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Sandy Hook gunman forced his way into school, police say

By Brady Dennis, Steve Vogel and Steve Hendrix
The Washington Post

NEWTOWN, Conn. - The man responsible for massacring 26 people, mostly children, at a small-town Connecticut elementary school forced his way into the building, authorities said Saturday.

Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance told reporters that no one allowed the suspect, identified at 20-year-old Adam Lanza, into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning.

“We have established a point of entry,” Vance said, declining to elaborate. “He was not let in voluntarily. . . . [He] forced his way into the school.”

Vance said officials had successfully identified the victims of the shootings and notified their families. A local medical examiner was due to release the names of the victims later Saturday.

News of Lanza’s forced entry added another disturbing twist to the timeline of Friday’s school shooting, the second worst in U.S. history. Authorities say 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother on Friday, drove her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, then killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

Sandy Hook’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, had recently installed a new security system in which the school doors were kept locked all day starting at 9:30 a.m. Some parents and other officials initially speculated that the shooter likely was able to walk in unquestioned because school employees knew he was a teacher’s son. Authorities said that was not the case.

It also remained unclear early Saturday whether Nancy Lanza, the shooter’s mother, was indeed a teacher at the school. Numerous reports on Friday, including those in The Washington Post, initially identified her as a kindergarten teacher there, but Newtown Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson said there is no record that Nancy Lanza ever worked at the school, according to ABC News.

A day after Friday’s horrific shooting, this small New England town was wracked with grief.

Monsignor Robert Weiss, of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, led a packed vigil at the church Friday evening and had accompanied police to notify some families that their children would not be coming home.

“Many of the questions are just wondering what were the last moments of these people’s lives like? They were wondering did the child even know what was happening, were they afraid, did they see something coming?” Weiss said in an interview early Saturday with NBC News. “And of course no one can answer that question because there were no survivors, so these parents are left with those unanswered questions in addition to just why this had to happen, why to their child?’’

Weiss also recalled the scene Friday at a local firehouse, where some parents exulted in being reunited with their children, while others slowly realized no such reunion would come.

“When they were taking the attendance and certain names were not called, most people were asked to go into a separate room,” Weiss told NBC. “Everyone’s heart just dropped. They knew something horrible had happened.’’

He added, “The emotions of yesterday were just absolutely overwhelming, and I don’t know if the reality has really settled in yet.’’

Sandy Hook Elementary, the site of Friday morning’s massacre, is home to more than 600 children from kindergarten through fourth grade. About 9:30 a.m., the day was interrupted by a burst of sound on the school intercom: screams.

That was enough for some teachers to move their students away from doors and windows. In one room, a teacher locked her students in a closet, a move parents said saved their children’s lives. In another class, a teacher heard two blasts and ordered students into a corner.

Jessica Eisele, a fourth-grader at Sandy Hook, was in the gym when the shooting began. “On the loudspeaker, there was screaming and crying, and she heard gunshots and then silence,” said her brother Nick, 15.

A janitor ran through the halls, shouting that a gunman was in the building. Witnesses heard dozens of pops coming from two classrooms and a hallway.

In the main office, the principal, vice principal and school psychologist heard the noise and stepped into the hall to investigate. A witness told CNN that the vice principal crawled back into the office after being shot in the foot. The principal and psychologist were later found dead.

Around Newtown, word spread by text, phone and the sound of dozens of emergency vehicles thundering toward the school. At Berkshire Motors, owner Jim Marcucilli thought he saw 40 police cruisers speed by. He had been working on a car, but its owner, frantic, demanded her keys back. “Oh, my God,” she said, “I have to get my kid.”

Joseph Wasik, 42, wasn’t too worried when his wife, Lynn, called to say she had received a text alert from the school. Like schools nationwide, Sandy Hook had been on lockdown before, always for events that turned out to be nothing. Earlier this year, reports of a loose bear seen in town had activated the system.

But when Wasik flipped open his laptop and saw a report of a school shooting, he got in his car and headed to Sandy Hook, where his daughter Alexis is a third-grader. “I flew down there,” said Wasik, an electrician.

When he arrived, the backup of emergency vehicles and panicked parents extended half a mile beyond the school. Wasik parked on the first lawn he could find and ran.

“It was chaos, cars blocking everything, a SWAT team,” he said. “All these parents screaming for their kids.”

Children were ushered out of the building, instructed to close their eyes as adults guided them through the halls. Some were so scared they vomited.

The students were moved into the parking lot, single file, hands on one another’s shoulders. Some wept, some smiled, some stared at the pavement.

A few of the children had blood on their clothes.

Helicopters circled above and dozens of emergency vehicles arrived from nearby towns. Firefighters rushed over to parents holding children and wrapped them in blankets to warm them from the December chill.

In a first-grade classroom, a boy, seeing that his teacher had been shot, bolted out the back door and kept running, friends said. The boy ended up on Church Hill Road, half a mile away, where a man picked him up and took him to the firehouse where other students were gathered.

Stephen Delgiadice’s 8-year-old daughter cowered with her classmates in a corner of their room until police led them out. “It’s alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America,” he told the Associated Press. His daughter was unharmed.

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Dennis and Hendrix reported from Washington. Sari Horwitz, Greg Jaffe and Paul Schwartzman in Washington and Colum Lynch and special correspondent Alison Griswold in Newtown contributed to this report.

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