Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Day of death detailed in police papers

Dozen bodies packed like sardines in bathroom at Newtown school

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A police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012.

SHANNON HICKS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

A police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Connecticut police released thousands of pages Friday from their investigation into the Newtown massacre, providing the most detailed and disturbing picture yet of the rampage and Adam Lanza's fascination with murder, while also depicting school employees' brave attempts to protect children.

Among the details: More than a dozen bodies, mostly children, were discovered packed "like sardines" in a bathroom where they had hidden. And the horrors inside the school were so great that when police sent in paramedics, they tried to select those capable of handling it. "This will be the worst day of your life," police Sgt. William Cario warned one.

The documents' release marks the end of the investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Among the dead was Ana Marquez-Greene, 6. The girl had lived in Winnipeg with her parents and brother. The family moved to Newtown months before the shooting.

Lanza, 20, went to the school after killing his mother, Nancy, at their home. He committed suicide with a handgun as police arrived at the school.

Last month, prosecutors issued a summary of the investigation that portrayed Lanza as obsessed with mass murders and afflicted with mental problems. But the summary said his motive for the massacre was a mystery.

'This will be the worst day of your life' -- police Sgt. William Cario, warning paramedics about to enter the school

In releasing the file Friday, authorities heavily blacked out the paperwork, photos and videos to protect the names of children and withhold some of the more grisly details.

Included were photos of the Lanza home showing numerous rounds of ammunition, gun magazines, shot-up paper targets, gun cases, shooting earplugs and a gun safe with a rifle in it.

A former seventh-grade teacher of Lanza's was quoted as telling investigators Lanza exhibited anti-social behaviour, rarely interacted with other students and wrote obsessively "about battles, destruction and war."

"In all my years of experience, I have known (redacted) grade boys to talk about things like this, but Adam's level of violence was disturbing," the teacher told investigators. The teacher added: "Adam's creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared."

The documents fill in more details about how the shooting unfolded and how staff members protected the kids.

Teachers heard janitor Rick Thorne try to get Lanza to leave the school. One teacher, who was hiding in a closet in the math lab, heard Thorne yell, "Put the gun down!" An aide said she heard gunfire and Thorne told her to close her door. Thorne survived.

Teacher Kaitlin Roig told police she heard "rapid-fire shooting" near her classroom. She rushed her students into the classroom's bathroom, pulled a rolling storage unit in front of the door as a barricade and then locked the door.

Eventually, police officers slid their badges under the bathroom door. Roig refused to come out and told them if they were truly police, they should be able to get the key to the door -- which they did.

Others weren't so lucky.

Police Lt. Christopher Vanghele said he and another officer found what appeared to be about 15 bodies packed in another bathroom. So many people had tried to cram inside the bathroom that the door couldn't close and the shooter gunned them all down, Vanghele surmised.

Vanghele also recalled another officer carrying a little girl in his arms and running for the exit. Vanghele ran with him through the parking lot as the officer repeated, "Come on sweetie, come on sweetie." The girl didn't survive.

In a letter accompanying the files, Reuben F. Bradford, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, wrote that much of the report was disturbing. But he added: "In the midst of the darkness of that day, we also saw remarkable heroism and glimpses of grace."

Lanza was diagnosed in 2006 with "profound autism spectrum disorder, with rigidity, isolation and a lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications," while also displaying symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Dr. Robert A. King, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center, said.

But he told investigators he observed nothing in Lanza's behaviour that would have predicted he would become a mass killer.

Peter Lanza, who was estranged from his son, told police his son had Asperger's syndrome -- a type of autism. Autism is not associated with criminal violence.

Kathleen A. Koenig, a nurse at the Yale Child Studies Center, told investigators Lanza frequently washed his hands and changed his socks 20 times a day, to the point where his mother did three loads of laundry a day.

The nurse, who met with Lanza in 2006 and 2007, said Lanza's mother declined to give him prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication after she reported he had trouble raising his arm, something she attributed to the drug.

Koenig unsuccessfully tried to convince Nancy Lanza the medicine was not responsible, and the mother failed to schedule a followup visit after her son missed an appointment, police said.

In the documents, a friend told police Nancy Lanza reported her son had hit his head days before the shootings. And an ex-boyfriend told police she cancelled a trip to London on the week of the shooting because of "a couple last-minute problems on the home front."

The documents indicate investigators were gentle when questioning children, interviewing them only if they or their parents requested it.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2013 A14

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