independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Sandy Hook report reveals Lanza children's early exposure to guns

Final police report into massacre charts Adam Lanza's mental decline and isolation in a house where mother kept at least five weapons

The chilling picture released as part of the final police report into the Sandy Hook massacre
The chilling picture released as part of the final police report into the Sandy Hook massacre

A chilling photograph of small boy, gnawing on a pistol clutched in his tiny hands, dressed in camouflage and with a grenade and ammunition belt in his lap, was recovered from the weapon-filled home of Sandy Hook school gunman Adam Lanza.

The picture, released as part of the final police report into America's worst school massacre, shows a toddler who looks barely half the age of the six-and seven-year-old children shot dead in their classrooms last December.

A family friend said that Lanza and his older brother were taught to shoot almost as soon as they could hold a weapon by their mother Nancy, a gun fanatic. But a spokesman for Mrs Lanza’s ex-husband, Peter, last night denied that the child in the uncaptioned photograph was either son.

The image, which shows an open gunrack with at least eight weapons behind the toddler, was part of more than 7,000 pages of documents, photographs, videos and audio recordings made public by the Connecticut authorities.

The report provided the most detailed account of the morning when Lanza shot his mother dead in her bed, then gunned down 20 first-year children and six staff before taking his own life as police arrived.

He launched his murderous rampage just hours after Mrs Lanza returned from a test trip away designed to demonstrate Lanza could stay at home alone.

An unidentified witness said that Lanza "apparently felt" that his mother, who was a volunteer at the elementary school that he once attended, loved the children there more than him.

The file charts the sharp decline in Lanza's mental condition and his isolation from the outside world in the house where his mother kept at least five weapons and stored bullets in an empty peanut can.

It also depicts the brave and desperately attempts of school staff to protect the children.

Among the most shocking details was that 15 bodies were discovered packed "like sardines" in a bathroom where they had desperately sought shelter but were unable to shut the door.

The carnage inside the school was so horrific that when paramedics arrived, police tried to screen the crews for those who would be capable of handling the scene.

"This will be the worst day of your life," Sgt William Cario warned one, according to the documents.

Authorities last month released a summary of the report. That account detailed how for his final three months, Lanza would only communicate with his mother by email and virtually never left his bedroom, in which the windows were covered with black rubbish bags.

That summary also recorded his fascination with massacres, keeping a spreadsheet of shootings dating back to 1891. He downloaded material about the two boys who shot 12 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine high school in 1999.

The authorities heavily redacted the final reports and photographs to protect the names of children and withhold some of the most gruesome details, but it still conveys the horror of those six minutes inside the school, There were photographs inside the Lanza home showing numerous rounds of ammunition, gun magazines, shot-up paper targets from a practise range, gun cases, shooting earplugs and an open gun safe with a rifle in it.

A rifle lies on the floor of the bedroom where Lanza shot his mother as she lay. Near it is a book titled "Train Your Brain to Get Happy".

The New York Daily News earlier quoted an unnamed source as saying that the boy photographed in combat gear holding a pistol was Adam. But Mr Lanza's spokesman said that he “no familiarity” with the picture and that it did not show Adam or Ryan.

However, in a book released last month, Marvin LaFontaine, an old family friend, described how Adam was "comfortable with a firearm" at the age of just four.

He said that Mrs Lanza would bring her two young sons to his property for shooting practice. "From the beginning you could tell that Adam liked the feel of the gun in his hands," he said.

The book, Newtown: An American Tragedy, continued: "The Ruger was lightweight and easy to handle and, in Nancy's opinion, the ideal weapon for her young child.

"Adam's tiny face would tense up as he concentrated while his mother would patiently go over, step by step, the proper hold and technique for the firearm."

The new report details how Lanza went on his killing spree the morning after his mother returned from a two-day trip away to New Hampshire. She told an acquaintance that she took the excursion "as an experiment to allow Adam to stay at home alone for a few days".

A former teacher told investigators that as a teen, Lanza exhibited anti-social behaviour, rarely mixed with other students and wrote obsessively "about battles, destruction and war".

The teacher said: "I have known boys to talk about things like this, but Adam's level of violence was disturbing. [His] creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared."

The documents also gave the fullest version of the terrifying events inside the school after Lanza shot his way in through the locked front door at 9.34am. Rick Thorne, the janitor, was heard by other staff members bravely confronting the heavily armed intruder.

One teacher, who was hiding in a cupboard, heard Mr Thorne yelling: "Put the gun down!" And a teaching aide said that after she heard gunfire, the janitor told her to close her door and take cover. Mr Thorne survived the rampage.

Kaitlin Roig, a teacher, described the blasts of "rapid-fire shooting" near her classroom. She rushed her charges into the classroom's bathroom, pulled a storage unit in front of the door as a barricade and then locked it. At one stage, she heard a voice say, "Oh, please, no. Please, no."

When police officers arrived and slid their badges under the bathroom door, she still refused to come out, telling them that if they were genuine, they would be able to find the key to open the door - which they did.

For others, however, there was no escape. Lt Christopher Vanghele described how he and another officer found about 15 bodies packed into another bathroom. So many had tried desperately to hide they apparently could not close the door as Lanza bore down on them.

In a letter accompanying the files, Reuben Bradford, state commissioner for emergency services and public protection, said that much of the report and imagery was too disturbing to release. 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.

But Robert King, a professor at Yale's Child Study Centre, told investigators that he observed nothing in the teen's behaviour that would have predicted he would become a mass killer.

Kathleen Koenig, a nurse at the centre, said that the teenager obsessively washed his hands and changed his socks up to 20 times a day.

She said that Mrs Lanza declined to give him prescribed antidepressant and antianxiety medication because she blamed the drugs for problems he had raising his arm.

Ms Koenig assured his mother that the medicine was not responsible, but to no avail, and Mrs Lanza did not schedule a follow-up visit after her son missed an appointment.

Peter Lanza, who had not seen his son since 2010, told police that his child had Asperger's syndrome - a type of autism. Among the images released on Friday was a photograph of an undated birthday card that he had sent to Adam, inviting him to "send me an email when you want to go hiking or shooting".

Mrs Lanza maintained an upbeat outward appearance with friends, even as she acknowledged that her son's problems were worsening. During her trip to New Hampshire, she "described a difficult life but gave the impression that she was courageous and 'handling everything'" to a male acquaintance over lunch.

She "accepted the obligations of caring for Adam" and was "very proud of Adam's accomplishments", the acquaintance said.

But the documents also throw lights on his recent decline. An ex-boyfriend told police that she cancelled a trip to London just days before the shooting because of "a couple last-minute problems on the home front".

Despite living together, they only communicated by email and he had told her that he would not feel bad if something happened to her.

Mrs Lanza told a friend two weeks earlier that her son was "increasingly despondent" and that he had refused to leave his room for three months. She said that he had been sent "over the edge" after their house lost power following Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012.

Telegraph.co.uk

Also in this Section

Classifieds

CarsIreland

Independent Shopping.ie

Meet, chat and connect with
singles in your area

Independent Shopping.ie

Meet Singles Now

Findajob

Apps

Now available on

Independent.ie on Twitter

More

Most Read

Independent Gallery

Your photos

Send us your weather photos promo

Celebrity News