Newtown mourns dead as police seek ‘clear picture’ of shooting
As two families buried their young sons on Monday, police cautioned it could take months to outline the events that led to Friday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
At what he said would be his last such media briefing for the foreseeable future, Conn. State Police Lt. Paul Vance was asked why police are being so painstakingly cautious with their handling of the investigation, considering that a prosecution is unlikely.
"The answers are for the poor victims, the families, the people of Connecticut, that need to know and see a clear picture of exactly what happened here," Vance answered.
"There are many people... that have broken hearts over this. And we're going to do everything that it takes to ensure that we uncover every bit of evidence, that we examine every facet of it, that we conduct as many interviews with everyone that we need to do to paint a clear picture of exactly how and why this tragedy occurred."
Vance also related a plea on behalf of the victims' families.
"Literally, the word is plea," he said. "Many of the families have asked to please afford them their privacy as they go through this terrible, terrible tragedy."
Vance's request came as the first young victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School were laid to rest in funeral services Monday afternoon.
The two six-year-old boys, Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner, were among the 20 children gunned down at the school Friday morning. Six school staff were also killed in the shooting spree perpetrated by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
Noah, whose twin sister Arielle survived the rampage, was laid to rest in a simple wooden casket adorned with a Star of David, in keeping with Jewish tradition. Outside the funeral home, teddy bears, white flowers and a red rose were placed next to an old maple tree.
Meanwhile, hymns could be heard from inside the funeral home where Jack’s service was held.
In Winnipeg, those who knew one of the Sandy Hook victims, six-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene, gathered to pay tribute to the little girl at a candlelight vigil Monday night.
Ana’s family recently moved to Newtown from Canada. Her father, Jimmy Greene, is a jazz musician who taught at the University of Manitoba. Friends of the family recalled Ana’s kindness and playfulness, while a clergy member offered prayers.
Ana’s brother Isaiah survived the shooting.
Sandy Hook school will remain closed for the duration of the police investigation. Vance noted that furniture and materials from the school were being transferred to another facility, in preparation for Sandy Hook students' expected return to class later this week.
All classes in the bedroom community 100 kilometres north of New York City were cancelled Monday, though Newtown, Conn. police Lt. George Sinko said the plan is for most of the town’s students to try and resume their normal routines as early as Tuesday.
But ultimately students of the Sandy Hook school "will be excused until further notice," Sinko said.
According to a statement posted on the town's official website, the Sandy Hook students will be attending classes at the previously mothballed Chalk Hill school in neighbouring Monroe.
That facility, officials said, is large enough to accommodate the entire Sandy Hook program.
As their probe unfolded over the weekend, investigators said Lanza -- who shot his mother before driving to the school where he ultimately took his own life -- was carrying enough guns and ammunition to kill every student at the school for kindergarten to Grade 4-aged kids.
Vance was steadfast when asked to elaborate Monday, telling reporters, "I cannot detail the content of any evidence or even what that evidence is for public consumption."
He was forthright, however, explaining why police are not detailing what they know of events inside the school Friday morning. Disclosing facts piecemeal, with the chance they could be misinterpreted outside of the proper context, would be "inappropriate," Vance said.
"It's too difficult," Vance added. "I simply don't want to."
He did confirm one new piece of information, however, relating word from local school officials that there was "no connection" linking Lanza and Sandy Hook school.
So far, Vance has confirmed media reports that Adam Lanza was the gunman, and also confirmed that Lanza's mother was found shot to death at the house they shared.
Vance did not say what weapon Lanza used to kill his mother, but he did say the primary weapon used at the school was a high-powered Bushmaster AR-15. Lanza was also armed with two handguns, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm, and had another shotgun in the car he had driven there.
Lanza used a handgun to take his own life, Vance said.
Vance also confirmed that two adults survived the shooting spree, and are now recovering from their injuries. They are among the many witnesses, including the Sandy Hook students, who he said investigators will be interviewing as their probe unfolds.
"I can tell you it broke our hearts when we couldn't save them all," Vance said Monday.
Describing the prospect of interviews with the children as a "very, very tender issue" Vance added they would be handled "extremely delicately."
Police are yet to cross that bridge, however, as Vance made clear the painstaking process of interviewing everyone and sifting through all the evidence could take "a substantial amount of time" that could stretch over many months, at least.
For the approximately 27,000 residents of Newtown, however, the immediate priority is coping with the emotional aftermath of their tragic loss.
Already, the town has begun purging itself of Christmas decorations.
"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped the shooting, told The Associated Press. "He's not even there yet."
Kim Camputo, a mother of two young children who attend a different area school, said they're all struggling with the prospect of life ahead.
"I feel like we have to get back to normal, but I don't know if there is normal anymore," she said.
Various crisis intervention teams are working in the town, offering counselling for victim's families, as well as Sandy Hook parents, students and staff. Professional support is available for townspeople not directly connected to the shooting as well.
The Newtown Savings Bank and the United Way of Western Connecticut have also set up a Sandy Hook School Fund to help the victims' immediate families cover funeral and other expenses.
What we know:
The toll: In total 28 people died. The victims include 20 students, six school staff members, the gunman's mother and the gunman.
The child victims at the school: Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6 and Allison N. Wyatt, 6.
The adult victims at the school: Rachel Davino, 29, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Lauren Russeau, 29, Mary Sherlach, 56 and Victoria Soto, 27.
The gunman: Former classmates remember Lanza as a quiet, smart student though a bit of a loner.
One law enforcement official said Lanza may have had a personality disorder; another said he had been diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism.
He came from a wealthy area and his parents divorced in 2008.
Adam Lanza's family: Friends and neighbours describe Lanza’s mother, Nancy, 52, as well-liked and a nurturing parent. Those close to her say that she often hosted dice games at her home. She was divorced from her husband, Peter Lanza, in 2008. Friends say she was a gun enthusiast who went target shooting with her children. She owned four legally registered guns.
Lanza’s father, Peter Lanza, is a tax director at General Electric who lives in Stamford, Connecticut. He released a statement Saturday indicating he is struggling to understand the shooting.
"Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are," Lanza said. "We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. ... Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."
Lanza’s older brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, lives in New Jersey and works in Manhattan. Following the shooting Ryan was initially identified as the suspect and was questioned by police. It was later clarified that he is not a suspect.
The town: Newtown, Conn., is a 300-year-old picturesque New England town of 27,000. It is located in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. Friday’s shooting, the second-deadliest mass school shooting in the country’s history, has traumatized this quiet community. There has only been one murder in Newtown in the last 10 years.
With files from The Associated Press