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

Parishioners attend a prayer service at Saint Johns Episcopal Church near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
John Angelillo
UPI /Landov
Parishioners attend a prayer service at Saint Johns Episcopal Church near Sandy Hook Elementary School 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.

A 2008 yearbook photo of Adam Lanza provided by ABC News.
/ Handout via Getty Images
Handout via Getty Images
A 2008 yearbook photo of Adam Lanza provided by ABC News.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, state officials released a list of those killed in the assault. All of the children who died were first-graders.

The man authorities have identified as the killer — 20-year-old Adam Lanza — also died at the scene. One other person was found dead at a home in Newtown. Authorities have told NPR and other news outlets it was Lanza's mother. Their bodies will be examined by state medical officials on Sunday.

Friday morning, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police told reporters that the gunman forced his way into the school. The investigation into exactly what happened, and why, is still ongoing and more details are expected from the State Police on Sunday. It may still be a couple of 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 8:01 p.m. ET. Peter Lanza Issues A Statement:

The Associated Press is reporting that Peter Lanza, the father of the man identified as the killer, has issued this statement:

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured. Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."

Update at 7:17 p.m. ET. Obama To Meet With Families:

In a statement released tonight, the White House said President Obama would travel to Newtown, Conn., on Sunday to meet with families of the victims and thank first-responders. The statement also said he would speak at an interfaith vigil tomorrow night at 7.

Update at 5:50 p.m. ET. A Father Speaks:

In a moving and compassionate encounter, Robbie Parker spoke to the media early Saturday evening about the loss of his 6-year-old daughter, Emilie. Parker described his child as "a mentor to her two little sisters," an exceptional artist and always the first person to offer help to others in need of a lift. He told reporters:

"She was the type of person who could light up a room; she always had something kind to say. ... She is an incredible person and I'm so blessed to be her dad."

Parker offered his support to the families of those affected by the shooting, including the family of the young man thought to be the gunman. "I am not mad," he said.

When asked how he would handle the tragedy, Parker said his instinct is to seek help and to help others in their time of need. But he admitted there wasn't a clear path forward:

"I don't know how to get through something like this. ... We find strength in our faith and our family. ... I just hope that everyone can get the help that they need."

The family moved to Newtown about eight months ago when Robbie, 30, took a job as a physicians assistant at the hospital. Parker described Emilie's teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary as a joy and the Newtown community as welcoming to the family.

Update at 5:30 p.m. ET. Connecticut's Governor Addresses State:

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy addressed the Sandy Hook tragedy late Saturday afternoon in televised remarks to his state. Malloy's message was one of comfort and faith in a time of sadness:

"Too often, we focus on what divides us as people, instead of what binds us as human beings. What we saw yesterday were those bonds, that sense of community.

"In the coming days, we will rely upon that which we have been taught and that which we inherently believe: that there is faith for a reason, and that faith is God's gift to all of us."

Update at 4:40 p.m. ET. A List Of Victims:

At the news conference noted in our previous update, state medical officials released an official list of the 20 children and six adults killed in the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. We have created a separate post with the names and ages of the victims.

Update at 4:03 p.m. ET. Medical Examiner Provides Details On Investigation:

Speaking at a news conference, Connecticut's Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II told reporters:

"I've been at this for a third of a century ... this is probably the worst I have seen, or the worst that I know any of my colleagues have seen."

Carver said that his team arrived within hours of the crime scene being secured and that they worked there until 12:30 a.m. The bodies were then transported to Farmington, Conn., where examinations began Saturday morning.

All of the children had been examined by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Families did not see the bodies directly, with identification taking place through photographs of the victims.

Carver said that he personally examined seven of the victims, each with between three and 11 wounds. All deaths have been classified as homicides resulting from gunshot wounds. Most of the wounds did not appear to have been inflicted at close range in the victims Carver examined.

The body of the man identified as the gunman and the body found in the gunman's home have not been examined. That work will take place Sunday morning.

A team of four doctors, 10 technicians and other support staff participated in the examinations with Carver.

Update at 3:25 p.m. ET. School Teacher Identified By Newspaper As A Victim:

Lauren Rousseau, a 30-year-old teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, has been identified by The News-Times of Danbury, Conn., as one of those killed in Friday's attack. Rousseau's mother is an editor at the paper. From their report:

"Lauren, after years of working as a substitute teacher, — while working other jobs to earn a living — landed a permanent substitute teaching job at Sandy Hook Elementary School in October.

" 'It was the best year of her life,' said Teresa Rousseau, Lauren's mother and a copy editor at The News-Times."

Update at 1:52 p.m. ET. School's Principal Was Among Those Killed, Official Says:

A school official in Newtown has told NPR that Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung was among the six adults killed in the school.

Her death had been reported earlier by other news outlets. NPR has been pushing to get independent confirmation before posting or broadcasting such news.

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. "There Are Bad Guys Out There Now, We Need To Wait For The Good Guys," Teacher Told Children As They Hid:

Fox News has gripping video of third grade teacher Kaitlin Roig talking about how she and 14 children hid in a bathroom. She told the children they had to be absolutely quiet. "There are bad guys out there now, we need to wait for the good guys," a tearful Roig says she told the kids.

Update at 1:20 p.m. ET. In Hiding, Librarians Tried To Keep Children Occupied With Paper And Crayons.

From The Associated Press:

"Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library, was in there with 18 fourth-graders when they heard a commotion and gunfire outside the room. She had the youngsters crawl into a storage room, and they locked the door and barricaded it with a file cabinet. There happened to be materials for coloring, 'so we set them up with paper and crayons.'

"After what she guessed was about an hour, officers came to the door and knocked, but those inside couldn't be sure it was the police.

" 'One of them slid his badge under the door, and they called and said, It's OK, it's the police,' she said."

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)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.

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