Twenty children dead in mass shooting at Connecticut elementary school

'Our hearts are broken today'

Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 96km northeast of New York City on Dec. 14, 2012. (Jessica Hill/AP)

Twenty-seven people are dead — 20 children, six adults and a gunman — after a mass shooting at a Connecticut school.

The shooting occurred Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., northeast of New York City.

CNN reports that the shooting started around 9:35 a.m. and a parent reported that there were about 600 children in the Kindergarten to Grade 4 school at the time of the shooting.

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Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance told reporters that both staff and students were among the dead. The principal and a guidance counselor were killed during the attack, a witness told CNN.

Photos from Sandy Hook Elementary School

In an address to the nation at 3:15 p.m., President Barack Obama confirmed that most of the dead were children, between the ages of five and 10.

The president paused and wiped his eye.

“They had their lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” Obama said. “Our hearts are broken today, for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.”

Obama said that there have been too many similar shootings during his time as president, including a shooting just last week at a mall in Portland, Oregon.

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said. Though Obama didn’t call for any kind of tougher gun control, the White House said later that Obama supports a federal ban on assault weapons.

The adult gunman is among the dead, police confirmed. CNN later identified the man as Ryan Lanza. Later reports emerged saying that the shooter was actually Adam Lanza, 20, and that his brother, Ryan, was being questioned by police.

Reports said Adam Lanza was a quiet man who lived in Newtown and had no known criminal record.

Police said Friday they had a “tentative identification” of the shooter, but were not yet ready to make a public identification. Vance also said that police did not fire any shots when they responded to the 911 call at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

CBS News said Lanza’s mother was a teacher at the school and that she taught kindergarten in the class where most of the shooting occurred.

Police confirmed that the shooting did take place in one part of the school, though they did not say exactly where. “The shooting did take place in one section of the school, in two rooms,” Vance told reporters.

Two handguns were found beside the body of the shooter and there was another rifle in the gunman’s vehicle near the school, reports CBS.

Witnesses said the gunman was wearing combat gear when he entered the school. managing editor Meredith Artley spoke to a mother of one of the children in the school, who was in the school for a meeting about one of her children when the shooting occurred.

“Three people went out into the hall and only one person came back,” the mother told Artley. She reported hearing at least 100 rounds of shots as she hid under a table and called 911.

Vance confirmed that police are also investigating a secondary crime scene, where a body was found. The secondary crime scene is at a home in Newtown. CNN reports that the body found was that of Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, and that Adam shot her at their family home before his deadly shooting spree at the school. Reports also say the guns used in the shooting were registered to Lanza’s mother.

Both the shooter and “an individual who the perpetrator lived with,” are dead, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters during a press conference Friday afternoon.

Initial reports said that the secondary crime scene was at a home in Hoboken, New Jersey. There was no body found at at that scene, but Adam’s brother, Ryan, as well as his father Peter Lanza, who is divorced from Nancy Lanza, were questioned.

During a second media update at 5 p.m. ET, Vance said that police, including members of a bomb squad, were investigating that second scene in Newtown. “We brought all of our assets in, in case they were needed,” he said.

Vance did not rule out the possibility of other suspects. He said Friday afternoon the investigation is in its early stages, and it will last into the night.

“There’s a great deal of work that needs to be done here at this school,” Vance said.

The identities of the young victims may be made available as soon as Saturday morning.

Vance said FBI counsellors have been brought in to help the first responders deal with what they saw.

“This was a very tragic, horrific scene that they encountered,” said Vance.

The local hospital is also offering counselling to anyone who might need it.

“This is most definitely the worst thing that we have experienced here in town. It’s tragic,” said Newtown Police Department Lt. George Sinko.

The number of dead makes this mass shooting one of the worst in American history, second only to the Virgina Tech shooting, where 32 people died. And it’s something Gov. Malloy told reporters he never thought he would witness during his public career.

“Evil visited this community today and it’s still too early to speak of recovery,” Malloy said. “Each parent, each sibling, each member of the family, has to understand that Connecticut, we’re all in this together, we’ll do whatever we can in order to overcome this event. We will get through it.”

Canadian politicians offered their sympathies Friday afternoon, with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird saying:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to our friends and neighbours in Connecticut, where dozens of people are reported dead, including children.

“Canadians mourn this loss of so many innocent lives to this senseless act of violence.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I offer our sincere condolences and we stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends at this difficult time.”

Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair said: “The images of pain and fear that we see today are difficult to comprehend. Schools are meant to be safe environments where children learn, grow and are nurtured. To see so many children targeted like this an affront to everything we hold dear.

“There will be time to debate what went wrong and how such a tragedy can be prevented. But today, New Democrats join Canadians in expressing our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims—and in hugging our own children a little tighter.”

See all coverage of the Newtown shooting.

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