NEWTOWN, Conn. — Twenty-seven people, including 18 children, have been killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Another person was found dead at a house in Newtown, sources told The Hartford Courant.
Many of the shootings at the school took place in a kindergarten classroom, sources said. One entire classroom is unaccounted for.
The shooter — identified by CNN as Ryan Lanza — is dead, and the situation is secure, said State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way, said the gunman apparently had two guns.
A law enforcement official in Washington said the attacker was a 20-year-old man with ties to the school and that one of the guns was a .223-caliber rifle. One report said that Lanza's mother was a teacher at the school and that he went into her classroom, shot her and killed all 18 students in the classroom.
Public records show that Lanza lived at 36 Yogananda Street at one point, and he is also listed as living in Hoboken, N.J. Police are searching that residence as well, sources say.
Three people were brought to Danbury Hospital, but their condition is unknown. The emergency room is on lockdown.
Soon after 9:40 a.m., police reported that a shooter was in the main office of the school. A person in one room had “numerous gunshot wounds,” police said.
Groups of students — some crying, some holding hands — were being escorted away from the school by their teachers. Some students were still in the school at 10:30 a.m., parents said.
Police were still searching the school at 11 a.m., and police dogs were brought in. Around noon, the triage area was broken down, stretchers were taken away and the SWAT team left the building.
School and local emergency officials were accounting for the children, who were released to their parents. Some parents were sequestered at the Sandy Hook Fire Department, directly in front of the school.
Other frustrated parents were desperately trying to get information from officials as they searched the school.
Vanessa Bajraliu, a 9-year-old fourth grader, heard the shots.
“I saw policemen — lots of policemen in the hallway with guns,” she said. “The police took us out of the school. We were told to hold each others’ hands and to close our eyes. We opened our eyes when we were outside.”
Her brother, 17-year-old Mergim Bajraliu, a senior at Newtown High School, was at his nearby home when he heard shots, he said. He first went to a neighbor’s house.
“Then we heard sirens,” he said.
He rushed to the school on foot and saw a girl being carried out, he said. She looked badly injured. Another girl had blood on her face, he said.
Mergim soon found his sister and took her away from the scene.
Parent Richard Wilford said his Sandy Hook second-grader, Richie, heard what he described as “pans falling” when gunshots rang out. He said that his son told him that the teacher went to go check, came back in and locked the door and told the students to stand in the corner.
“What does a parent think about coming to a school where there’s a shooting” It’s the most terrifying moment of a parent’s life … you have no idea,” Wilford said.
Brendan Murray, a 9-year-old fourth grader, said he was in the gym with his class when they heard “lots of banging.” He said the teachers put the students in a nearby closet where they stayed for about 15 minutes before police officers told them to leave the building.
The boy said the students ran down a hallway where there were police at every door. He said “lots of people were crying.”
Eight-year-old Alexis Wasik, a third-grader at the school, said police were checking everybody inside the school before they were escorted to the firehouse.
“We had to walk with a partner,” she said.
One child leaving the school said that there was shattered glass everywhere. A police officer ran into the classroom and told them to run outside and keep going until they reached the firehouse.
Audra Barth, who was walking away from the school with her first-grade son and third-grade daughter, says a teacher took first-graders into the restroom after bullets came through the window.
Students at nearby Newtown High School were stunned when they learned of the shootings.
Senior Alex Buttery said when she learned of the shootings, “I immediately thought of Sandy Hook,” she said. “It’s devastating.”
Buttery, walking out of the school Friday with her friend Clare Donnelly, said she’d cried a lot.
Donnelly said “it’s hard to wrap your head around” the shooting. “It’s difficult to watch (young children) go through this.”
Junior Renee Henriquez said she was “shocked, speechless” by the shootings.
Buttery said she had been texting back and forth with her mother all day. “I went there,” she said of Sandy Hook School. “I know the teachers. I’m just wondering who it is.” Her mother, she said, was very emotional. They “know a lot of neighbors who go to Sandy Hook.”
NHS student Stefanie Carr said she was having a hard time processing what had happened. “I just couldn’t process how I felt. I’m still trying to get over it.”
All of the students had the same question: “Why someone would do that to the children.”
Newtown United Methodist Church opened the doors around noon after ministers there heard of the tragedy. Brad Tefft, a bereavement minister at the church, drove in and opened the doors.
“I better get down there. It’s in our neighborhood,” Tefft remembered thinking.
He created a sign that said “prayer vigil,” which he placed out by the street, and also put a sign on the door saying sanctuary open.
“We are taught to listen and offer that cold cup of water when necessary,” Tefft said.
As word spread of the magnitude of the tragedy in Newtown, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy talked on the telephone Friday with President Obama about the incident.
The conversation was part of the federal, state and local response to the shootings.
“The governor is in the room with the families,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior adviser, told Capitol Watch shortly before 1:30 p.m. Friday. “He is attempting to make sure they get the information they need. It is an unspeakable scene.”
State officials reacted with shock and alarm.
House Republican leader Larry Cafero and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams were both stunned upon hearing that 27 had been killed. Cafero put his hand over his mouth in an immediate reaction.
“The governor is on scene,” Doba said. “He has spoken to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which has pledged any resources we need.”
The state departments of public health, education, mental health and addiction services, and the state police are all working on the incident.
Incoming U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown as part of the 5th Congressional District, said, “As a mother, I can only begin to imagine what the students, parents, teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary must be experiencing. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy. While details are still emerging, I hope for the safety and well being of the children, teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary and for the Newtown community.”
Afternoon buses and kindergarten has been cancelled. The entire Newton district is on lockdown, and other school districts took similar measures across the state.
In West Hartford, Superintendent Karen List sent a recorded message to families Friday noting an increased police presence at town schools after the Newtown shootings.
“It’s really for reassurance,” List said. Counselors will also be available for students at the schools, and West Hartford administrators are now creating a set of talking points for parents if they decide to explain the shootings to their children over the weekend.
A meeting of Farmington Valley-area superintendents that was scheduled for Friday was canceled.
“We need to be in our districts,” List said. “We need to be communicating with our families, we need to be supporting our faculty and children.”
In Waterbury, Wilby, Crosby and Kennedy high schools have canceled Friday’s afternoon and night games, according to the school system. Other after-school activities for Waterbury schools will go on as planned, but there will be police on the premises.
The only mass shooting in the U.S. with more than 27 killed since the 1950s took place on April 16, 2007, when a student named Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blackburg, Va., before shooting himself.
Hartford Courant staff writers David Owens, Dave Altimari, Josh Kovner, Marc O’Connell, Bill Leukhardt, Chris Keating, Samaia Hernandez, Denise Buffa, Steve Goode, Brian Dowling, Hilda Munoz, Jenny Wilson and Stephen Busemeyer contributed to this report.
©2012 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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