Our hearts are broken: Obama
Tearing up during his address, US President Barack Obama says he reacts to the deadly school shooting in Connecticut not as a president, but a parent.PT1M20S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bfws 620 349 December 15, 2012
At least 28 people, including up to 20 children between the ages of five and 10, have been killed in a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook primary school in Newtown, a small town in rural Connecticut.
The gunman, found dead at the scene, was identified by a US law enforcement official as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who is suspected of killing his mother Nancy Lanza at home before driving to the school and beginning his rampage.
What does a parent think about coming to a school where there’s a shooting? It’s the most terrifying moment of a parent’s life … you have no idea
Earlier it was reported that the father Peter Lanza was killed at the home but US media reports now say Peter Lanza returned home after police had left the scene and was "horrified" to learn his address was connected to the shooting.
The families of victims grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut. Photo: Reuters
The suspect's brother Ryan Lanza, 24, who was initially mistakenly identified by police as the shooter, was in custody and being questioned by police, according to a law enforcement official. Ryan Lanza's Facebook page was reportedly taken down after he posted on the site that he was not the shooter.
The total dead, including the mother at home and the gunman, is believed to be 28. There are also reports that the suspect's girlfriend and another friend are missing.
Newtown police received their first 911 call just after 9.30am and learned that a man wearing a bullet-proof vest entered the school about 9.40am – Friday morning in America – and opened fire. The man was found dead at the scene with at least two guns and reportedly a .223-caliber rifle.
US President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. Photo: Reuters
According to one television report, a second man was caught by police in an adjoining wood, handcuffed and escorted from the scene.
Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance said 18 children were killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School and that two more died of their wounds in hospital.
Six adults at the school were killed, including its principal, before the killer was shot - either by his own hand or police.
Connecticut State Police walk on Dickson Street from the scene of an elementary school shooting on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. According to reports, there are more than 20 dead, most children, after a gunman opened fire in at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shooter was also killed. Photo: Douglas Healey
There were very few non-fatal injuries reported, indicating that once targeted, there was rarely any chance of escape, and that the gunman was unusually accurate in his fire.Vance said the majority of killings ''took place in one section of the school, in two rooms".
The toll is the second highest death toll in a US school shooting, after the 2007 campus shootings at Virginia Tech, which left 32 dead.
The number would far exceed the 15 killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which triggered a fierce but inconclusive debate about the United States’ liberal gun control laws.
Scores dead in Connecticut school massacre
People grieve outside the overflow area of a vigil at the Saint Rose of Lima church in Newtown, Connecticut. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama, who began receiving briefings on the shootings from 10.30am and was following events, struggled to compose himself on Friday as gave his first reaction in the White House briefing room.
Wiping away tears, he promised ‘‘meaningful’’ action to stop gun tragedies.
‘‘The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old,’’ Obama said.
A couple embrace each other near Sandy Hook Elementary School, were a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut. Photo: Reuters
‘‘They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.’’
Obama paused for several seconds, and breathed heavily, several times wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
Relatives embrace each other outside the school. Photo: Reuters
Witnesses described a terrifying bloodbath in the small town school, shortly after classes had got underway.
''I was going back to my classroom and I heard like a person kicking on the door and I turned around I smelled smoke,'' an eight-year-old boy told NBC.
''Then bullets whizzed by and then a teacher pulled me into her room,'' he said, describing ''total panic.''
Other witnesses described an intense fusillade, with perhaps 100 rounds fired, and seeing a corridor splattered with blood.
''I was in the gym at the time ... we heard lots of bangs, and we thought that it was the custodian knocking stuff down. We heard screaming. And so went to the wall, and we sat down,'' a young boy told WCBS television.
''Then the police came in. It's like, is he in here? Then he ran out. Then somebody yelled get to a safe place, so we went to the closet in the gym and we sat there for a little while,'' he said, as stunned parents arrived.
''Then the police like were knocking on the door, and they're like, we're evacuating people, we're evacuating people. We ran out.
''They're police at every door leading us down this way, this way. Quick, quick, come on. We ran down to the firehouse. There's a man that pinned down to the ground with handcuffs on,'' he said.
Alexis Wasik, a third-grader at the school, said police were checking everybody inside the school before they were escorted to a nearby firehouse, USA Today reported. She said she heard shots and saw her former nursery school teacher being taken out of the building on a stretcher, but didn't know if the woman had been shot.
At the firehouse many of the gathered parents ran to embrace their children, others learned that their children were among the dead.
"We had to walk with a partner," said Wasik, 8, told the paper. One child leaving the school said that there was shattered glass everywhere. A police officer ran into the classroom and told them to run outside and keep going until the reach the firehouse, The Hartford Courant reported.
One parent, Richard Wilford said his son described a sound like “pans falling” when gunshots rang out. He said that his son told him that the teacher went to go check, came back in and locked the door and told the students to stand in the corner.
“What does a parent think about coming to a school where there’s a shooting? It’s the most terrifying moment of a parent’s life … you have no idea,” said Wilford.
Police swarmed into the leafy neighbourhood after the shooting, while other schools in the area were put under lock-down, police and local media said.
The Newtown Bee newspaper said a child was carried out of the school with apparently serious injuries.
A photo on the Bee’s website showed officers leading more than a dozen frightened small children across a parking lot. Another image showed officers gathering in the quiet street nearby.
On the Newtown Public School District website, an alert was posted warning that ‘‘afternoon kindergarten is cancelled today’’ and that there would be no lunch-hour bus runs.
‘‘One of the cops, you know, said it was the worse thing he’d seen in his entire career but it was when they told all these parents waiting for children to come out,’’ a local nurse who rushed to the scene told WCBS news.
‘‘They thought that they were, you know, still alive. There’s 20 parents that were just told that their children are dead. It was awful,’’ she said.
Deadly shootings are a frequent occurrence in US public places, often ending only when the gunman is shot or takes his own life.
On Tuesday, a man with a semi-automatic rifle raked an Oregon shopping mall, killing two people, then taking his own life.
In the most notorious recent incident, in July, a 24-year-old, James Holmes, allegedly killed 12 people and wounded 58 others when he opened fire in a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.
Last month, gunman Jared Loughner was jailed for life for killing six people in Tucson, Arizona, in January last year in an attack targeting congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at point-blank range but survived.
However, despite the tragedies, support for tougher gun ownership laws is mixed, with many Americans opposing restrictions on what they consider to be a constitutional right to keep powerful firearms at home.
- with agencies
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