Sandy Hook report offers chilling details about school shooter
NEW YORK — The gunman who massacred 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was obsessed with mass murders and so mentally twisted that his mother planned to move him out of state so he could attend a special school, yet she had him living in a home with firearms and ammunition and gave him money to buy a gun for Christmas.
The information was released Monday in the most detailed account yet of the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting that left 20 first-graders and six school employees dead and galvanized calls nationwide for stricter gun control.
The report from the Connecticut state’s attorney in Danbury, Stephen Sedensky III, also gave a chilling account of shooter Adam Lanza’s downward mental spiral and of his increasingly antisocial behavior in recent years.
Among other things, it said Lanza, 20, kept a spreadsheet of mass murders, hated to be touched, and did not allow anyone — including his mother, Nancy Lanza — into his bedroom. He covered his bedroom windows with black trash bags, disliked birthdays and holidays, would not let his mother put up a Christmas tree, and made her get rid of a cat because he didn’t want it in the house.
As time went by, he only spoke to his mother via email, even though they lived together.
But the 48-page report, a summary of the police investigation that includes 78 photographs of the school and the Lanza home, does not offer a reason for Lanza’s rampage or his decision to target the school.
“The obvious question that remains is: Why did the shooter murder 27 people, including 20 children? Unfortunately that question may never be answered,” it said.
The report provided a detailed timeline of the events that Friday morning, based on interviews with witnesses, including children who survived. It delved into Lanza’s childhood and mental problems and noted that nobody considered him a threat, despite his odd behavior. Toxicology reports showed no sign of prescription medication or any other drugs or alcohol in Lanza’s system at the time of the shooting.
According to police, Lanza shot his mother sometime between 8 and 9 a.m., using a .22-caliber rifle. Someone living near the Lanzas’ home in a hilly, upscale neighborhood reported hearing “two or three” gunshots during that time.
Then Lanza got into his car and drove a few miles to the school. He parked outside the low-slung building and approached the front entrance armed with a Bushmaster rifle, a Glock 10-millimeter pistol, a Sig Sauer 9-millimeter pistol and a “large supply of ammunition,” according to the report. The doors were locked because classes had begun, so Lanza shot open the plate-glass window on the door leading into the lobby.
Wearing a hat, sunglasses, yellow earplugs and black fingerless gloves, he began strolling down the hallway. “The shooter walked normally, did not say anything, and appeared to be breathing normally,” the report said.
Lanza’s first victims were principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, who were in Room 9 when they heard glass shattering and “loud banging.” They went into the hallway and quickly were shot to death, but not before Hochsprung warned a third staffer behind her, “Stay put!”
That staffer was also shot but survived. She crawled back into Room 9 and dialed 911.
By now, other staff members had taken shelter in the school’s main office. Lanza was heading toward classrooms 8 and 10, where he killed 20 children and four adults.
As the gunfire raged, staff and students hid wherever they happened to be. The staff used various ways to keep the children calm, reading to them or having them color or draw pictures.
The first 911 call was made about 9:35 a.m. Less than four minutes later, the first police arrived at the school, according to the report. Less than five minutes after that call, Lanza shot himself.
“In fewer than 11 minutes, 20 first-grade pupils and six adults had lost their lives,” the report said. It noted that all the weapons found in Lanza’s home or with him at the school had been legally purchased by his mother.
Nancy Lanza, who was divorced from Adam’s father, “took care of all the shooter’s needs,” according to the report, and indicated that she didn’t work because of his condition. Nonetheless, she allowed Adam easy access to firearms, and one of the items found in their home was a check, written by Nancy Lanza to Adam and dated “Christmas Day,” with a notation that it was for him to buy himself a CZ 83 pistol.
Those who knew Adam Lanza offered varying descriptions of him including “nice” but “withdrawn” as a young boy to “antisocial” and “a loner” by high school. An acquaintance who socialized with him from 2011 to June 2012 said he was “capable of laughing, smiling and making jokes” and enjoyed nature and hiking.
Nobody said Lanza indicated a desire to be violent.
His taste in video games reflected the puzzle of his personality. Items in his bedroom and on his computer desktop included violent games, including “Grand Theft Auto” and “Battlefield,” and information on mass killings and the topic of pedophilia. But Lanza was also a huge fan of “Dance Dance Revolution,” in which a player on a platform moves his feet as directed by a video. In 2011 and until a month before the shooting, he went to a theater and played the game “most every Friday through Sunday” for up to 10 hours at a stretch.
In 2005, Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and had “significant social impairments and extreme anxiety,” the report said, but he refused medication or therapy. By 2006, Nancy Lanza noted “marked changes” in her son’s behavior. He stopped riding his bike, hiking and playing the saxophone and became more reclusive.
By November 2012, he was not speaking to her and had not left the house in three months. Nancy Lanza told friends she planned to sell the Newtown house and move to Washington so Adam could attend a special school.
On Dec. 10, four days before the shooting, Nancy Lanza told a friend that her son had bumped his head badly but that he was OK. Then she left for a planned trip to New Hampshire, after cooking some of his favorite foods for him to eat while she was gone. She returned from her trip the night of Dec. 13.
Some state and Newtown officials, as well as families, had argued against releasing even the summary of what is expected to be a much larger official police report on the crime, saying it would only dredge up painful memories just as the city braces for the anniversary of the massacre.
Relatives of slain teacher Victoria Soto said the report’s release was “yet another blow” to them.
“While others search for the answer as to why this happened, we search for the how. How can we live without Vicki? How do we celebrate Christmas without Vicki? How do we go on every day missing a piece of our family?” the family said in a statement. “Those are the questions we seek the answers for. There is nothing in the report that will answer those for us.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he hoped the report would “add momentum to the push to prevent gun violence.”
“The lessons of this report are simple,” he said. “We must improve school security, increase mental health services and require background checks for all gun purchases so we can keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people.”
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