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Medical Examiner: Newtown Shooting Victims Suffered 'Devastating Set of Injuries'

Officials during a press conference shared some harrowing details of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the nature of gunshot wounds.

Update 6 p.m.

NEWTOWN, CT—Minutes before releasing a heart-wrenching list of those who perished in Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, state officials reviewed some of the harrowing, gruesome details of what appears to have happened inside an elementary school where 20 children and six adults were shot dead by a lone gunman who then killed himself.

Responding to difficult questions posed by a national media corps that descended just one day earlier on this normally quiet town about 60 miles northeast of New York City, the Connecticut chief medical examiner described how and where the bullets entered the children, what the kids were wearing and how he felt about what he’d seen inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know any of my colleagues having seen,” said Dr. H. Wayne Carver II of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where he’s been working for 31 years including 26 as chief.

Carver said he saw no difference in the pattern of shooting deaths between children and adults inside the school.

The weapon used primarily in the shootings was a long rifle, Carver said, and victims young and old were shot “all over” with some at close range and some not.

“I only did seven of the autopsies, the victims I had ranged from three to 11 wounds apiece and I only saw two of them with close range shooting,” Carver said.

The shooter who wielded that gun—discovered dead inside the building Friday with a rifle and two smaller guns near his body, police have said—has been widely reported to be Adam Lanza, 20. His motives remain unclear; state police are investigating.

Carver said he would complete autopsies on the shooter and the shooter’s mother, widely reported to be Nancy Lanza of Sandy Hook, on Sunday morning.

All bodies were removed from the school before dawn Saturday and transported to the medical examiner's base in Farmington—about 40 miles away. The children’s autopsies were performed first so that their bodies could be made available to funeral directors “for obvious reasons,” Carver said.

Asked whether the shooting victims at the school suffered, Carver responded: “To best of my ability to answer that question, which is always less than perfect: If so, not for very long.”

The graphic, detailed information seemed to fly in the face of a more private tone that Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra was trying to set when she preceded Carver at the podium.

Calling Newtown a “close-knit community” whose heart is broken in the wake of a “horrendous tragedy,” Llodra called for media members to respect the privacy of residents, including those grieving for lost loved ones.

“Please treat our community with kindness,” Llodra said. “Please know that we have suffered a terrible loss and we need your respect on this healing journey.”

Carver called the injuries to shooting victims “a very devastating set.”

Relatives identified their loved ones not in person but by photos taken of the victims’ faces, Carver said.

“We did not bring the bodies and families into contact, we took pictures of them, of their facial features,” he said. “It’s easier on the families when you do that. There is a time and place for up close and personal in the grieving process but to accomplish this we felt it would be best to do it this way.”

At one point a reporter asked Carver what the children were wearing, to which he replied: “They were wearing cute kids’ stuff. I mean they’re first-graders.”

Carver also was asked whether he became emotional among the bodies of so many victims, mostly children, and told the corps “Not yet.”

“I think if you don’t’ have to do that, you shouldn’t be in this business,” he said. “For this one, not yet. Notice I said ‘yet.’ “

Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police echoed Llodra’s imploring for privacy, reminding people as he had at an earlier press conference that a state trooper has been assigned to each individual family of the victims. One new piece of information that Vance supplied in response to a reporter’s question was that investigators found no evidence of an altercation in the school involving the gunman.

Update 10:40 a.m.

Though the gunman’s motive remains unclear, some pieces of the timeline, emergency response and ongoing investigation into Friday’s horrifying shooting came into focus Saturday morning as state police addressed media members at a park near Sandy Hook Elementary School.

All 20 children and six adults who died as a result of wounds suffered at the Newtown school have been identified by family members, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said.

Those families are going through “a very difficult and trying time,” Vance said, pleading with the media to respect the survivors’ wishes for privacy. A list that names the deceased will be made available as soon as the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has finished its work. Vance said that the bodies inside the school all have been transported to that office—located in the Hartford suburb of Farmington, about 40 miles from Newtown.

It isn’t clear when the elementary school will reopen. Vance said investigators likely will be on scene for another one to two days. The superintendent of schools in Newtown is expected to address the media Saturday, Vance said.

Echoing what Newtown police told Patch Saturday morning, Vance said investigators are working hard to try and establish the gunman’s motive. Until that investigation is complete, Vance said, no information about its details will be released.

“I have to tell you that there are certain things, that there are simply cards we are holding close to our chest,” he said.

Vance said that “good evidence” was recovered at the school as well as a Sandy Hook home where a woman whose son is believed to be the shooter was found dead Friday.

Multiple news outlets citing police sources have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza as the gunman. According to NBC News, three weapons used in the shootings—two 9 mm handguns and a rifle—were legally purchased and registered to Lanza’s mother.

“[The school and home] did produce evidence that investigators are able to use,” Vance said.

Vance confirmed that all three weapons were located near the shooter by police responding to the scene Friday.

First responders to the school encountered “several students and staff suffering from gunshot wounds,” according to a press release issued by the state police.

On- and off-duty troopers and Newtown Police Department officers responded to what the world quickly learned was a horrifying, unimaginable scene following a 9:30 a.m. 911 call reporting a possible shooting at the school, Vance said in the press release.

“Upon arrival, teams of Troopers and Officers formed ‘Active Shooter Teams’ and immediately entered the school,” Vance said in the release. “Teams performed rescues of students and staff, removing them to a safe location as they searched for the shooting suspect within the building. The building was evacuated and students walked hand in hand out to a safe location.”

The shooter, whose identity police have not yet confirmed, was found dead inside the school, Vance said. Police have said the gunman shot himself.

Multiple media outlets have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza as the gunman. Vance also confirmed that a relative of the gunman was found dead at a residence in Sandy Hook. That deceased person is believed to be Lanza’s mother, a teacher at the school.

In all, 27 people were killed, police said, including 20 children. Among the adults killed were the school’s beloved principal and psychologist.

The identities of all victims have been established, Vance said. Families of those killed have asked that no media members press them for interviews, Vance said.

The bodies of those that perished have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner, which is located in Farmington—a suburb of Hartford about 40 miles away.

“State Police Major Crime Investigators are continuing to process the school crime scene, gathering evidence and documenting the entire facility,” Vance said in the press release. “State Police Detectives assisted by Newtown Detectives processed the interior and exterior crime scene. Teams of investigators flooded the community and followed each lead, developing extensive information.”

In addition to the support for families themselves, Vance said, a crisis intervention team is being made available to the larger Newtown community. That team can be reached at 203-270-4283, Vance said.

Update 10:15 a.m.

First responders to Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning encountered “several students and staff suffering from gunshot wounds,” according to a press release issued by Connecticut State Police.

On- and off-duty troopers and Newtown Police Department officers responded to what the world quickly learned was a horrifying, unimaginable scene following a 9:30 a.m. 911 call reporting a possible shooting at the school, Lt. J. Paul Vance of the state police said in the press release.

“Upon arrival, teams of Troopers and Officers formed ‘Active Shooter Teams’ and immediately entered the school,” Vance said in the release. “Teams performed rescues of students and staff, removing them to a safe location as they searched for the shooting suspect within the building. The building was evacuated and students walked hand in hand out to a safe location.”

The shooter, whose identity police have not yet confirmed, was found dead inside the school, Vance said. Police have said the gunman shot himself.

Multiple media outlets have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza as the gunman. Vance also confirmed that a relative of the gunman was found dead at a residence in Sandy Hook. That deceased person is believed to be Lanza’s mother, a teacher at the school.

In all, 27 people were killed, police said, including 20 children. Among the adults killed were the school’s beloved principal and psychologist.

The identities of all victims have been established, Vance said. Families of those killed have asked that no media members press them for interviews, Vance said.

The bodies of those that perished have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner, which is located in Farmington—a suburb of Hartford about 40 miles away.

“State Police Major Crime Investigators are continuing to process the school crime scene, gathering evidence and documenting the entire facility,” Vance said in the press release. “State Police Detectives assisted by Newtown Detectives processed the interior and exterior crime scene. Teams of investigators flooded the community and followed each lead, developing extensive information.”

Original Story

Newtown residents reeling from the massacre of 26 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school Friday are facing questions as they wake up to a living nightmare about the gunman’s motive, weapons and just what happened.

Police are expected to hold a press conference at 8 a.m. and have said that they are “working backwards” to piece together the “why” behind the mass shooting in this normally quiet area. A town of about 27,000, Newtown is 45 miles southwest of Hartford, or about 60 miles northeast of New York City. A 12 p.m. Saturday prayer service is scheduled for St. John's Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook, a neighborhood of the town. 

Newtown police Lt. George Sinko, the department’s public information officer, told Patch Saturday morning that investigators have no sense of what prompted the gunman to act.

“There is no sense of motive at this time,” Sinko said.

Though Connecticut State Police have declined to identify the Sandy Hook Elementary Schoolshooter, several news outlets citing police sources have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza. According to NBC News, three weapons used in the shootings—two 9 mm handguns and a rifle—were legally purchased and registered to Lanza’s mother, a teacher at the school whom police say was found dead at her Sandy Hook home.

Parents of schoolchildren at the scene Friday told Patch that the school was locked and that visitors need to be buzzed in. Sinko said Saturday that the gunman appeared to have blasted his way inside.

Police radio dispatches aired by CNN reveal harrowing early communications to emergency responders who arrived at the elementary school around 9:40 a.m. Friday.

"Caller is indicating she thinks that someone is shooting in the building," a dispatcher says. "The front glass has been broken. We are not sure why."

And later: "All units, the individual that I have on the phone is continuing to hear what he believes to be gunfire. Units are responding to Sandy Hook School at this time. The shooting appears to have stopped. The school is in lockdown."

According to Sinko, the gunman shot out glass next to the front door of the school.

“We say that because the window next to the door was shattered. We are still investigating," Sinko said.

Sinko said investigators are sorting through a “tremendous amount of evidence,” adding that police are looking for no other suspects than the suspected gunman who also was found dead inside the school.

Much of the investigators’ work involves checking motor vehicles, Sinko said.

Sinko said that police are not releasing the names of the suspect or children killed.

Patch will update this article with new information from state police and other officials throughout Saturday.

A December 15, 2012 at 05:04 PM
As a police officer for 20 years, I think we need to stop giving the shooter in these situations any media attention, that means do not name the shooter, do not discuss anything about him and when referring to him, refer to him as a coward/murderer (Do not give him the "fame" he may be looking for, or the thought that his name will be everywhere and will always be remembered). Give all the media attention to the victims and the hero teachers that help save the other students lives. The only people that have the right to know the information about the shooter are the families of the victims and the people directly involved in the incident.
joshua tanner December 15, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Back in the 90s there were suicide clusters manifesting among teens. The CDC put out guidelines for media because they were part of the problem. The way they sensationalized the problem made suicide more alluring to some teens with low self-worth seeking to die in some notorious way. Media totally overcooks these kinds of events and really serves as an incentive to lunatics seeking a moment of "glory" and "payback"
Rose Marie Raccioppi December 15, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Tragedy... horror... senseless loss... unspeakable pain, and then the tear driven question of broken hearts, WHY?? A balance between the "right to bear arms" and protection from those who misuse this right to bring harm to innocent children, must be attained. A knife, a gun, by itself is not the "killer," it is the person that uses a weapon that brings forth the tragic loss of life. We must look at CAUSE - what moves one to kill, as opposed to the EFFECT alone. Every BEING is born innocent of crime... what has life taught a child, a teen, an adult, that leads to killing the innocent? Prevention, support of a troubled child, a distraught teenager, a frantic adult, must be provided. Medication is NOT the solution... it has been shown to bring about other aberrant behaviors without necessarily correcting the initial difficulties. SEEK CAUSE... for only then will resolve be attained. continued...
Rose Marie Raccioppi December 15, 2012 at 07:17 PM
As an educational therapist I have worked with many troubled children. When understood for their pain, when supported in their needs, when respected for their differences, CHANGE takes place. Positive transformations take hold. No longer is the child driven by frustration, confusion, and anger. No longer does the child have to lash out to feel a sense of power, no longer does the child feel hopeless in light of judgments and demands it may not be able to satisfy easily. Through supports that identify nutritional needs, guidance that is humanistic, activities that are creative and empowering, the child renews his/her sense of Self, all this WITHOUT medication, without harsh punishment. Look into the eyes of a young child... seen be the dreams, the love, yet present. When does it change? Why does it change? YES, WE ARE TO SEEK CAUSE..WE ARE TO BE PROACTIVE... and WISE ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND NEED... before it fuels destruction, tragedy and senseless killings. Rose Marie Raccioppi
Pamela P. December 15, 2012 at 09:27 PM
My heart goes out to all those families. Everyone is affected whether living in Newtown or not. So, so awful - including for the shooter's family. This was of an unspeakable nature with all those tiny kids killed. Are we not all wondering where our country is going? Here are my thoughts... I believe that we need to get back to the basics and the principles upon which our country was founded - acknowledging God as our Creator, loving and respecting one another whether already here, about to be born, or at the end of one's life, and following God's guidelines that are so clearly spelled out in his word for all that makes up life while on this planet. Without this, we will live for our things and our feelings - entities that offer temporary highs, but when prioritized will always leave us empty, disappointed, disillusioned, and sometimes uncontrollably enraged. We must help and love one another. Put your hand in front of your face. The closer your hand gets to your face, the less clearly you see it. There are so many hurting people. Sometimes, they're right in front of us and we don't see them, just like that hand when so close to the face. Go carefully and prayerfully through life. We live in a frenetically-paced world. Slow down. Listen. Take inventory of what's going on with those around you. God is near. And even if we don't believe in him, he still believes in us and will help us every step of the way.
Beach Girl December 16, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Praying for all involved the First responders tht had to witness the first sight of these BEAUTIFUL BABIES , and to tell their families , May God keep them safe . For the families that lost there loved ones ...... praying for you and your families
SPK December 16, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Agree with these comments: sensationalizing the shooter only encourages more nut cases to seek fame and immortality. Focus only on the victims' families and need for privacy.
claudia jones December 16, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Its more difficult to get a drivers license than buy a gun in most states. A background check is essential. If a gun is sold without one, $20,000 fine & a year in prison for the first offense for both the seller & buyer. Have them take a course & pass, before they get a gun permit. Have them retested, like eye tests for drivers licenses. BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS! BAN 30-100 bullet clips for the public. Stop high volume ammo purchases online.
jeff meyer December 16, 2012 at 02:11 PM
The only way that the gun culture can be changed is with strict enforcement of the laws and stricter laws. If one carries a firearm without a permit then they do time. No plea bargains. Better yet make unlawful possession of a firearm a federal crime thus no parole. What are the common denominators between Newtown, Aurora and Virginia tech? Besides mental illness it is the access to semi automatic firearms with high capacity magazines. Obviously our founding fathers did not have these types of weapons in mind when the 2nd Amendment was penned. Firearms that have magazine capacity of 15 or 20 rounds should NOT be accessible to the civilian population. If one desire to protect their home with a firearm then a revolver or shotgun will suffice. There is no reasonable justification for civilian possession of assault weapons or firearms with high capacity magazines. The 2nd Amendment should not be used as a justification for the proliferation of firearms. Said Amendment must be exercised within the balance of reason and with the public's welfare in mind. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
lillian philbin December 16, 2012 at 02:38 PM
yes people kill by using guns. However, assault weapons kill many, many people in a matter of minutes. Why does the NRA and it's followers want to allow citizens to have assault weapons?
JJ December 16, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Folks, All due respect but maybe it's time to keep your political opinions and personal comments off of the blog and concetrate on the enorumous tragedy that has occured. Please say a Prayer for these victims and their families and stop filling these spaces with personal agendas and views. As the President said......"this is not the time". Thanks.
Committee for Election Equality December 16, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I am not an advocate of the gun lobby or what the gun lobby fashions what the 2nd Amendment means, as I grew up in California and now live in Rye: I have never owned a gun, never held a gun, and certainly never shot a gun. Even, if Congress was able to repeal the 2nd Amendment, these killings won't stop, and I believe history has taught us that. As I reported on MyRye.com, next week I am going to write a letter to the Department of Justice asking them to show cause why a U.S. Marshall should not be stationed at every public school, and I am seeking 100 signatures. Private schools can provide their security force, as can shopping malls. I am afraid this comment provides answer for "meet and greet" your local, State, or national politician.
Mike December 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Amen!
Jay Miller December 16, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Reporting about the details of this horrific event is not "sensationalizing" it. We need to know as much as possible about what happened. People who commit mass killing such as this do not do so for the attention. So blaming the media is not the answer. Now very definitely IS THE TIME to discuss how to stop this type of outrageous violence that Americans impose upon other Americans. We need to make certain that those who died in this tragedy as well as other tragedies like this is to assure that they did not die in vain. We HONOR THEM by doing something to stop others from suffering the same fate. The answer is not a simple one. However, we need to START DISCUSSING these events and not stop until a consensus forms about what we should do to try to limit such violence. Whether it's a ban on assault weapons, better mental health care for adolescents (notice how so many of the shooters are in their teens to early twenties), or whatever else we decide is necessary, we need to ACT.
Jay Miller December 16, 2012 at 05:22 PM
First must come public debate. That’s what happens in a democracy. That’s who and what we are supposed to do. Discuss, decide and act. Mass killings two, three times year is not something to be accepted by any society. In no other country, not any western democracy, does this happen. Is this the American exceptionalism we want to be known for…..more violence than any other society on the planet? While there are countries where a large number of the citizens have hand guns, they do not experience this type of violence. What are we missing? What are we doing or not doing that creates an environment that allows such horror to happen? The answers are not necessarily the obvious ones. But we need to start the public debate. Yes, public debate, something that has failed us for quite a while in this country. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I long for the days of Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan. They strongly disagreed about almost everything. Yet, they compromised and as a result, they governed. Something is terribly wrong in this county when the mantra appears to be "just say no."
Rose Marie Raccioppi December 16, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Appreciate your comments.
Jay Miller December 16, 2012 at 06:43 PM
It most certainly is the time to address the issue. It wasn't the time when Congresswoman Giffords got shot. It wasn't the time last week after the mall shotting in Oregon. When is it time? We live in a society that thirves on public discourse and ideas. These horrors will be addressed, if ever, when we STOP saying "now is not the time," and start a national debate about how to prevent such violence. The sooner, the better. The answers are not easy and they are personal and political, but that is what democracy is all about. The path to action will be made through public debate. We HONOR those that died on Friday and in other outragous acts of mass killing that seem to be occurring every month, by talking about how we can save others from the same fate.
Rabbi Mark Sameth December 16, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I signed the "Gun Control Now" petition at http://signon.org/sign/gun-control-now-1?source=homepage and am supporting the "Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence." http://www.bradycampaign.org/ I hope you will too.
Aris December 17, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Mass killing will not be stopped, but will be reduced greatly by placing a ban on the sale of assault weapons. There are also other ideas that can help minimize the risks, even without a ban on assault weapons. Placing US Marshals at every school? I am not sure what kind of message that will send to our children...

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