- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2012

In one of the most grisly and terrifying school shootings in the nation’s history, a lone gunman entered a small-town Connecticut elementary school Friday morning and killed more than 26 people, including 20 children in his mother’s kindergarten classroom and another room, according to law enforcement officials and multiple press reports.

The suspect was found dead at the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Multiple news reports said that his mother, a teacher at the school, was among those killed, although it was not clear if she was killed at the school or at her Newtown home earlier in the day. In addition to the children, the school’s principal and the school’s psychologist were believed to be among the victims.

Horrifying details of the incident, one of the worst school shootings in American history, emerged throughout the morning from the chaotic scene at the K-4 school, about 60 miles northeast of New York City.

“Evil visited this community today,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

A deeply shaken President Obama, addressing reporters just hours after the attack occurred, said, “I know there’s not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” Mr. Obama said, his voice thick with emotion.

“As a country we have been through this too many times, whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children,” Mr. Obama 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. The death toll was more than double the 1999 attack on Columbine High School in Colorado.

Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance, the department spokesman, confirmed in an afternoon news briefing that the shooter — reportedly carrying two handguns and dressed in all black — was among those dead from a self-inflicted wound. Sources said the brother of the shooter, still not positively identified by officials sources, was taken into custody at his home in Hoboken, N.J.

There was confusion and conflicting reports throughout the day about the identity of the shooter. The Associated Press identified the gunman as Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old son of kindergarten teacher Nancy Lanza, contradicting initial reports that named his brother, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, as the shooter. Authorities refused to confirm the suspect’s identity at a 5 p.m. press conference.

ABC News reported that sources said the shooter was armed with a Glock semi automatic handgun and a Sig Sauer semi automatic handgun. Many .223 caliber shell casings — a rifle caliber — were also found at the scene.

The school had a recently installed security system that required visitors to be buzzed in after identifying themselves to staffers, leading to speculation that he was known to school personnel, according to Fox News.

Witnesses interviewed on television reported hearing “hundreds” of shots being fired as children and teachers cowered in locked classrooms. The shooter was described as being dressed all in black and wearing a bulletproof vest, and much of the killing was confined to a pair of rooms in one wing of the school. Lt. Vance said the scene was secure, but repeatedly refuse to confirm a specific number of fatalities. More than eight hours after the shooting, the bodies of most of the children and of the suspected shooter were still inside the school.

The White House said President Obama was informed of the assault, which took place as children were listening to morning announcements, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy arrived at the school hours of the news first broke. Frightened children could be seen being led from the schoolhouse to a nearby fire station after the incident, which began around 9:30 a.m.

Sandy Hook is one of four elementary schools in the district. There are approximately 626 students enrolled in kindergarten through fourth-grade classes at Sandy Hook Elementary, with another 46 faculty members, the local Newtown Patch reported.

Roy Occhiogrosso, a senior adviser to Gov. Malloy, told the Hartford Courant that the governor had met with families affected by the tragedy. He told reporters later at the afternoon briefing that the governor had talked directly with Mr. Obama, who had offered any federal assistance needed.

“It is an unspeakable scene,” Mr. Occhiogrosso told the newspaper.

Counselors and crisis response staff from state mental health services, children and family services, public health and the Red Cross are working with federal and local officials on the scene, the governor’s office said.

The shooting invoked memories of the deadly incidents at Virginia Tech and Colorado’s Columbine High School. But federal and state officials, citing beefed up security and safety procedures in recent years, say that the country’s K-12 schools have become safer in recent years, according to the most recent statistics.

The U.S. Department of Education reported that the number of people killed in so-called “school-associated” incidents fell from a high of 63 in the 2006-2007 school year to 33 in the latest full school year.

• Jerry Seper and Jim McElhatton contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.