The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 15, 2012

School shooting: How it happened

NEWTOWN, Conn. — First, he killed his mother.

Nancy Lanza's body was found later at their home on Yogananda Street in Newtown — after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School; after a quiet New England town was scarred forever by unthinkable tragedy; after a nation seemingly inured to violence found itself stunned by the slaughter of innocents.

Nobody knows why 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, why he then took her guns to the school and murdered 20 children and six adults.

But on Friday he drove his mother's car through this 300-year-old town with its fine old churches and towering trees and arrived at a school full of the season's joy. Somehow, he got past a security door to a place where children should have been safe from harm.

Theodore Varga and other fourth-grade teachers were meeting; the glow remained from the previous night's fourth-grade concert.

"It was a lovely day," Varga said. "Everybody was joyful and cheerful. We were ending the week on a high note."

And then, suddenly and unfathomably, gunshots rang out. "I can't even remember how many," he said.

The fourth-graders, the oldest children in the school, were in specialty classes like gym and music. There was no lock on the meeting room door, so the teachers had to think about how to escape, knowing that their students were with other teachers.

Someone turned the loudspeaker on, so everyone could hear what was happening in the office.

"You could hear the hysteria that was going on," Varga said. "Whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."

Gathered in another room for a 9:30 a.m. meeting were principal Dawn Hochsprung and school therapist Diane Day along with a school psychologist, other staff members and a parent. They were meeting to discuss a second-grader.

"We were there for about five minutes chatting, and we heard Pop! Pop!, Pop!" Day told The Wall Street Journal. "I went under the table."

But Hochsprung and the psychologist leaped out of their seats and ran out of the room, Day recalled. "They didn't think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on," she said. Hochsprung was killed, and the psychologist was believed to have been killed as well.

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."

Did he survive? The teacher did not know.

___

Police radios crackled with first word of the shooting at 9:36, according to the New York Post.

"Sandy Hook School. Caller is indicating she thinks there's someone shooting in the building," a Newtown dispatcher radioed, according to a tape posted on the paper's website.

___

In a first-grade classroom, teacher Kaitlin Roig heard the shots. She immediately barricaded her 15 students into a tiny bathroom, sitting one of them on top of the toilet. She pulled a bookshelf across the door and locked it. She told the kids to be "absolutely quiet."

"I said, 'There are bad guys out there now. We need to wait for the good guys,'" she told ABC News.

"The kids were being so good," she said. "They asked, 'Can we go see if anyone is out there?' 'I just want Christmas. I don't want to die, I just want to have Christmas.' I said, 'You're going to have Christmas and Hanukkah.'"

One student claimed to know karate. "It's OK. I'll lead the way out," the student said.

In the gym, crying fourth-graders huddled in a corner. One of them was 10-year-old Philip Makris.

"He said he heard a lot of loud noises and then screaming," said his mother, Melissa Makris. "Then the gym teachers immediately gathered the children in a corner and kept them safe."

Another girl who was in the gym recalled hearing "like, seven loud booms."

"The gym teacher told us to go in a corner, so we all huddled and I kept hearing these booming noises," the girl, who was not identified by name, told NBC News. "We all started — well, we didn't scream; we started crying, so all the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us."

An 8-year-old boy described how a teacher saved him.

"I saw some of the bullets going past the hall that I was right next to, and then a teacher pulled me into her classroom," said the boy, who was not identified by CBSNews.com.

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.

___

"The shooting appears to have stopped," the dispatcher radioed at 9:38 a.m., according to the Post. "There is silence at this time. The school is in lockdown."

And at 9:46 a.m., an anguished voice from the school: "I've got bodies here. Need ambulances."

___

Carefully, police searched room to room, removing children and staff from harm's way. They found Adam Lanza, dead by his own hand after shooting up two classrooms; no officer fired a gun.

Student Brendan Murray told WABC-TV it was chaos in his classroom at first after he heard loud bangs and screaming. A police officer came in and asked, "Is he in here?" and then ran out. "Then our teacher, somebody, yelled, 'Get to a safe place.' Then we went to a closet in the gym and we sat there for a little while, and then the police were, like, knocking on the door and they were, like, 'We're evacuating people, we're evacuating people,' so we ran out."

Children, warned to close their eyes so they could not see the product of his labors, were led away from their school.

Parents rushed to the scene. Family members walked 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.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other public officials came to the firehouse. So did clergymen like Monsignor Robert Weiss of Newtown's St. Rose Roman Catholic Church. He watched as parents came to realize that they would never see their children alive again.

"All of them were hoping their child would be found OK. But when they gave out the actual death toll, they realized their child was gone," Weiss said.

He recalled the reaction of the brother of one of the victims.

"They told a little boy it was his sister who passed on," Weiss said. "The boy's response was, 'I'm not going to have anyone to play with.'"

___

Jocelyn Noveck reported from New York. Jim Fitzgerald and Pat Eaton-Robb in Newtown and Bridget Murphy in Boston contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90 Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in "Primary" and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert M

    July 30, 2014

  • Homeowner killed, another injured in Vegas crime spree LAS VEGAS — A horrific carjacking and home invasion spree ended with two people dead and a woman in critical condition. One victim, Richard Ramos, a 59-year-old father of four, “fought to his death” to protect his wife and children from their attack

    July 30, 2014

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-9 [Duplicate] UPDATE: Suspect in Minnesota officer killing in custody WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota say a man wanted in the shooting death of an officer is in custody after being shot by police. St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos says 39-year-old Brian Fitch Sr. got out of a minivan firing at

    July 30, 2014 4 Photos

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-3 [Duplicate] Minnesota officer killed making traffic stop WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A police officer in Minnesota was fatally shot Wednesday while making a traffic stop and authorities said they were searching for a suspect. Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, 47, was shot about 12:20 p.m. after pulli

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Possible suspect caught in Minnesota cop shooting WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A potential suspect in the shooting of a police officer in Minnesota has been captured. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the officer was killed. Television news footage showed the man being pulled from his vehicle Wednes

    July 30, 2014

  • Police shooting reported in West St. Paul WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — Police are responding to the reported shooting of an officer in West St. Paul. Details weren't immediately available. Calls from The Associated Press to several police and city departments in the area weren't immediately returne

    July 30, 2014

  • Mars rover Opportunity breaks the off-world driving record Opportunity, the little rover that could, has broken a 41-year-old driving distance record that’s out of this world. The decade-old NASA Mars rover has crossed the 25-mile mark, surpassing the 24.2-mile record held by the Russian moon rover Lunokhod

    July 30, 2014

  • Minnesota officials consider high-speed rail ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota officials are holding public meetings on a proposed high-speed train linking Rochester to the Twin Cities. Transportation planners from state and federal departments are evaluating possibilities for the Zip Rail pas

    July 30, 2014

  • Study finds 5 servings of produce is enough, but we're not eating it How many times will we have to be told? Apparently we haven’t reached the point when we’ll change our habits, but here goes again: Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day can help us live longer. That comes from researchers’ analysis

    July 30, 2014

  • GOP gov hopeful Honour wants state spending cap Tells St. Cloud Times he wants a statutory budget cap linked to population and inflation.

    July 29, 2014