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Connecticut medical examiner: ‘Everybody was hit more than once’

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- All of the victims killed in the Connecticut elementary school shooting died from multiple wounds from a “long gun” rifle and are classified as homicides, the state’s chief medical examiner said Saturday.

At a news conference, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II described the postmortems on the 20 children and six adults killed in Friday’s attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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“I’ve been at this for a third of a century and my sensibilities may not be the average man’s, but this is probably the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any my colleagues having seen,” he said.

PHOTOS: Shooting at Connecticut school

Officials distributed to reporters the names of all 26 victims and were preparing to release the bodies to the families for burial.

Carver said he believed the postmortems of all the children had been completed and those of the adults killed at the school would be done by Saturday night. The postmortems of the assailant and his mother will be done Sunday, he said.

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Officials have yet to formally name the shooter, but law enforcement sources have identified him as Adam Lanza, 20, who lived with his mother, Nancy.

FULL COVERAGE: Shooting at Connecticut school

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Nancy Lanza was the first person killed Friday, shot “in the face or head,” according to law enforcement sources, inside the home she shared with her son.

Adam Lanza then took his mother’s car and drove to the school where he forced his way into the building and opened fire, authorities said. He used weapons that were registered to his mother or father, who are divorced, the same law enforcement sources said.

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State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance told reporters that the weapons taken from the house were all recovered at the scene, where Lanza took his own life to become the 28th body during the deadly rampage.

Other law enforcement sources have identified the guns as a Bushmaster .223 rifle, a Glock 9-millimeter pistol and a Sig Sauer semiautomatic. It was unclear Saturday whether the Bushmaster was the “long gun” cited by Carver as the primary weapon in the attack. Law enforcement sources said the Bushmaster was recovered in the car, but Vance denied that assertion at a news conference.

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Vance also denied some media reports that the gunman was involved in an altercation with school employees in the days preceding the shooting.

“We’re doing everything we need to do to literally peel back the onion, layer by layer,” Vance told reporters, cautioning that the investigation was ongoing.

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Though many details of the shooting remained unclear, the impact on this western Connecticut town was deep and painful. From the moment the first shots rang out in the school Friday morning, shock smothered the town, followed by sadness and mourning. Memorial services began Friday, continued Saturday and will probably go on for days as funerals are held.

“Our wound is deep because we are a close-knit community,” Patricia Llodra, the town’s first selectman, told reporters. “We truly care for each other.

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“We are coming together with love and support for those families that have suffered this terrible loss. We are a strong and caring place. We will put our arms around those families and around each other. We will find a way to heal so that all our residents, young and old, will again find peace,” she said.

The official list of the dead identifies the victims as ranging from in age from 6 to 56 years old. Carver said he believed all of the children were first-graders.

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“Everybody was hit more than once,” some from close range, Carver said. “This is a very devastating set of injuries.”

Two of the dead adults had been named earlier and include the school’s principal and another staff member who rushed the gunman as he forced his way into the building, Newtown Public School District Supt. Janet Robinson told reporters Saturday.

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The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, was running at the gunman to protect her students when she was shot, Robinson said. School psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, also was trying to stop the gunman when she was killed, the superintendent said.

Nancy Lanza had never been a teacher or a substitute teacher at the school, as had been reported, Robinson said. Lanza’s connection to the school, if any, remained unclear.

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The shootings in Connecticut -- the deadliest toll since the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 -- has stirred the nation and the world, prompting an outpouring of condolences, especially for the youngest victims.

In addition to the formal memorials, impromptu banners and ad hoc signs have sprung up in the town, each carrying painful messages of love and sympathy. Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, have been a constant display of the world’s grief.

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One of Meg Fiscella’s friends lost a granddaughter in the shooting. Fiscella said she would miss seeing the little girl’s hair held in place by a big bow every Sunday at St. Rose’s, one of the churches where memorials have been held.

On Saturday morning, Fiscella was walking her two dogs when she saw a man enter the local funeral home. His eyes were red and puffy. In his hand was a pressed little white dress.

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“We are devastated. This town will be thought of as another Columbine,” she said, referring to the 1999 killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. “It is a wonderful little town.”

Many holiday parties were canceled around Newtown this weekend. “No one feels like celebrating,” she said.

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On Friday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told his state that “evil visited this community” and urged healing.

In brief comments Saturday, he called on the state to use love to renew itself in the wake of hate.

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“We can hug someone we love a little tighter,” he said.

Susman and Bennett reported from Newtown and Muskal from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Laura J. Nelson and Richard A. Serrano contributed to this report.

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