Police files paint chilling picture of Sandy Hook massacre
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Connecticut police released thousands of pages Friday from their investigation into the Newtown massacre, providing the most detailed and disturbing picture yet of the rampage and Adam Lanza's fascination with murder, while depicting school employees' brave and clear-headed attempts to protect the children.
Among the details: More than a dozen bodies, mostly children, were seen packed “like sardines” in a bathroom. And the horrors inside the school were so terrible that when police sent in paramedics, they tried to select ones capable of handling what they were about to witness.
“This will be the worst day of your life,” police Sgt. William Cario warned one.
The documents' release marks the end of the investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
Lanza, 20, went to the school after killing his mother, Nancy, inside their home. He committed suicide with a handgun as police arrived at the school.
Included in the file were photographs of the home Lanza shared with his mother. They show numerous rounds of ammunition, gun magazines, shot-up paper targets, gun cases, shooting earplugs and a gun safe with a rifle in it.
A former teacher of Lanza's was quoted as telling investigators that Lanza exhibited anti-social behavior, rarely interacted with other students and obsessed in writings “about battles, destruction and war.”
“In all my years of experience, I have known (redacted) grade boys to talk about things like this, but Adam's level of violence was disturbing,” the teacher told investigators. The teacher added: “Adam's creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared.”
The documents fill in more details about how the shooting unfolded and how staff members looked out for the youngsters.
Teachers heard janitor Rick Thorne try to get Lanza to leave the school. One teacher, who was hiding in a closet in the math lab, heard Thorne yell, “Put the gun down!” An aide said she heard gunfire and Thorne told her to close her door. Thorne survived.
Teacher Kaitlin Roig told police she heard “rapid-fire shooting” outside of the school, near her classroom. She rushed her students into the classroom's bathroom, pulled a rolling storage unit in front of the bathroom door as a barricade and then closed and locked the door.
Eventually, police officers slid their badges under the door. Roig told them that if they were truly police, they should be able to get the key to the door — which they did.
Others weren't so lucky.
Police Lt. Christopher Vanghele said he and another officer found what appeared to be about 15 bodies, mostly children, packed in another bathroom. So many people had tried to cram inside the bathroom that the door couldn't be closed, and the shooter gunned them all down, Vanghele surmised.
In a letter accompanying the files, Reuben F. Bradford, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, wrote that much of the report was disturbing but that it also showed teachers trying to protect their children, law enforcement officials putting themselves in harm's way, and dispatchers working calmly and efficiently.
“In the midst of the darkness of that day, we also saw remarkable heroism and glimpses of grace,” he wrote.
Peter Lanza, who was estranged from his son, told police that Adam had Asperger's syndrome — a type of autism that is not associated with violence — and exhibited symptoms of being “slightly OCD,” meaning obsessive compulsive disorder.
A former Newtown High student who was in Tech Club with Adam Lanza recalled him pulling his sleeves over his hands any time he was handed an object from someone.
A nurse at the Yale Child Studies Center who met with Adam Lanza said he had several ritualistic behaviors, including frequently washing hands and changing his socks 20 times a day, to the point his mother did three loads of laundry a day.
The nurse said that Lanza's mother declined to give him prescribed antidepressant and antianxiety medication and that she failed to schedule a follow-up visit after he missed an appointment.
In the documents, a friend told police that Nancy Lanza reported that her son had hit his head several days before the shootings. And an ex-boyfriend told police that she canceled a trip to London on the week of the shooting because of “a couple last-minute problems on the home front.”
Prosecutors previously issued a summary of the investigation last month that portrayed Lanza as obsessed with mass murders, but the report concluded that Lanza's motives for the massacre might never be known.
Lanza “was undoubtedly afflicted with mental health problems; yet despite a fascination with mass shootings and firearms, he displayed no aggressive or threatening tendencies,” it said.
The new files revealed chaos during the rampage, and contain sometimes-conflicting accounts from witnesses.
Lanza remained silent as he aimed and fired in Room 10, according to an officer who interviewed the mother of one of the surviving students. The woman said her son, who ran from the classroom, recalled the shooter kicking in the door and then firing.
The documents indicate investigators were gentle in their questioning of children, interviewing youngsters only if they or their parents requested it. Some of the parents thought talking openly about the shooting and getting accurate information out would help their children heal.
After the interviews, the children were given a copy of Margaret Holmes' book “A Terrible Thing Happened” to help them deal with that they witnessed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Immigrants warned of increase in scams
- Some in Congress turn down retirement pension, but many cash in
- McCarthy-era felon: Lies doomed me
- Study touts benefits of full-day preschool
- Justices consider social media, free speech
- Ferguson angles to avoid fate of riot-torn cities
- Fewer adults smoking, U.S. survey finds
- Cathedral may host slave trade museum
- Heart stent implanted, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg goes home
- Kahlo’s workplace to be reimagined in New York Botanical Garden
- Tough Texas gets prison results by going softer on crime