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How Tragic Events Unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut

December 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Half an hour after classes began at Sandy Hook Elementary School, police received 911 calls alerting them that a gunman had entered the school and opened fire. Ray Suarez reports on how the day unfolded and Margaret Warner talks to WSHU public radio reporter Craig LeMoult from Newtown, Conn., for the latest confirmed details.
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TRANSCRIPT

RAY SUAREZ: The 911 from the school came shortly after 9:30 this morning, and law enforcement officers, including local and state police, as well as agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, were quickly on the scene.

At an afternoon news conference, Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance detailed how officials proceed once they arrived.

LT. J. PAUL VANCE, Connecticut State Police: On- and off-duty troopers responded to the school and with Newtown police immediately upon arrival entered the school and began a complete active shooter search of the building. That included checking every door, every crack, every crevice, every portion of that school.

RAY SUAREZ: Vance also confirmed that there were multiple people dead inside the school, including the suspected gunman.

LT. J. PAUL VANCE: There were several fatalities at the scene, both students and staff. There is no information relative to that that is being released at this time until we have made complete and proper notification.

The shooter is deceased inside the building. There is a great deal of work that is undertaken immediately upon locating the shooter.

RAY SUAREZ: A law enforcement officer told the Associated Press the alleged gunman was a 20-year-old, Adam Lanza, whose mother was a teacher at the school. She is reportedly one of the victims of the rampage.

There were also reports the gunman died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and that his older brother is being questioned by authorities. The school, Sandy Hook Elementary, is home to children from kindergarten through fourth grade. The violent episode shook students and their families in the small Newtown community, 65 miles northeast of New York City.

BRENDAN MURRAY, student: Then the police, like, were knocking on the door, and they’re like, we’re evacuating people, we’re evacuating people.

So, we ran out. There was police about every door. And they were leading down this way, down this way, quick, quick, come on. So then we got to the firehouse, and we sat in our classes. And we were all really happy that we are all alive.

LYNN WASIK, Connecticut: It doesn’t even seem real. It just doesn’t seem like it’s even possible. It like you read it in the paper or see it in the news, and you’re like, oh, my God, that poor family. And then you have something happen so close to home. It’s like — I think I’m still in shock, to be honest with you.

RAY SUAREZ: And Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy addressed the shooting late this afternoon.

GOV. DAN MALLOY D-Conn.: You can never be prepared for this kind of incident. What has happened, what has transpired at that school building will leave a mark on this community and every family impacted.

RAY SUAREZ: Today’s occurrence in Connecticut is only the latest mass shooting this year. Most notably, in July, a gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 and wounding 58.

Today’s school attack now ranks as the second deadliest crime of its kind in American history, only behind the Virginia Tech shootings, with 32 dead, in 2007.

MARGARET WARNER: The Associated Press has reported that the gunman’s brother is cooperating and not believed to have any connection. AP also said this evening that three guns were found, two pistols, including a Glock, and .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car.

For more, we go to a reporter who has been at the school and on the scene today. Craig LeMoult is with WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn. I talked with him minutes ago from Newtown. He used his cell phone to hear my questions.

Craig LeMoult, thank you for joining us.

I understand you went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School today after the shooting. Tell us about it.

CRAIG LEMOULT, WSHU Public Radio: Yes, I did go this morning.

Where I got was actually to — there is a fire station just around the corner from the Sandy Hook Elementary School that they were using as a staging area for parents to come. I got there as a lot of parents were arriving and trying to get to where their kids are. And there was, I wouldn’t call it a panic, but there was a lot of concerned parents. And I saw a lot of relieved faces as they got there and saw their kids that were safe.

MARGARET WARNER: Did you get an opportunity to talk to any of the parents or any of the children?

CRAIG LEMOULT: I did, yes.

I spoke to a couple kids and to their parents. The children told me that they were in class doing just ordinary things, just like they ordinarily would. And they started hearing some banging. And the teachers told them that it was a lockdown. I was actually, I got to say, surprised that kids knew what a lockdown was. I think that is sort of a sad statement.

They had practiced this before. And they all raced into a coatroom before they were ultimately evacuated from the building. I spoke to other people who witnessed children being carried out of the building. And the parents that I spoke to basically were just remarkably relieved and terribly surprised that something like this could happen in what really is a very quiet town.

MARGARET WARNER: I know that right now, even as we speak, everything is in flux. A lot of information, new information keeps coming in, but what you can tell us about the suspected shooter who has been identified in some reports of this 20-year-old Lanza?

CRAIG LEMOULT: Well, we have confirmed that the shooter was the son of one of the teachers. There are names going around that are being reported.

The officials have not identified the shooter or any of the victims yet officially.

So I am not at liberty to say what the name of the shooter was, but we have confirmed that it was the son of the one of the teachers. Also, officials, state police are confirming that there was another — there was another fatality, another homicide in Sandy Hook today. And they do believe, of course, that that is related.

MARGARET WARNER: And then what can you tell us about Newtown? One of the fathers said he couldn’t believe something like this would happen in a small town like Newtown.

CRAIG LEMOULT: Yes.

It’s a small, close-knit community and in a really quiet part of the state. You know, it’s a suburb, but it’s almost really more rural. And, you know, I talked to a police official here who was asked when the last murder in this part of town was, in Newtown or in Sandy Hook.

And he couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember the last time. He said it had to have been more than 10 years since there had been a murder in this town.

MARGARET WARNER: Craig LeMoult, thank you very much from the NPR affiliate in Fairfield, Conn. Thank you.