It's natural for parents at a time like this to want to react to Friday's shooting with action, Schonfeld said, but giving a young child a cellphone or keeping them out of school probably will not help.

"I know we really want to do everything we can to keep our kids safe," he said. "You could put GPS tracking on them, bullet-proof vests. There's a limit to what you can do."

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Smith reported from Providence, R.I. Associated Press writers Erika Niedowski in Providence and Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.


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