In Connecticut: Prayers, Grief, Questions … And Stories Of Heroism

Hanging on to each other: Two people at one of the prayer services Friday night in Newtown, Conn.
Hanging on to each other: Two people at one of the prayer services Friday night in Newtown, Conn.

The day after one of the worst mass murders in the nation’s history, Americans are learning more about Friday’s horrific attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults lying dead.

The man authorities have identified as the killer — 20-year-old Adam Lanza — also died at the scene, possibly from a self-inflicted gunshot. One other person was found dead at a home in Newtown. Authorities have told NPR and other news outlets it was Lanza’s mother.

Today, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police told reporters that the gunman forced his way into the school. And, Lt. J. Paul Vance said, all victims have now been identified and their bodies removed from the scene. It may still be a couple days, however, before investigators finish working at the bullet-ridden school.

We followed the story as it developed on Friday. Today, we’ll update the news in this post and look for related stories.

Update at 12:55 p.m. ET. All Three Guns Were Used, Senator Says:

Asked on CNN moments ago about the two handguns and one rifle found in the school, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said “all of them were used in some way.” Blumenthal was Connecticut’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2010. He was in Newtown when he spoke with CNN and earlier in the day was with the police who are investigating the shootings.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. Will The Shootings Shift Public Opinion On Guns?

Polling in recent years indicates that the news may not have a significant, lasting impact on public opinion — unless the murders of 20 school children at their school is just such a shock.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. On Nancy Lanza:

Though State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance has not yet publicly named the deceased woman found in a Newtown home, he has said that she was a relative of the gunman. Federal law enforcement officials have told NPR’s Carrie Johnson that the woman was Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother. It is not clear yet if she had any connection to the school, though there have been reports she may have done some kind of work — possibly volunteering — there.

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. State Police Statement On The Attack And Investigation:

Along with the news briefing the Connecticut State Police just held, the agency has also posted a statement about the shootings and the investigation. It’s the first such document from that agency. Much of the information had already been stated during Lt. J. Paul Vance’s news briefings. Here two sections that add to previously reported information:

– “The deceased victims have been transported to the Office of The Chief State’s Medical Examiner where a post mortem examination will be conducted to determine the manner and cause of death.”

– “A second crime scene was located by investigators at a residence on Yogananda Street. A female was located deceased inside the residence. … Preliminary information determined that the deceased was a relative of the ‘shooter’ at the Elementary School.

Another detail: During his news conference this morning, Vance told reporters that “the weaponry that was recovered by our investigators was recovered in close proximity to the deceased.” Earlier today, NPR’s Carrie Johnson was told by a “law enforcement official on the ground in Connecticut” that there were three weapons found in the school — two handguns and a .223-caliber rifle. On Thursday, there were reports that the rifle was found in the car that the gunman drove to the scene.

Update at 10:25 a.m. ET. State Police: When Victims’ Names Are Released, “Please Respect Their Privacy;” Shooter “Forced His Way Into The School.”

At a news briefing, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance just said that the names of all the deceased and the gunman are going to be released soon by the local medical examiner’s office — perhaps within the hour. All the families of the victims, he said, have asked that news outlets “respect their privacy. … I’m asking you and I’m pleading with you … to please abide by their requests,” he said.

Vance told reporters that the evidence indicates that the gunman “was not voluntarily let into the school at all. … He forced his way into the school.” There have been reports of broken windows (some were smashed by police when they arrived on the scene because the school had been locked down) and that the gunman may have shot his way into the school through a window.

Investigators will likely still be working at the school through Sunday and into Monday, Vance said.

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. Connecticut’s WSHU Plans Live Special Coverage Today:

Our colleagues in the state say there will be a “2-hour, live, call-in special today, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on all WSHU frequencies.”

Update at 9:40 a.m. ET. How To Help? Governor’s Office Points To United Way:

At the official website of Gov. Daniel Malloy, D-Conn., a “how to help Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims” headline links to United Way of Western Connecticut’s Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

Update at 9 a.m. ET. All Families Have Been Formally Notified:

“By early this morning, we were able to positively identify all of the victims and make some formal notification to all of the families of the victims,” Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance tells CBS This Morning: Saturday. He also confirmed the earlier reports that all the bodies have been removed from the school.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Video Of News Conference:

The cable news networks are planning to broadcast the news conference that authorities are supposed to hold any time now. It’s also being streamed by several news outlets in Connecticut, including WTNH-TV.

Update at 8:35 a.m. ET. “No Sense Of Motive,” Local Police Official Says:

“Newtown police Lt. George Sinko, the department’s public information officer, told Patch Saturday morning that investigators have no sense of what prompted the gunman to act. ‘There is no sense of motive at this time,’ Sinko said.”

We’re still waiting for a news briefing to begin in Newtown.

Update at 8:15 a.m. ET. Victims Have Been Identified:

State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance is due to brief reporters shortly. Fox Connecticut says it spoke with him and that Vance says investigators have identified all the victims, that the bodies have been removed from the school, and that he expects to be able to publicly confirm the killer’s identity. Adam Lanza’s name has been relayed to news outlets, including NPR, by law enforcement sources. Vance, the public spokesman on the investigation, has not yet formally released that information.

6:45 a.m. ET: As the day dawns in Newtown, here’s a look at some of the overnight headlines and developments:

Stories of heroism: A custodian “ran through the school halls making sure classroom doors were locked from the inside.” Library staffers rushed students into a storage closet and barricaded the door with file cabinets. Principal Dawn Hochsprung “warned several colleagues who were about to step into the hallway behind her, and into the shooter’s direct line of fire” before being shot herself. (The Newtown Bee)

– “The shootings took place in two first-grade classrooms.” (The Hartford Courant)

– “No motive known.” (The New York Times)

– “Police say it’s clear that the gunman who opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday was on a mission to kill as many people as possible.” (CBS News)

– Adam Lanza was a “quiet, shy” boy growing up, says school bus driver and neighbor. (The Boston Herald)

– “Two federal sources told ABC News that identification belonging to Ryan Lanza [Adam's brother] was found at the scene of the mass shooting.” That may be why some officials initially said the gunman’s name was Ryan. (ABC News)

– In Newtown, “the peace and quiet has been shattered, and residents are trying to make sense of what’s happened.” (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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