US grieves amid reports of other shooting plots

US grieves amid reports of other shooting plots

NEWTOWN, Connecticut / BARTLESVILLE, Oklahoma
US grieves amid reports of other shooting plots

Relatives of victims mourn in Stratford, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire in the school. AP Photo

The United States recovers from another shocking mass school shooting, with condolence messages flocking in from around the world as investigators try to figure out what led a bright but awkward 20-year-old, Adam Lanza, to slaughter 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school.

Members of the close-knit community mourned as the depth of the Dec. 14 tragedy became clear. “I don’t know how to get through something like this,” said Robbie Parker, a 30-year-old physician’s assistant whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among the dead. He offered sympathy to Lanza’s family. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you,” he said. Townspeople took down some of their Christmas decorations, struggling with how to go on. Signs around town read, “Hug a teacher today,” ”Please pray for Newtown.”

No note or manifesto

President Barack Obama planned to attend an interfaith memorial service yesterday in Newtown. In his Dec. 15 radio address, Obama called for “meaningful action” to prevent such shootings, but did not say what should be done. Obama’s visit to Newtown would be the fourth time he has traveled to a city after a mass shooting. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said all the victims at the school were shot with a semiautomatic rifle, some of them at a close range but all apparently shot more than once.

All six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys, 12 were girls and all were 6 or 7 years old.

Lanza also shot to death his mother, Nancy Lanza. School board chairwoman Debbie Leidlein spent the night of Dec. 14 meeting with parents who lost children and shivered as she recalled the conversations.

“They were asking why. They can’t wrap their minds around it. Why? What’s going on?” she said, “And we just don’t have any answers for them.” Police shed no light on what triggered Lanza to carry out the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found “very good evidence ... that our investigators will be able to use in painting the complete picture, the how and more importantly the why.”

However, a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators found no note or manifesto from Lanza.

With no criminal history, the former honor student was described as smart but odd and remote. He was believed to have suffered from a personality disorder, according to a law enforcement official. Richard Novia, the school district’s head of security until 2008, who also served as adviser for the school technology club of which Lanza was a member, said Lanza 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.” Novia also said his main concern regarding Lanza was that he might become a target for teasing or abuse by other students, not that he might become a threat.

Amid the confusion and sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, rushing toward Lanza in an attempt to stop him. Both died. Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher, was killed while shielding her first graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom closet, ensuring they were safe, Soto’s cousin Jim Wiltsie said.

Relatives of the shooter were at a loss for words. Lanza’s family is struggling to make sense of what happened and “trying to find whatever answers we can,” his father, Peter Lanza, said in a statement late Dec. 15 that also expressed sympathy for the victims’ families.

Compiled from AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.