December 16th, 2012
10:27 PM ET

'These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change'

  • President heads list of dignitaries and local clergy members offering comfort to the people of Newtown, Connecticut
  • 20 children, six adults and the shooter are dead after shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning
  • Police: Nancy Lanza, mother of gunman, died from multiple gunshot wounds
  • Gunman Adam Lanza had assault rifle magazines that held 30 bullets each, police said
  • Victims' names released Saturday; all of the slain children were either 6 or 7 years old
  • Complete coverage: Connecticut school shooting
  • Soledad O'Brien will be live from Newtown, Connecticut, with advice and insight from Deepak Chopra and from people who have been through other shootings. Watch Starting Point, live at 6 a.m. ET Monday.

[Update 10:27 p.m. ET] Christina Hassinger, 30, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Hochsprung, sent out this tweet after meeting with President Obama before the prayer vigil.


[Updated 9:39 p.m.] A long silence followed the conclusion of President Obama's remarks before the audience began to applaud. The president walked off the stage to return to the floor, but a woman stopped him, turned him around and sent him back up the stairs to the stage. He stopped and waved briefly to the still-applauding crowd before exiting backstage.

The Rev. Bob Weiss, pastor of Newtown's St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, then offered a prayer for the community's resilience in the times to come.

The Rev. Rob Morris, vicar of King Lutheran Church, gave a benediction before asking the audience to remain in the auditorium, comforting one another, at least until word came that the president had safely exited the school campus.

Read the full text of Obama's speech here.

[Updated at 9:13 p.m. ET] The president recalled a saying that having children is "like walking around with your heart outside your body" before pausing a moment to wipe a tear from his left eye.

"This job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together," he told the hushed audience. "This is our first task: taking care of our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right."

He then asked whether "we as a nation" are meeting that obligation.

"The answer is no, and we will have to change," he said.

Obama said this was the fourth mass shooting during his presidency, and there were countless other acts of gun violence on a smaller scale.

"We can't tolerate this anymore," he said. "These tragedies must end, and to end them we must change."

[Updated at 9:02 p.m. ET] Saying "we can't accept events like this as routine," President Barack Obama said Sunday he'll use whatever power he has to prevent more tragedies like what happened Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. "Surely we can do better than this," the president said.

[Updated at 8:52 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama is speaking to the crowd, which is remaining almost completely silent.

"We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults," he said. "... I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation."

He assured the people of Newtown that the entire nation felt the loss.

"Our world too has been torn apart. All across this land of ours we have wept with you. We have pulled our children tight. ... Newtown, you are not alone."

[Updated at 8:37 p.m. ET] Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy spoke briefly, saying "We will get better," before introducing President Barack Obama.

[Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET] Newtown First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra said Friday's mass murder was "a defining moment," but it would not itself define Newtown. "We are defined by acts of courage, by love and by our continuing love for our children and families," she said.

[Updated at 8:25 p.m. ET] John Woodall, leader of the local Baha'i community, described "a burning grief" that accompanies the loss of a child, a loss that is "beyond the depth of human endurance." However, he said the sacred scripture of the Baha'i faith offers this admonishment: "Be thou not disconsolate. Do not languish. Do not sigh and weep. For agitatation and mourning affect the soul - the divine soul in the eternal realm."

Leo McIlrath, ecumenical chaplain of the Lutheran Home of Southbury, Connecticut, offered a prayer for the counselors, clergy and caregivers who are trying to comfort the bereaved.

[Updated at 8:16 p.m. ET] A young boy named Jason Graves sang a Muslim chant before Muadh Bhavnagarwala with Newtown's  Al Hedaya Islamic Center offered a one-minute homily. "Verily, with every difficulty there is ease," Bhavnagarwala said, quoting from the Quran in a quavering voice.

Jane Sibley, minister of visitation and spiritual growth, Newtown United Methodist Church, offered a prayer for first responders.

[Updated at 7:58 p.m. ET] Rabbi Shaul Praver, rabbi of Congregation Adathi in Newtown, sang the traditional Hebrew memorial prayer. The Rev. Mel Kawakami, senior minister of Newtown United Methodist Church, stood by his side, wearing a white surplice embroidered with colorful butterflies.

"There is no death, just transformation. May they rest in peace," Praver said.

Kawakami offered a prayer for the dead and the grieving, "for we are all a family as children of God," he said. "We embrace the grieving as our own. Bring us together in peace and amity."

[Updated at 7:49 p.m. ET] President Obama has entered the auditorium to brief, polite applause and quickly taken a seat on the main floor. The Rev. Matt Crebbin, senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church, is opening the prayer vigil with welcoming remarks.

[Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET] Attendees at the prayer vigil rose to give first responders - paramedics, police officers, firefighters and others - a long standing ovation when they entered the auditorium.

[Updated at 7:07 p.m. ET] The start of the interfaith prayer vigil is delayed as President Obama continues to meet with first responders and families of victims behind closed doors. Sources at Newtown High School say 900 people are in the auditorium for the service, with 1,300 others in the gymnasium overflow.

[Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET] Connecticut's retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and Sen.-elect Christopher Murphy are circulating through the Newtown High School Auditorium and speaking with townsfolk assembling there for this evening's prayer vigil.

[Updated at 5:47 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama is meeting with the families of victims and with first responders before this evening's prayer vigil at Newtown High School.

[Updated at 4:03 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama has just landed in Connecticut where he will meet with family members and first responders.  Obama will then attend an interfaith vigil in Newtown, Connecticut.

[Updated at 3:47 p.m. ET] Adam Lanza was identified for the first time by Connecticut State Police as the gunman in Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lt. J. Paul Vance said that Lanza died as a result of suicide using a handgun. Vance added that Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, died as a result of "multiple gunshot wounds" in her home.

Vance also told reporters that Adam Lanza used the Bushmaster AR-15 "assault-type weapon" most of the time at the school.

Lanza was armed with magazines that held 30 bullets each, according to Vance. He added that there were hundreds of bullets for the other weapons as well.

Vance told reporters that an additional weapon, a shotgun, was recovered from a vehicle Lanza parked outside of the school. The gunman also had a Glock 10mm and a Sig Sauer 9mm, multiple magazines and additional ammunition.

[Updated at 2:43 p.m. ET] Six-year-old Jessica Rekos was hoping to get cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat for Christmas. Now her family is left mourning the loss of her young life.

Jessica's family sent us in a photo and statement that they wanted us to share with the world about her:

"Jessica loved everything about horses. She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses, and writing stories about horses. We had promised her she could have her very own horse when she turned 10. She asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. She was a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane. She spent time writing in her journals, making up stories, and doing "research" on orca whales – one of her passions after seeing the movie Free Willy last year. She said her dream was to see a real orca. Thankfully her dream was realized in October when she went to SeaWorld.

Jessica was our first born. She started our family, and she was our rock. She had an answer for everything, she didn't miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time. We called her our little CEO for the way she carefully thought out and planned everything. We can not imagine our life without her. We are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, and trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can't play with his best friend. We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are."

You can read more about the rest of the victims in our interactive here, which will be updated as we get more photos and statements from family members.

[Updated at 2:13 p.m. ET] Lee Shull doesn’t want to feel helpless anymore.

That's why as a parent of a child at Sandy Hook Elementary school he gathered other Newtown, Connecticut, residents together on Sunday for a meeting to try to figure out what happened and how they can ensure it doesn't happen again.

The group was seeking to move forward a conversation about gun laws, mental health and the moral fabric of our country in the wake of another deadly shooting.

"We’re trying to get the word out to this country that we thought this was a safe community," Shull said. "This can happen anywhere. We need to start here and learn from this event."

Shull said his family is feeling the impact of the shooting personally. While he’s never met the gunman, his daughter was in a classroom where children were gunned down. Three other girls who shared a dance studio with his daughter are now dead.

[Updated at 1:31 p.m. ET] We've just learned that officials have given the "all-clear" at the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut. The church had been evacuated due to an unspecified threat.

[Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET]  Authorities evacuated a Catholic church in Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday. It was unclear why the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church had been evacuated.

Witnesses said authorities told them to leave the church premises.  A column of armed police officers walked across the church property and entered a building next to the church's parking lot.

The church is less than two miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

[Updated at 1:03 p.m. ET] Lillian Bittman, a former chairwoman of the Newtown Board of Education, struggled to speak about the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

She knew some of them directly, including Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who she helped appoint.

“Everyone just feels violated,” she said of the town and the school she had been involved with for over 15 years. "It's unbelievable that this could happen to a little school that had so much joy in it."

Bittman said the school had done everything they thought they could to protect the children. And she hopes that out of tragedy, the country can find a way to move forward in a meaningful way.

"I need the country and the world to understand that out of this we have to bring good. This was an idyllic setting for children and now children, young children, have died," she told CNN's Don Lemon. "When Columbine happened, our school put in a buzzer system. But this keeps happening."

Bittman said that the families of those who were murdered are understandably "a mess" right now. She feels the same. The question now, she said, is whether we can put aside our differences as a country on mental health and gun control issues to make sure something as tragic as this doesn't happen again.

"We as a country have to use this to come together and look at all the solutions. What can the world do? Love each other and work together," she said. "Figure this out so no more six-year-olds die or have to watch their teacher die in their classroom."

[Updated at 12:12 p.m. ET] We are learning more details about the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Here's what the family of Olivia Rose Engel, 6, wanted to share about her:

"Olivia Rose Engel was a precocious and completely endearing six-year old. She loved school, and was very good at math and reading. She was creative, loved craft projects and art class, and loved participating in as many sports and activities as her mom Shannon could get her to- from tennis to swimming, ballet to soccer, Daisy Girl Scouts to musical theater, and her church’s CCD program, nothing was off limits for little girl who’s favorite colors were pink and purple. Olivia was always keen to take a spin on the lake and Sound on her dad or grandpa’s Whaler. She was a patient big sister to three-year old Brayden, lead Grace each evening at the dinner table, and was a six-year old with a lot to look forward to."

To learn more about the victims, please look at our interactive, which will be updated as we get more information.

[Updated at 12:12 p.m. ET] U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he has been touched by the "strength and resilience' of the community of Newtown in the wake of the school shooting.

"I don’t think I will ever forget the cries of grief and pain that I saw at that firehouse," Blumenthal, a Democrat representing Connecticut said, referring to the area where families gathered to learn if their loved ones were alive or dead.

[Updated at 12:02 p.m. ET] Authorities still have many witnesses, including children, that they will interview in the investigation of a Connecticut elementary school shooting, Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance told reporters Sunday.

"Our people are talking with everybody slowly but surely, but methodically, too," he said. "This is something where people's hearts are broken, as we all well know. And we have to be sensitive."

[Updated at 11:54 a.m. ET] Authorities investigating the Connecticut elementary school shooting are analyzing evidence they've collected, including firearms, Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance told reporters Sunday.

"We are tracing them historically to all the way back on the workbench when they were being assembled," he said.

[Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET] Inaccurate information about the Connecticut elementary school shooting is spreading on social media, and authorities could prosecute those responsible, Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance told reporters Sunday.

Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance addresses reporters on Sunday morning.

"Misinformation is being posted on social media sites," he said. "There has been misinformation from people posing as the shooter in this case, posing using other IDs. Mimicking this crime and crime scene and criminal activity that took place in this community. There's been some things in somewhat of a threatening manner. ... These issues are crimes. They will be investigated. ... Prosecution will take place when people who are perpetrating this information are identified."

[Updated at 11:47 a.m. ET] Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Sunday the president will soon have legislation "to lead on" in the gun control debate, announcing she will introduce a bill next month in the Senate to place a ban on assault weapons.

"We'll be prepared to go, and I hope the nation will really help," Feinstein said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The senator said she'll introduce the bill when Congress reconvenes in January and the same legislation will also be proposed in the House of Representatives.

"We're crafting this one. It's being done with care. It'll be ready on the first day," she said, adding that she'll soon announce the House authors.

"It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation, and the possession. Not retroactively, but prospectively. It will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets," she said. "There will be a bill."

[Updated at 9:59 a.m. ET] The gunman used his weapon to force his way into the building, the state's governor told CNN Sunday.

"He penetrated the building by literally shooting an entrance into the building. That's what an assault weapon can do for you," Gov. Dan Malloy told CNN's Candy Crowley.

Gunman described as quiet, withdrawn

Malloy also said he was the one who broke the news to families that their loved ones had died at the school.

"It's a very difficult thing to do," he said. "The parents had been gathered for a number of hours, clinging to hope. ...And you can never be prepared for that, to tell 18-20 folks, or actually families, that their loved one would not be returning to them that day or in the future."

The Connecticut governor also discussed wanting tougher federal laws.

[Updated at 7:00 a.m. ET] Here's a quick look at the latest updates in the Connecticut elementary school shooting:

Relatives of the victims will meet with President Barack Obama on Sunday when the president visits.

All the victims died from gunshot wounds and were struck multiple times, said H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut's chief medical examiner. Their deaths were classified as homicides.

All 20 of the slain children were either 6 or 7 years old.

Investigators have been combing "every crack and crevice" of the school and have found some "very good evidence" there and at suspect Adam Lanza's home, where his mother Nancy was killed.

The deadly shooting that shattered this quiet New England town also reignited the ongoing debate about gun laws in America.

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Filed under: Connecticut • Crime • U.S.
soundoff (1,898 Responses)
  1. patfiuman

    Adam Lanza had aspergers syndrom,and yes kids with this disease are very violent and danger to themselves and others.Just google it and see how many parents are dealing with this with no help and afraid for their life with no help from medical community or government.Fix our healtcare system to help people with mental ilness

    December 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anny Rabit

      Don't spread internet mythology. Most kids with aspergers are sweet and peaceful. Do not demonize thousands of kids because of this. And there is no proof anywhere anyway that this kid had aspergers. The cops are not even releasing motives or evidence yet – so cut the gossip!

      Internet slop! Stop it!

      December 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • howmany

      wrong in part annie rabit – the mental health system is killing many in this country – and ruining untold millions upon millions of lives – but yeah – the press is wrong to perpetuate lies by police officers before an investigation is completed – and yeah – now many more innocent are put in prejudice and discrimination's way – how many aspies and autistics and goths and shy people and genuises will suffer even more abuse and bullying just for being themselves now – the mental health system is a murderous joke

      December 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    I mourn those children lost in this senseless attack, but must ask where is the rage at the tens of thousands of children murdered every year in abortion clinics around the country. They are just as innocent, just as helpless and just as dead. You call for the elimination of the 2d amendment as if that is a panacea;It will forever end the scourge of these types of murders and yet allow women the right to murder the unborn. Where is the justice for the unborn?

    December 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ghostmule

    It took police 20 minutes to get to an elementary school where shots had been fired? I was looking at the timeline on another site and it said that the first call came in at around 9:30 and police arrived on scene at 9:50. Not that it would have made a difference in this case, but isn't that some crappy response time?

    December 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlene the Dream`

      I agree . . 20 min to get to a scene where shots are fired is waaay too long. Also, I don't really understand why all the focus on evidence and a timeline, etc. We know who did it and knowing details isn't going to change the outcome or prevent another attack. It's just going to continue putting the spotlight on the gunman and show other crazies how much posthumous attention they'll get. Put the energy to supporting a ban on civilian ownership of assault weapons instead.

      December 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |

    America needs to get real, no more guns.NRA needs to find something else to do.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      How about protesting abortion. These children are murdered just as sure as these children.

      December 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. michflaguy

    Gun Control laws will not stop this madness.
    The worst school massacre in history occurred in Russia a few years ago...that country has gun control laws.
    This is about untreated mental illness – not guns.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anny Rabit

      Yes, even in countries where there are gun laws something horrific happens sometimes. In America 10,000 people a year are killed in gun violence, every year. You cannot even compare it.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Patty Jaren

    To All the Victims of this Horrible Tragedy,
    My deepest sympathies to you all. To help heal your hearts, pick up the book ‘The Eagle and The Rose’ by Rosemary Altea.
    God Bless each of you.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    ban these too: sleeping pills, alcohol, kitchen knives, water, hands... well, ban everything anyone has ever died from, and no one will ever die again... oh... forgot time, ban time too. If someone is bent on killing others, they will do it, or they will die trying. It's people that kill, guns and bullets sit there, like water, doing nothing until someone decides to kill with them. They can kill with just about anything.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • banthegovernmentandprozacetal

      ban the government and prozac and bush and co. and pharma. sociopathic murderous co. – yeah – that should do it

      December 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Why do you need a gun? To feel macho man! You need water to live, you need cars to get to work, you need a knife to cut food, etc.. A gun usually stays in a drawer and has no purpose. Now why do you need a gun that shoots thousands of bullets? If you want these toys go join the police or the army. If you want to hunt for ducks go to a supermarket.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anny Rabit

      So very helpful. Thank you for your kind and wise comments.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. freedom

    Assault weapons are fully automatic.
    No civilian in the USA is allowed to own an assault weapon unless it was produced before 1986.
    The rifle he used was an AR-15, the AR stands for Armalite; the original designer. The rifle is Simi-automatic and preforms the same functions as any other simi-automatic rifle. Just because it "looks scary," gun-ignorant people seem to think that makes it dangerous. Crazy people will kill with whatever they get their hands on; gasoline, bombs, knives, cars, and so on.

    Mental disorders and what causes them should be the forefront of this incident. gun control does not work. It has not worked in Mexico, Brazil, the UK, or even in Chicago and New York. Criminals do not care about laws. The guy broke 3 gun control laws to commit this crime in the first place. For now, we should allow the carry of firearms by trained school staff members, get more guards, and more good honest people should conceal carry to combat crazies like this.

    the average killer who meets police resistance kills 14 people. the average killer who meets civilian resistance kills 2 people. and 8 / 10 of those civilians are UNARMED. If more good people were armed, you would see crowds of people running to stop violence, rather than run away from violence.

    those are true heroes. those are REAL men and women.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • reason

      ahhh you are wrong.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • less

      Aye,real Americans used to carry weapons open in holsters in public. This told the bad guys to back off while reassuring the womenfolk that there were real men who would protect them should anyone get fresh with them. History is awash with stories of how crime was kept to nearly zero when everyone carried weapons in their hands, on horses. Guns in homes, cars, at work, an armed civilian militia is the answer. It works in some Muslim countries, is called Taliban, and stuff

      December 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carol

    When will people realize that mental instability combined with easy access to guns leads to horrific tradgedies. NO civilian should have an assault weapon or police-type Glock in their home. If the massacre of innocent 6 and 7 year olds doesn't wake this country up, then nothing will. Heartbroken for these families.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdcoder36

      Please define "police-type" Glock.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deviousin10tions

      The only thing close to being a "Police type" Glock was it is chambered in 10mm a round even the FBI stopped using.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. poodetwa

    i think each school should have an armed personnel as well as metal detectors.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • creative36

      Who is going to pay for that? You?

      December 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • reason

      so you let everyone have weapons like those and just create a police state everywhere? Armed guards can make mistakes you know, shoot the wrong people.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. R

    Asbergers syndrome is not a mental illness. There is something else in this situation

    December 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • maureen

      @R – yes asperger's is a mental illness, it's a form of autism. Mental illness doesn't equate to "nutjob", it can be anything from an eating disorder to full-on psychopathy...

      December 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • seriously

      is being an aspie means there's something amiss in the brain – and mental illness refers to illness of the brain – than – yeah – aspergers is a mental illness

      December 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. the prophet

    Am starting a foundation to GPS all weapons and block them from operating upon trouble signal band all violent video games including on line

    December 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdcoder36

      Are you serious? That's not even possible. And even if it was murderers would disable it on their guns and broadcast the "trouble" signal before they invade a home.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Josh

    Nice gesture by the Patriots, but not one town in CT is a part of the Patriots market. The Patriots are an out-of-market team to ALL of CT! Our teams are the Giants and the Jets as CT is metro NYC. The Patriots are metro Boston. While it is nice, I think that they are doing it more to try and claim CT which they cannot and they need to stay out of CT. This is not Hartford and even it it were, Hartford is not in metro Boston. There are only two markets in CT – NYC and CT. No Boston and there is no such thing as a New England market, NE area, NE metro region or anything. CT is metro NYC/Tri-state area! I am from Danbury which is right by Newtown by the way!

    December 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. less

    And now someone leaves a threat at a nearby church warning that the funs just begun. Hello youtube generation.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alan

    Did anyone get a statement from the gun as to why it let the mentally unstable person use it to kill people...

    December 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • seriously

      it was feeling too depressed from not fulfilling it's purpose in life to bother with those minor details at the time

      December 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
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