A gunman killed 26 people, 18 of them children, in a shooting Friday morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., about 65 miles northeast of New York City, a law enforcement official said.
The gunman, who was believed to be in his 20s, walked into a classroom where his mother was a teacher. He shot and killed her and then shot 18 students in the classroom. He also shot seven other adults, and then killed himself inside the school. Various news outlets identified the shooter as Ryan Lanza.
The shooting ranks among the worst in recent U.S. history.
The ages of the children who were killed were between 5 and 10 years old, President Barack Obama said during a nationally televised address during which he wiped tears from his eyes. He said we must “heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”
A 9-year-old boy who is a student at the school said he was in the gym when the shooting erupted.
“We were in the gym, and I heard really loud bangs,” said the boy, as he stood shivering and weeping outside the school with his father nearby. “We thought that someone was knocking something over. And we heard yelling and we heard gunshots. We heard lots of gunshots. We heard someone say, `Put your hands up.’ I heard, `Don’t shoot.’ We had to go into the closet in the gym. Then someone came and told us to run down the hallway. There were police at every door, there were lots of people crying and screaming.”
Another student at the school told an NBC affiliate in Connecticut: “I was in the gym and I heard like seven loud booms, and the gym teachers told us to go in the corner and we huddled. We all heard these booming noises, and we started crying. So the gym teachers told us to go into the office where no one could find us. Then a police officer told us to run outside.”
State police said the Newtown police called them shortly after 9:30 a.m., according to Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police.
“On- and off-duty troopers responded to the school and with Newtown police immediately upon arrival entered the school and began an active shooter search,” Vance said.
Danbury Hospital said it was treating three patients from the shooting scene, according to its Facebook page. The hospital, which is not far from the elementary school, said it was on lockdown.
At Danbury Hospital, stunned-looking personnel in white coats looked shaken as they gathered in small groups talking about the shooting. In a corner near the gift shop, one woman comforted a weeping colleague.
In the coffee shop, a few customers finished their sandwiches at the lunch counter and the cashier wiped tears from her eyes as she rang up customers.
In a mostly empty fifth-floor waiting room, three women watched local coverage of the tragedy, shaking their heads at each new horrifying detail.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy arrived at the scene of the shooting Friday afternoon.
The school, located among wooded hills and suburban tracts in Fairfield County, 12 miles east of Danbury, serves kindergarten through fourth grade. The school has about 700 students.
“It’s just a little country school,” said Robert Place, 65, as he stood near the scene. “The look is very `50s or `60s. One floor. It’s always had a good reputation. People come to Newtown for the schools.”
The school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was reportedly one of those shot. But at the home of her daughter Cristina Hassinger, in Oakville, Conn., the family was still awaiting any news of her fate.
“We’re looking for any hope,” said Ryan Hassinger, the son-in-law of the principal. “If she’s in the hospital, any chance is better.”
He said that his wife, Cristina, 28, and “her sister are there now,” with Connecticut state troopers, and that he and other relatives were awaiting word on any news.
“I looked on Twitter and it says that she is passed,” Hassinger said. But, he added, the family was, “just waiting.”
A photograph published by a local newspaper, The Newtown Bee, showed a line of children being escorted out of the school with some of the children crying.
Next door to the school in front of a senior center, a 20-year-old woman was with her 4-year-old sister who was in the school at the time of the shooting. The older woman came to pick up her younger sister along with their mother. The 4-year-old girl had her arms and legs wrapped around her older sister.
When a reporter asked the 20-year-old woman what the little girl knew of what had happened, the woman said, “Absolutely nothing, and we don’t plan to tell her anything.”
Reporting was contributed by Peter Applebome, Robert Davey, Elizabeth Maker and Kristin Hussey Zisson from Connecticut, and Al Baker, Andy Newman, Jennifer Preston and Wendy Ruderman from New York.
© 2012 New York Times News Service