While church leaders and President Barack Obama prepared to comfort a grieving town Dec. 16, federal agents planned to fan out to dozens of gun stores and shooting ranges across Connecticut, chasing leads they hoped would cast light on the life of school shooter Adam Lanza.
Among the questions: Why did his mother, a well-to-do suburban divorcee, keep a cache of high-power weapons in the house? What experience did Lanza have with those guns? And, above all, what set him on a path to shoot and kill 20 children, along with the adults who tried to stop him?
Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, to death at the home they shared on Dec. 14, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School in her car with at least three of her guns, forced his way in by breaking a window, and opened fire, authorities said. Within minutes, he killed the children, six adults, and himself.
All the victims at the school were shot with a rifle, at least some of them up close, and all were apparently shot more than once, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said. All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys and 12 were girls.
Asked whether the children suffered, Carver said, “If so, not for very long.” Asked how many bullets were fired, Carver said, “I’m lucky if I can tell you how many I found.”
Parents identified the children through photos to spare them some shock, Carver said.
The terrible details about the last moments of young innocents emerged as authorities released their names and ages—the youngest 6 and 7, the oldest 56. They included Ana Marquez-Greene, a little girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada; Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who apparently died while trying to hide her pupils; and principal Dawn Hochsprung, who authorities said lunged at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.
The school shooting has plunged Newtown into mourning and added the picturesque New England community of 27,000 people to the grim map of towns where mass shootings in recent years have periodically reignited the national debate over gun control but led to little change.