Who Was Adam Lanza?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 15 2012 8:54 AM

Who Was Adam Lanza?

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Adam Lanza is seen in this 2005 photograph

ABC News

As a typically quiet Connecticut town mourns the massacre of 26 children and adults at an elementary school, there are still few clues as to why 20-year-old Adam Lanza carried out such a heinous crime and whether he had a connection to the victims. Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary, but it is far from clear why he returned to the school to carry out the rampage particularly since he appeared to have no recent connection to it, reports the Associated Press. Authorities are rushing to try to figure out just who Lanza was and why he would kill his mother in her home before heading to the school and murdering 20 children and six adults there before seemingly killing himself. FBI officials are now spread out across New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts interviewing relatives and anyone who may have had a connection with Adam Lanza to try to get answers, reports ABC News.  

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So far, little is known about the 20-year-old who barely had a digital footprint, and didn't even have a Facebook profile. That is surprising not only because of his age but because he appears to have been a good student who was really interested in computers and was part of a technology club at Newtown High School. One source tells the New York Daily News Lanza “was like one of these real brainiac computer kind of kids.” One thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is that Lanza likely had some sort of mental disability or developmental disorder. One law enforcement official tells the Associated Press Adam Lanza might have suffered from a personality disorder and the New York Times reports that several who knew Lanza in high school had been told he had Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism.

It certainly seems he had several tell-tale signs of the disorder, often making those around him nervous because he was painfully shy and seemed to struggle to be social and form connections with people. It was evident Lanza “had a condition,” a neighbor tells the New York Post. “You definitely notice it,” he added. Lanza was “kind of, like, needy. I wouldn’t say antisocial, but struggling to be social.” One “family insider” tells the New York Daily News Lanza “was a deeply disturbed kid,” who “had major issues” and “was subject to outbursts.” A 25-year-old neighbor who sometimes watched Adam Lanza when his mother would go out with friends said he was on medication, reports the Washington Post.

Several people describe Lanza as withdrawn and awkward but not threatening. “Overall, I would just call him a socially awkward kid, I don’t know, shy and quiet. Didn’t really look you in the eye,” a former neighbor said. “Just kind of a weird kid, maybe.”

Former classmates recall how Lanza dressed more formally than other students, often wearing button-down shirts and a pocket protector, reports Reuters. The tech club that Lanza was a part of was “definitely the nerdiest club in the school,” a classmate said. Members often got together for gaming parties. Many have been quick to describe Lanza as smart and academically driven, an assessment that seems to be supported by the fact that Lanza “made the honor roll with highest honors,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.