The gunman in the shooting rampage that killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition.
It was enough to kill just about every student in the school if the shooter was given enough time, raising the chilling possibility the bloodbath could have been far worse.
Adam Lanza shot himself in the head just as he heard police drawing near to the classroom where he was slaughtering helpless children, but he had more ammunition at the ready in the form of multiple, high-capacity clips, each capable of holding 30 bullets.
The disclosure Sunday sent shudders through picturesque Newtown as grieving families sought to comfort each other during church services devoted to impossible questions such as that of a six-year-old girl, who asked her mother: "The little children, are they with the angels?"
With so much grieving left to do, many of Newtown's 27,000 people wondered whether life could ever return to normal. As the work week was set to begin, parents weighed whether to send their children back to school.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said the shooter decided to kill himself when he heard police closing in about 10 minutes into the attack.
"We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy said on ABC television's This Week.
Authorities said they found hundreds of unused bullets at the school, which enrolled about 450 students in kindergarten through Grade 4.
"There was a lot of ammo, a lot of clips," said state police Lt. Paul Vance. "Certainly a lot of lives were potentially saved."
The chief medical examiner has said the ammunition was the type designed to break up inside a victim's body and inflict maximum damage, tearing apart bone and tissue.
Investigators have offered no motive for the shooting, and police have found no letters or diaries that could shed light on it.
Newtown officials couldn't say whether the school would ever reopen. The school district was considering sending surviving students to an empty school in nearby Monroe, Conn. For many parents, it was much too soon to contemplate resuming school-day routines.
"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a boy who was at the school during the shooting but escaped. "He's not even there yet."
Jim Agostine, superintendent of schools in Monroe, said plans were being made for students from Sandy Hook to attend classes in his town this week.
The road ahead for Newtown was clouded with grief. "I feel like we have to get back to normal, but I don't know if there is normal anymore," said Kim Camputo, mother of two children, ages five and 10, who attend a different school. "I'll definitely be dropping them off and picking them up myself for a while."
A Connecticut official said Sunday the gunman's 52-year-old mother, Nancy Lanza, was found dead in her pyjamas in bed in the home they shared, shot four times in the head with a .22-calibre rifle. The killer then went to the school Friday morning with guns he took from his mother, got inside by breaking a window and began blasting his way through the building.
All the victims at the school were shot with the rifle, at least some of them up close, and all were apparently shot more than once, chief medical examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said. There were as many as 11 shots on the bodies he examined. Lanza died of a gunshot wound to the head from a 10-millimetre weapon, said the same official who described the scene at the mother's house.
Stories of heroism emerged, including an account of principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, rushing toward Lanza trying to stop him. Both died.
There was also teacher Victoria Soto, 27, whose name has been invoked as a portrait of selflessness. Investigators told relatives she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.
-- The Associated Press