Students outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a school shooting was reported
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- A man killed his mother at home and then opened fire Friday inside the elementary school where she taught, massacring 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in fear to the sound of gunshots reverberating through the building and screams echoing over the intercom.
The 20-year-old killer, carrying two handguns, committed suicide at the school, bringing the death toll to 28, authorities said.
The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead in 2007.
"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain his composure, said at the White House. He called for "meaningful action" to prevent such shootings. "As a country, we have been through this too many times," he said.
Police shed no light on the motive for the attack on two classrooms. The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.
Panicked parents looking for their children raced to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, a prosperous New England community of about 27,000 people 60 miles northeast of New York City. Police told youngsters at the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school to close their eyes as they were led from the building.
Schoolchildren - some crying, others looking frightened - were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.
Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, and then drove to the school in her car with three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back. Authorities said he shot up two classrooms, but they otherwise gave no details on how the attack unfolded.
A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack - and perhaps saving many lives - by letting them hear the hysteria apparently going on 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.
State police Lt. Paul Vance said 28 people in all were killed, including the gunman, and a woman who worked at the school was wounded.
Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, but a law enforcement official said he was not believed to have had any 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 has a Facebook page that posted updates Friday afternoon that read, "It wasn't me" and "I was at work."
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.
Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter was in the school and heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said.
"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. His daughter was uninjured.
Theodore Varga said he was in a meeting with other fourth-grade teachers when he heard the gunfire, but there was no lock on the door.
He said someone had turned on the intercom so that "you could hear people in the office. You could hear the hysteria that was going on. I think whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."
Also, 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." The teacher said he did not know if the custodian survived.
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 uninjured, heard a scream come over the intercom. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.
"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.
Mary Pendergast said her 9-year-old nephew was in the school at the time of the shooting but wasn't hurt after his music teacher helped him take cover in a closet.
Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, told him that he heard a noise that sounded like "cans falling." The boy said a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the children huddle 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."
On Friday afternoon, family members were led 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. Another woman with tears rolling down her face walked by, carrying a car seat with a baby inside.
"Evil visited this community today and it's too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut - we're all in this together. We'll do whatever we can to overcome this event," Gov. Dannel Malloy said.
Adam Lanza and his mother lived in a well-to-do part of Newtown where neighbors are doctors or hold white-collar positions at companies such as General Electric, Pepsi and IBM.
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.
The shootings instantly brought to mind such tragedies as the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 in 1999 and the July shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead.
"You go to a movie theater in Aurora and all of a sudden your life is taken," Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis said. "You're at a shopping mall in Portland, Ore., and your life is taken. This morning, when parents kissed their kids goodbye knowing that they are going to be home to celebrate the holiday season coming up, you don't expect this to happen."
He added: "It has to stop, these senseless deaths."
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.
He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened to Obama.
"They had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own," Obama continued about the victims. "Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children."
NEWTOWN, Conn. (NBC) - A kindergarten teacher's son -- clad in black and carrying two 9mm pistols -- rampaged through a Connecticut elementary school Friday, killing 20 small children and six adults, including his mother, in the nation’s second-worst school shooting, law enforcement officials said.
The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, was also found dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, law enforcement officials said. Police later found an unidentified woman who had been fatally shot in the face at a home in Newtown after officials showed up with there a bomb squad.
Officials had initially misidentified the shooter to NBC News as Lanza's brother, Ryan. But a senior official later said that Ryan was nowhere near the shooting, is not believed to be involved, and is cooperating with the investigation. Ryan told police that Adam has a history of mental illness, according to the senior official.
Some young survivors -- ages 5 to 10 -- described the terror of the shooting and a massive police response that included SWAT officers going room to room to search for victims as students huddled in classroom corners.
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 told the Associated Press. "He was very brave."
One student told NBC Connecticut she was in the gym when she heard “seven loud booms.”
“The gym teachers told us to go in the corner, so we all huddled,” she said. "And I kept hearing these booming noises. And we all … started crying.
"All the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us," she added. "So then a police officer came in and told us to run outside. So we did and we came in the firehouse.”
The high death toll and the tender age of many victims sent shock waves all the way to the White House, where the flag was lowered to half-staff.
President Obama, his voice cracking at times, said he reacted to the tragedy first as a parent.
“Our hearts are broken today,'' he said. “The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old.”
Authorities in the small bedroom community 60 miles from New York City were alerted to the unfolding carnage by a 911 call around 9:30 a.m., and then reached out to state police and neighboring police departments for help.
An elementary school student recalls the terrifying moments following sounds of shots fired at her Connecticut elementary school, saying "teachers told us to go in the corner so we all huddled."
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said troopers fanned out across the school and searched “every door, every crack, every crevice” of the building.
Most of the bodies were found in two rooms in one section of the 600-student school, which goes up to the fourth grade.
Two children were taken to Danbury Hospital, but they died. A third person was being treated at the hospital, which went into lockdown mode and cleared trauma rooms as doctors waited for an influx of survivors that never came.
After police finished searching the school and determined there was only one gunman, they led the children outside, telling them to close their eyes, apparently to avoid seeing anything gruesome.
At a staging area ringed by police vehicles that raced to the school from across the state, the dazed and crying kids were reunited with worried loved ones.
Brenda Lebinski, mother of a third-grader, said she found a “horrendous” scene.
“Everyone was in hysterics -- parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don't know if they were shot, but they were bloodied,'' she said, according to Reuters.
One parent picking up his 7-year-old son said the shooting was “the most terrifying moment a parent can imagine." He went on to describe the anguish of waiting to find out if his son was a victim and then running to his child when he saw him.
“It was the greatest relief in my existence,” the father said. “I’m just happy that my kid’s OK.”
Two 9mm handguns were recovered from the scene, an official told NBCNewYork.com, and a rifle was found in the back of a car parked outside the school.
The FBI was assisting with the widening investigation, and authorities said there were many unanswered questions, including the motive.
“There is a great deal of search warrant activity…in and out of the state,” Vance said, without giving specifics.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy was meeting with grieving families.
“As you can imagine, the governor is horrified by what’s happened,” said aide Roy Occhiogrosso.
The death toll is the highest from a school shooting since a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. At Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, two teens killed 13 people and wounded 24 in 1999.
Parent Stephen Delgiadice, whose 8-year-old daughter was not hurt, said he never could have imagined such bloodshed in the quiet town of 27,000, where the police force has only three detectives.
"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he told The Associated Press.
Obama said Friday’s shooting, following the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and other murder sprees, showed the need for “meaningful action…regardless of the politics” to prevent more blood from being spilled.
New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who has been pushing for tougher gun laws, called for Washington to act immediately.
“Not even kindergarteners learning their A, B, Cs are safe,” he said. “We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again.”
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A law enforcement official says the suspect in the Connecticut school shootings is 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher at the school where the shootings occurred. A second law enforcement official says the boy's mother, Nancy Lanza, is presumed dead.
The first official says Adam Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., is being questioned by police. An earlier report from a law enforcement official mistakenly transposed the brothers' first names.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.
The first official said Adam Lanza is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
UPDATE: Lt. Paul Vance with Connecticut State Police says a total of 27 people have died, including the shooter, in the shooting spree in Newtown, CT. He says 18 children died at the scene, two more children were pronounced dead at the hospital, and that seven adults have died.