Gunman Shot Mother Four Times in the Head

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 16 2012 3:30 PM

As New Details Emerge of Horrific School Shooting, Officials Struggle To Figure Out Why

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A woman reacts after paying tribute to the victims in Newtown, Conn.

Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

UPDATE: Adam Lanza shot his mother four times in the head before heading to the school, where he gunned down 20 children and 6 adults, officials said Sunday. The latest details of what transpired Friday seem to suggest Lanza would have gone on killing children for as long as possible, notes the Associated Press. Gov. Dannel Malloy said Lanza shot himself as first responders entered the building and, according to a law enforcement official, he still had "lots of ammo" on him when he died. "We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy said on ABC.

Sunday, Dec. 16 at 8:47 a.m.: As new details emerge about the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school Friday, authorities were still struggling to figure out what remains a perplexing question: Why?

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It remains a mystery why 20-year-old Adam Lanza donned black fatigues and a military vest, according to CNN, took at least three guns from his mom’s collection, and shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School to carry out a methodical massacre of 6- and 7-year-old children plus six adult women. Despite the initial reports, the school superintendent says they have so far failed to find any kind of connection between Lanza’s mother and the school, reports the New York Times.

That was hardly the only piece of new information that has proved initial reports were inaccurate. Officials said that a report that Lanza had been in an altercation with school authorities earlier in the week also appeared false, notes the Wall Street Journal. As officials released the names of victims (the full heartbreaking list that includes 16 6-year-olds and four 7-year-olds is after the jump) new details emerged that achieved what appeared to be impossible, making the shooting rampage even more horrific than initially believed.

The victims, including 12 girls and eight boys, were all apparently killed by a .223 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, and each of the victims was hit by more than one bullet. The assault weapon can fire as many as six bullets per second, according to the New York Daily News, and some of the victims were shot as many as 11 times, chief medical examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said. That key detail also contradicts earlier reports that claimed the rifle had been left in the car and Lanza had used semi-automatic pistols to carry out the massacre. In addition to the rifle, Lanza was also carrying at least two pistols, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, reports the Washington Post. The bullets Lanza used were “designed in such a fashion the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullet stays in,” Carver said. The Hartford Courant publishes a detailed account of how Lanza carried out the massacre, noting that 14 of the murdered children were all in one classroom.

President Obama will head to Newtown, Conn., on Sunday for an evening interfaith vigil in Newtown—the fourth time in his presidency he will join grieving families after a mass shooting. Obama is expected to meet with the families of the victims and with first responders before speaking at around 7 p.m. Although politics is certainly expected to take a back seat, Reuters points out that Obama’s speech will be closely scrutinized for clues into what he meant when he called for “meaningful action” on Friday.

While memorial services are being carried out across the country, federal investigators are descending on gun stores and shooting ranges across the state of Connecticut in the hopes of finding any leads that may reveal new details about Lanza, reports the Associated Press.

While most of the attention on Saturday was naturally with the young lives lost, the suspect’s father, Peter Lanza, released a statement expressing shock at what has transpired. "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," the statement reads. "We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can."

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The New York Times published an unusual front page on Sunday, replacing the above-the-fold photograph with a box that simply lists the names of the victims alongside their ages:

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.