The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

October 21, 2013

Details provide clearer picture on Connecticut school shootings

HARTFORD, Conn. — Investigators who entered Adam Lanza’s home after he shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 found his bed neatly made. An armoire held five matching tan-colored shirts with five pairs of khaki pants. Black garbage bags sealed with duct tape covered the bedroom windows.

An empty bowl rested on the desktop near damaged computer parts in the adjacent second-floor room in the home he shared with his mother, Nancy. Lanza had removed the hard drives from his computers, and then opened the metal containers to get at the discs which store data. He scratched a W through the discs, before trying to smash them with a barbell.

Lanza’s online activity, including his interaction with online users about guns, video games and computers, has become a topic of investigation for authorities attempting to determine why he shot his mother to death before shooting his way through the school.

A state police report is due soon, but law enforcement sources provided details that provide a clearer picture of what happened at Lanza’s home and in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Police investigators concluded that Nancy Lanza had been shot four times in the same spot. The .22-caliber rifle that Adam Lanza used was pressed directly against her forehead and found at her bedside. The shades were still drawn in her bedroom, leading police to believe she was killed sometime before dawn.

Lanza drove to the school, where he killed 20 first-graders and six adults. The lone survivor from teacher Lauren Rousseau’s class was shielded from the gunman because she hid in one of the corners of the classroom’s tiny bathroom.

Among the other revelations, sources said, is that a school secretary and nurse remained hidden in a closet in Principal Dawn Hochsprung’s office for several hours even while state police officials used the office as a command center. The room had not been cleared by SWAT teams. Hochsprung was one of the adults killed.

State police trying to determine Lanza’s path through the school initially believed that he entered Rousseau’s room first and then backtracked to teacher Victoria Soto’s first-grade classroom. But some of the surviving children from Soto’s class told investigators that they didn’t hear gunshots until Lanza came in their room, casting doubt on the original theory.

The FBI is assisting the state police with tracking Lanza’s movements using sophisticated sound technology. Sources said the secretary in the main office did not hang up the phone after calling 911 and federal authorities are trying to use the sounds recorded through that open line to help chart Lanza’s movements in hopes of better understanding his actions.

When the shooting started, school janitor Rick Thorne ran through the school warning teachers to close their doors, and then used a master key to lock many of the doors for them. The state police SWAT team that was clearing the school after the shooting had to get the key from Thorne to open some of the rooms. The key was so worn from use that morning that it snapped in one of the doors.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said that when Lanza drove to the school, he parked his car in a way that could have set him up to ambush responding police officers. He parked with the passenger’s side facing a small brick wall near the front entrance. His shotgun was left leaning against the passenger’s side door.

The spot gave him potentially a perfect line of sight to shoot at police officers driving down the long driveway, around a curve and into his line of fire.

By examining evidence at the scene, a source said, investigators determined that Lanza fired eight shots through the front glass and 11 to kill Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach, who ran out of a room to the left of Hochsprung’s office. Police believe Lanza also fired one round from his pistol in the hallway but they are unsure why. He killed himself with a second shot from the pistol.

When Lanza entered Soto’s room he turned to his left and immediately fired at Soto, who was standing toward the back of the room near the window. Police believe some of those bullets went into the parking lot, striking some cars.

Through interviews with surviving children, sources said, investigators learned that some of Soto’s students were holding hands in the far right corner near the chalkboard, away from Lanza’s initial line of fire. When Lanza stopped firing because his gun jammed, student Jesse Lewis yelled for kids to run. Jesse was shot to death. Six of the children ran past Lanza to safety.

While the roles of Newtown officers have been documented in national media reports, new details have also emerged about state troopers’ actions.

Several troopers from Troop A rushed to school, including barracks commander Michael Hoffbauer, Sgt. William Cario and members of the narcotics task force who were arriving at the station for a case meeting. Two troopers, Carlos Guerra and William Cornoyer, were driving on Interstate 84 transporting a prisoner to New Haven, when they diverted to the school.

Two members of the SWAT team formed search teams to make sure there wasn’t a second shooter, ultimately discovering Kaitlin Roig and her first grade class locked in a bathroom. Guerra and Cario ran into Rousseau’s room and found the children in the bathroom.

Cario carried one of the children out of the school to a waiting cruiser which whisked her away to Danbury Hospital. The child died there.

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