The Slatest

Tragedy in Newtown: “Those Who Died Today Were Children—Beautiful, Little Kids”

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.
In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.

Photograph by Shannon Hicks, Newtown Bee.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Latest Updates:

  • Police have confirmed that 28 people are dead: 20 children, 6 adults in the school, 1 at a local residence and the shooter 
  • The gunman’s mother was reportedly a kindergarten teacher at the school, and among the dead
  • Early reports about the shooter’s identity appear to have been wrong; the AP and others now say that the suspect is 20-year-old Adam Lanza, not his 24-year-old brother Ryan
  • Reports suggest that the guns used in the shooting belonged to Adam’s mother, Nancy, and were legally purchased
  • President Obama: “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.”
  • Lt. J. Paul Vance: “We’ve never seen anything like this.”

The nation’s eyes remain on Newtown, Conn., where an adult gunman opened fire at an elementary school Friday morning, killing 20 children and six adults. The death toll places the mass shooting as the second worst in U.S. history.

“The majority of those who died today were children—beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” a tearful President Obama told the nation during an afternoon press conference at the White House shortly before Newtown authorities went public with the official death count.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them—birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams,” the president continued. “So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.”

Local law enforcement officials say that the shooter was killed at the scene—although it remains unclear whether he took his own life—along with a seventh adult at a local residence sometime prior to this morning’s spree.

Lt. J. Paul Vance told reporters this afternoon that it was still an “active, ongoing” investigation and that “there are a lot of things we cannot confirm or discuss as of yet.” At a subsequent briefing Vance suggested it could take days to process the scene. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.*

A flood of reports steadily poured in throughout the day via a host of unnamed sources, most of which remain unconfirmed and several of which have already proved false.

The biggest confusion among the early reports concerned the identity of the gunman. CNN and CBS News were among multiple outlets originally reporting that the suspect was 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, but CBS and the Associated Press have since confirmed those reports were incorrect. The shooter is now believed to be Ryan’s 20-year-old brother Adam Lanza. Ryan is currently being questioned by police, according to the AP, and is said to be cooperating with authorities.

The New York Times and multiple news networks are reporting that the gunman’s mother, Nancy Lanza, was a kindergarten teacher at the school and was among those killed. Current reports suggest that she was the adult killed at a local home that she shared with her son, although the police have not yet confirmed that publicly.

According to CNN and others, the three guns found at the school were registered in Nancy Lanza’s name. According to the AP, two handguns—a Glock and a Sig Sauer—were recovered at the scene, while the third, a .223-caliber rifle, was recovered in the back of a car parked at the school.

ABC News, meanwhile, reported earlier today that the gunman was wearing a bulletproof vest. (Although, we’ll point out that initial reports of such body armor often turn out to be false.)

Early reports of a second gunman now appear to be incorrect. Vance and other officials have said repeatedly that they believe there was only a single gunman. NBC and others reported earlier in the day that police took someone into custody in the hours after the shooting, although it remains unclear what—if any—role he or she may have played.

The school shooting was the second most deadly in U.S. history. Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 before turning the gun on himself.

This post was originally published at 11:45 a.m. It has been updated with additional information as it became available.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified Lt. J. Paul Vance as Newton’s chief of police. He is not. He is with the Connecticut State Police force.