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Monday, December 17, 2012

Coverage of the Connecticut School Shooting

First video outside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning from The Newtown Bee, the small town's community newspaper since 1877.

On Friday night, hundreds of people turned out for prayer vigils and services in Newtown, Conn. and across the country in the aftermath of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. As our colleagues report a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, then killed himself at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman's 54-year-old mother was found dead at the home they shared in Newtown.

10:38 P.M. |Newtown Turns to Prayer

In the aftermath of the horrific shooting, hundreds of people in Newtown turned to their faith communities to begin the healing proces. There were at least three prayer services on Friday night.

At the St. Rose of Lima, a Roman Catholic church, hundreds of people filled the pews and stood along the back and sides of the church. The priest asked that the windows be left open so that the people standing outside could hear the service.

Some told reporters they were seeking solace and help in dealing with the events of the day. “There's nothing to be made sense of,” one woman told an NBC television news reporter. Another man told the network his thoughts were with the young siblings of the children who had lost their lives.

From inside St. Rose, Jaclyn Reiss, a reporter for The Boston Globe, shared updates on Twitter.

“I bring and extend the condolences of this entire state to you in this community. May God bless you,” Governor Malloy also said to the hushed congregation.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), thanked the attendees “for being here, and thank you for bringing your children so that they can see that there is good in people.”

In a statement, Monsignor Jerald A. Doyle, an administrator for the Bridgeport Catholic diocese which oversees St. Rose of Lima, said that local pries ts “were on the scene ministering to children and families immediately after the shootings” and would “continue to do so in the coming days and weeks.”

Others gathered, according to news reports, at Trinity Episcopal and at a third vigil held by Connections Church, a non-denominational congregation, at Newtown Town Hall.

More services are planned for the weekend in Newtown, according to The Newtown Bee, the local newspaper.

We are shutting down the live blog for this evening but will return with more coverage of the tragedy on Saturday.

- Jennifer Preston and Ravi Somaiya

9:16 P.M. |Profile: Adam Lanza

As our colleague David M. Halbfinger reports, Adam Lanza, 20, the suspected gunman, was described by high school classmates as a loner who carried a black briefcase to his 10th-grade honors class.

Meanwhile, a neighbor, Beth Israel, 43, said that she and her family lived down the street from the Lanzas and that her daughter went to school with him. She said she had not t spoken to them in three years.

“He was a socially awkward kid,” she said in an interview with the reporter Michael Schwirtz. “He always had issues. He was kind of a loner. I don't know who his friends were. He kind of kept to himself.”

Ms. Israel said she would speak with his mother, Nancy, on occasion, but said the family pretty much kept to themselves.

8:51 P.M. |State Police: ‘Tragic, Horrific' Scene

In a news conference just before 8 p.m. Friday, Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police described the scene as horrific and told reporters that his officers were working on “preparing a list of positive identifications.”

He said that information and updates would next be available online Saturday morning. The Connecticut medical examiner, he said, had requested and received “some assistance with equipment.”

Parents were told earlier, according to CNN, that the rule for this evening was simply that if they had not been reunited with their children, they would not be.

Because it is a crime scene, Lieutenant Vance said that police officials and the medical examiner's office had to conduct a thorough investigation before the bodies of the victims could be removed from where they fell.

A spate of 911 calls had come in to police almost simultaneously, he said, crediting officers with saving further lives through their actions at the scene. He declined to give any further details on Adam Lanza, 20, the suspected killer, or on the progress of the investigation.

“All hands on deck,” he said, shortly before leaving the news conference. “We'll get this done.”

- Ravi Somaiya

8:09 P.M. |NBC News: Guns Registered to Slain Mother

UPDATE: Weapons used in shooting were legally purchased and registered to gunman's mother, law enforcement officials tell NBC News
- NBC News (@NBCNews) 14 Dec 12

Law enforcement officials said that the gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza, a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was found slain at her home, a four-bedroom, three-bath house on Yogananda Street in Newtown.

7:30 P.M. |Gunman's Father Reported to Be Stamford Man

The father of Adam Lanza, the suspected gunman in the Newtown school shootings on Friday, was apparently informed of the incident by a reporter for The Stamford Advocate outside his home in Stamford, Conn.

The newspaper identified the father as Peter Lanza, a vice president of taxes for GE Energy Financial Services. He arrived at his home on Bartina Lane shortly after Stamford police officers, who had come in the hours after the shooting, had left, where he encountered a reporter, the newspaper said.

“When he was told his address had been linked to the Newtown school shooting, Lanza took the news as a blow - his face turning from patient to surprised and horrified,” the newspaper reported. “He promptly rolled up the window of his car, declined to comment, and pulled his vehicle into the right door of the two-car garage, before closing it behind him.”

The newspaper said that Mr. Lanza and his wife, Nancy, were divorced in 2008. He had moved recently onto Bartina Lane.

- Michael Schwirtz

7:15 P.M. |Message From the Newtown Fire Department
7:04 P.M. |Church Serv ices Tonight in Newtown
6:58 P.M. |Official: Ryan Lanza Not Believed to Be Involved

Earlier in the day, Ryan Lanza was mistakenly identified as the suspect by various news outlets. And his Facebook page and profile were widely distributed online. In an exchange with a friend on Facebook, he insisted it was a case of mistaken identity, apparently having no idea that his brother Adam was involved and his mother was dead. “I'm on the bus home now it wasn't me… IT WASN'T ME I WAS AT WORK IT WASN'T ME.” Slate captured the exchange here. It turns out it was the right Facebook page, but he was not the suspect.

Police surrounded Ryan Lanza's apartment building in Hoboken, N.J., and took him in for questioning. Police officials said that they had no reason to believe he was involved in the shooting rampage.

- Michael Schwirtz

6:30 P.M. |Mayor Bloomberg Prods President Obama on Gun Control

Mayor Michael R. Bloomber g of New York, one of the nation's leading proponents of gun control, prodded President Obama to seize the moment to do more than offer prayers and tears to prevent further killings.

Mr. Bloomberg, who is co-chairman of a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, issued a strongly worded statement shortly after Mr. Obama spoke.

President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to t he families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for “meaningful action” is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership â€" not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.

- Andy Newman

6:24 P.M. |Governor Malloy: “Evil Visited This Community Today”

Speaking to reporters at Treadwell Park, Governor Malloy said: “As we stan d here today, we still can't imagine what transpired there. Evil visited this community today.”

He added: “Children, beautiful children who had simply come to school to learn. And their day ended a very different way than any of us could possibly could have imagined.”

5:58 P.M. |Second Deadliest Shooting in U.S. History

The deaths of 20 children and six adults in a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School is the second deadliest shooting in American history, as our colleague, William Glaberson reports.

Only one other mass shooting, the Virgi nia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007, has taken a higher toll. Seung-Hui Cho, a student, killed 32 people in a dormitory and on the campus and then took his own life.

But the two are by no means unprecedented in recent American history. On Oct. 17, 1991, a gunman, George Jo Hennard, smashed a pickup truck into a restaurant in Killeen, Tex., and opened fire. He killed 22 people and wounded at least 20 others before killing himself with a shot through his left eye.

In July of this year James Holmes, 24, a former graduate student at the University of Colorado in Denver, walked into the midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire, killing 12 people.

While Virginia Tech is the deadliest shooting massacre, a bombing at th e Bath School in Bath Township, Michigan, in 1927 killed 45 people, 38 of them children.

- Ravi Somaiya

5:49 P.M. |The School's Security Protocol

Sandy Hook Elementary School has a security protocol in place in which doors are locked during the school day and visitors ring a buzzer, pop up on a video screen and are visually vetted by someone inside.

“You had to buzz in and out and the whole nine yards,” said the former chairwoman of the Newtown board of education, Lillian Bittman. “When you buzz, you come up on our screen.”

But the lock system doesn't go into effect until 9:30 each morning, according to a letter sent to parents by the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, that was posted on several news Web sites. Shortly after 9:30 is when the state police say the first 911 call came in about the shooting rampage.

The television station WTNH reported that the letter to parents went out at the beginning of the school year.

The authorities said the gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, was the son of a teacher at the school. It was not clear, of course, if a teacher's son would have been stopped at the checkpoint even if it was in place.

Ms. Hochsprung is feared to be among the dead, though no names of those killed have been confirmed by the authorities.

In the letter, she wrote of the importance of keeping intruders out.

“If our office staff does not recognize you, you will be required to show identification with a picture ID,” she wrote, adding, “Please understand that with nearly 700 students and over 1000 parents representing 500 SHS families, most parents will be asked to show identification.”

Here is the text of Ms. Hochsprung's letter:

Dear Members of our Sandy Hook Family,

Our district will be implementing a security system in all elementary schools as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure student safety. As usual, exterior doors will be locked during the day. Every visitor will be required to ring the doorbell at the front entrance and the office staff will use a visual monitoring system to allow entry. Visitors will still be required to report directly to the office and sign in. If our office staff does not recognize you, you will be required to show identification with a picture ID. Please understand that with nearly 700 students and over 1000 parents representing 500 SHS families, most parents will be asked to show identification .

Doors will be locked at approximately 9:30 a.m. Any student arriving after that time must be walked into the building and signed in at the office. Before that time our regular drop-off procedures will be in place. I encourage all parents to have their children come to school and return home on the bus and to remain in school for the entire school day. The beginning and ending of our school day are also important instructional times and therefore we want all our students to reap the benefits of full participation in our program.

We need your help and cooperation for our system to work effectively. Our office staff is handling multiple tasks. Though they will work diligently to help you into the building as quickly as possible, there may be a short delay until someone can view you on the handset and allow you to come in electronically. There are times during the day when office personnel are on the telephone, addressing student concerns, or in the copy room; ther e are other times when only one person is in the front office. Please help our staff by identifying yourself and provide your child's name. Keep in mind we will be following our district guidelines which may need revision once we test the system.

Please know your involvement continues to be critical to our school's effectiveness and your child's success. We continue to encourage and value your presence in our classrooms and are counting on your cooperation with the implementation of this safety initiative.

Mrs. Hochsprung

- Andy Newman and Michael M. Grynbaum

5:21 P.M. |Church Services in Newtown Planned