Adam Lanza is a name recognised for a horrific reason, on 14th December 2012 Lanza opened fire on faculty and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he caused 28 deaths, 27 of which were killed in the school, as Lanza’s first victim from that day was his mother, 52 year old Nancy Lanza, he killed her just before going to the elementary school. Lanza was 20 years old at the time of the shooting and under Connecticut law he was old enough to carry a rifle or shotgun, but not a handgun.
Lanza and his mother lived in Newtown, Connecticut. The town was quiet with 28,000 residents and violent crime was so rare that prior to the shooting there had only been on homicide in ten years. Sandy Hook Elementary School had 456 children enrolled as of 30th November 2012 and the school had recently updated their security protocols requiring visitors to be identified via video monitor before individual admittance to the school.
On the day of the shooting it was estimated that Lanza killed his mother some time before 9.30 am, Nancy Lanza was shot four times in the head and found in her bed still wearing her pyjamas. Lanza then stole his mother’s car and drove to Sandy Hook elementary.
Lanza arrived at the school shortly after 9:35am, he had his mother’s Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle with ten magazines with 30 rounds each. Lanza shot through a glass panel on the main entrance of the school and entered, initially it was reported that he was wearing body armour, but the reports were incorrect, he was wearing black clothing, yellow earplugs, sunglasses and an olive green utility vest. Morning announcements were being made during Lanza’s entry and some present at the time heard the first shots over the intercom.
School principal Dawn Hochsprung and the school psychologist Mary Sherlach were in a meeting with other faculty members when they heard the gunshots, but they did not recognise them to be gunshots. Hochsprung, Sherlach and a teacher Natalie Hammons went into the school hall to find where the sound was coming from and they encountered Lanza. Faculty members at that morning meeting said the three women shouted to them from the hall “Shooter! Stay put!” this saved their lives. A teacher hiding in the math lab heard the school janitor Rick Thorne shout “Put the gun down!” and get shot, but Thorne did survive. Hochsprung and Sherlach were killed by Lanza after shooting Thorne, Hammond managed to escape Lanza despite being shot in the leg, she lay still in the hallway playing dead until she couldn’t hear anymore noise, she then ran into a conference room and pressed her body against the door to keep it closed. Natalie Hammond survived and was treated at Danbury hospital.
A nine year old student at the school stated that he heard Lanza say “Put your hands up!” and someone replying saying “Don’t shoot” he also said he heard lots of people yelling and gunshots over the intercom while he and his classmates hid in a closet in the gymnasium. A substitute kindergarten teacher was hit by Lanza as she closed a door just down the hall from him, she was hit in the foot when a bullet ricocheted and hit her, Lanza never entered her classroom though.
Lanza entered the main office, but did not see the staff that managed to hide in there and returned to the hallway. He walked to the nurse’s office and the nurse Sarah Cox aged 60 hid under her desk, she stated that from the opening under her desk she saw the door open and Lanza enter she saw him stand just 20ft away facing away from the desk, he stopped for a few seconds then turned and left. Cox and school secretary Barbara Halstead then called 911 and his in the first aid supply closet for four hours, during this time an injured Rick Thorne was running through the hallways alerting all the classrooms.
Lanza entered a first grade classroom where substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau had herded her students to the back of the room and tried to hide them in a bathroom when Lanza broke into the classroom. Rousseau and a behavioural therapist Rachel D’Avino, who had only been employed at the school for a week to work with a special needs student in that class were killed along with fifteen students in that class, fourteen of the children died at the scene, but one injured child was taken to hospital for treatment, but died later. A six year old girl was the sole survivor found in that classroom by police, she was hidden in one of the corners of the bathroom during the shooting, when she reached her mother after the shooting she chillingly say “Mommy I’m okay, but all my friends are dead” she also described Lanza as a very angry man”. It was also reported that another child started to scream “Help me! I don’t want to be here!” and Lanza coldly replied with “Well you’re here” followed by more hammering gunshots.
There are conflicting reports about what happened when Lanza entered another first grade classroom.
According to some reports class teacher Victoria Leigh Soto had hidden some of the students in a closet or bathroom and some other students were hiding under their desks. Soto was walking toward the class door to lock it when Lanza entered, he walked to the back of the classroom and saw some of the children that were hiding under the desks and shot them. When the shooting began in the class it is said that a first grader Jesse Lewis shouted for his classmates to run for safety, this would have distracted Lanza giving the other children an opportunity to run and most of them did, Lewis was supposedly looking at Lanza when he fatally shot him.
Another account from a surviving child’s father says that Soto moved the children to the back of the class and that they were sitting on the floor when Lanza entered, in this a count neither Lanza or the children said anything to each other. Lanza allegedly stared at the children on the floor, pointed a gun at a boy but did not shoot and the boy was among the survivors.
The Hartford Courant reported that six of the children who escaped during the shooting did so while Lanza stopped shooting because his gun jammed or when he stopped to reload, early reports said that as Lanza entered her classroom Soto told him that the children were in the auditorium, when they thought it was safe some children came out of their hiding places and Lanza fatally shot them, Soto put herself between Lanza and the children, which ended in her being fatally shot. A teaching assistant Anne Marie Murphy who worked with special needs students was found covering 6 year old Hockley both had died from the shooting.
Soto’s body was found near the North wall of the classroom with a set of keys near by, the ones she was using to try and lock the door when Lanza entered. Six of the surviving children from Soto’s class and the school bus driver took refuge in a nearby house. Official reports by the state’s attorney say that nine children ran from Soto’s classroom and survived, two of the children from the class were found hiding in the bathroom attached to the classroom, it was determined that 11 children from Soto’s class survived, while five of her students were killed. During Lanza’s rampage most of the shooting was done in the two first grade classrooms.
The final shot was heard at 9.40am by police and they believe it was Lanza shooting himself. He took out a Glock 20SF and shot himself in the lower rear portion of his head, his body was found in classroom 10. He was wearing a pale green pocket vest over a black polo shirt, black sneakers, black fingerless gloves, black socks and a black canvas belt. He also had several objects with him including a black bonnie hat and thin frame glasses, the Glock used for the suicide was next to him jammed, the rifle used in the shooting was found several feet away and a 9mm SIG Sauer P226, which was not fired during the shooting.
There was no suicide note left by Lanza or any motive to explain why he shot up an elementary school, Lanza even went to extreme lengths to make the investigation after even harder by removing and damaging the hard drive on his computer, after some time they managed to repair and recover data from the drive and found Lanza had extensively researched earlier shootings such as the 2011 Norway attacks, the 2006 West Nickel Mines school shooting in Pennsylvania as well as videos associated with the Columbine High School massacre. They found videos that demonstrated how suicide by gunshot, showing Lanza had planned to kill himself.
Law enforcement officials reported details of a meeting of the International Association of Police Chiefs and Colonels held on 11th March 2013. On 17th March 2013 an anonymous law enforcement veteran who attended the meeting gave information to the New York Daily News stating that the ingestion revealed Lanza had created a 7 by 4 foot sized spreadsheet listing 500 mass murderers and the weapons they used, it’s speculated that this would have taken years of work to put together and that Lanza was using it as a “score sheet”. The next day on 18th March 2013 Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State police responded to the media information and stated that it was considered a leak of sensitive information.
Further details were released from documents written on 28th March 2013 proving information on items found in Lanza’s home that he shared with his mother some of which were samurai swords, a newspaper clipping of the Northern Illinois University shooting and a NRA certificate. This prompted the NRA to deny that Adam and Nancy Lanza were member and it was noted that the NRA website provide training certificates completion templates for courses that the NRA offered with certified instructors. Lanza had a gun safe in his bedroom where investigators found more than 1400 rounds of ammunition and several other firearms including a .45 Henry rifle, .30 Enfield rifle and a .22 Marlin rifle, these guns were registered legally to Nancy Lanza who was described as a “Gun enthusiast”. The New York Times reported that a photo was found in the house of Lanza with a gun to his head and that law enforcement officials had commented during the investigation that Lanza probably spent most of his time in his basement doing solitary activities, with evidence revealing Lanza would practice shooting targets in the basement as well.
As I’ve mentioned there was no clear reason why Lanza committed the attack on Sandy Hook, several factors come into the “Why” one of them being Lanza’s mental illnesses it’s been revealed that since childhood Lanza had suffered a variety of problems including anxiety, social anxiety, OCD, anorexia, Asperger syndrome (the he refused to take medication for due to the fact he would not accept it) and possibly schizophrenia, I’m not in any way saying that people who suffer these conditions are going to become mass shooters, but these conditions combined with his love of violence and murder and the easy access he had to firearms it’s easy to see where the idea came from, it was reported in a 1500 page report on Lanza written by an agent of the behavioural analysis unit that evidence showed Lanza could have had ideas of committing a shooting as early as March 2011, which is interesting because even though shooters will plan, normally an incident will trigger them to commit it, for example one act of bullying too much. In Lanza case it seemed to be building until he was ready, it was revealed that Lanza’s mother refused to let Lanza undergo a treatment and a routine of medication to treat his anxiety as a child, and teachers described him as “bright, but nervous” underplaying his issue. The fact people around him never acknowledged or confronted his issues allowed them to build over his life and this was a factor in what drove him to commit the massacre.
The one that really stood out and rang alarm bells for me was, in the report they stated that Lanza may have had an interest in children that could borderline on paedophilia, but there was no evidence that he acted on it. they spoke to a women who claimed to have had an “online relationship” with Lanza for around two years, she said Lanza acknowledged adult-child relationships could be “unhealthy” and didn’t Express personal interest in children, he apparently said that he felt he might be asexual. Lanza also told her about his data collecting on mass murders he said he felt that that mass murder was a symptom of a “broken society” and she believes that he thought he was “saving” the children from this “broken society”, however a file titled “advocating paedophile’s rights and liberating children” was recovered from Lanza’s laptop as well as a screenplay depicting a relationship between a ten year old boy and a 30 year old man.
It’s unusual for an adult to target children in an active shooter situation, often the target of the shooting is someone personally connected to the shooter often a school they attend or a workplace that they’ve been fired from, so it’s strange to see a 20 year old man target an elementary school that he attended years previous. With the information found on his hard drive and statements given from the woman who knew him I think Lanza realised he had some sort of attraction to children and this made him uncomfortable and unable to face up to it just like with his mental illnesses. If he couldn’t handle the fact he was attracted to children this would have made him suicidal, but with the exposure to the violent imagery that he surrounded himself with he could have developed the idea to kill the children that were “tempting” him. All of the children he killed were boys and girls aged 6 years old, there are several different age groups in an elementary school why target just one age group if the idea of a mass shooting is mass annihilation? The targeting of one age group is typically seen in child sex offenders and murders as that is their “preference”.
Obviously, all this is theorising we may never know the real reason, just that this case was complicated and tragic one, it was hard enough to research so I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for first responders and investigators. My heart truly breaks for these victims and their families.