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. BP

    30 round magazines seem to be excessive. That's just my opinion.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Well it's an opinion...

      30 is not "high" or "low" it's the "standard" capacity.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • wombattesting

      It may be an opinion, but I think it's an awfully sensible one. Perhaps we need some sense now, after all that has happened. There is no need for 30 round magazines, or even 12 round ones. That is "standard", since that what many gun owners want.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • KTJ

      Given the potential for such devastation, what's the problem with limiting magazines to 5 rounds? Let's be sensible... for our kids sake. My God!

      December 16, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      @ wombat and KTJ
      you are both missing the point....it's not the weapon or magazine that is at fault here.

      Maybe we should get the cars to drive alot slower..no one needs to exceed the speed limit.....after all cars kill more than guns do...

      How many children were killed on friday due to cars? Where is the outrage for them?

      December 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jesse

    Bath Michigan. Read it.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • LockedandLoadedinNorthville

      fer real!!!!!!!!!!

      December 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. gman

    The weapon is part of the issue, the easy one to fix is high capacity magazines. In Canada for example it is a criminal offence to possess a semi-auto rifle magazine with a capacity greater than 5. There is no practical need for 30 round mags or in the case of Aurora the guy had a 100 round mag. Ban them, make them illegal, other than a military application there is no need for more than 5 rounds.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      What if you are attacked by 6 lions? Then you'll feel foolish, huh?

      December 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. IA1

    The problem is neither guns or simple enforcement of existing laws. The problem is 30+ years of larger and larger cuts to across the board mental healthcare funding, be that on the school level, the community level, the State level, or the Federal level.
    Dangerously off-kilter people go increasingly unnoticed, because there is no public funding anymore to employ experts to spot it early on (other than high-priced private psychiatrists/psychologists, which 95% of society cannot afford, nor even think to send family members to in the first place).
    Events like this are the result of that, and at some point or another, the USA is going to have to grow up in regards to paying a bit more in taxes for its betterment.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • marc L

      The problem is society for sure. Society has produced certain individual, that didn't seem to exist 30 years ago, that seem to think it is acceptable to kill numbers of people and then kill themselves.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • seriously

      you do not get it do you?
      the mental health system is the problem.
      they make the people sicker – not healthier.
      they do it on purpose with full and complete support from the government – because that is how bush and co. and pharma. and co. (one in the same practically) make massive money – on meds that kill.
      the mental health system doesn't even know how to treat ptsd yet because of money politics.
      get real.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chuck

    The truth about what happend will never be known till its too late

    December 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    All you have to remember that this was God's will. He wanted this to happen. He has his reasons, whether we understand them or not. While we grieve here on earth, those kids with Jesus in their hearts are up in heaven having a great time. Just be happy for them and the time they were allowed to have down here on earth.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • frontgate

      Another lunatic

      December 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Redhead in Cary

      And the little innocents who don't have Jesus in their hearts??

      December 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • wombattesting

      Somewhat hopeless stastement, don't you think?

      December 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joseph F omoleye

    I believed every thing can not be Satan but, the way we control our children at home. Charity beging at home. The fear of God is the bebining of wisdom, generally American government should let all the school be teaching the words of God and human good relationship[. Finally the way American handle gun are very poor, there should be law of handling them thanks.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ss

    God bless the little kids and the brave teachers of the Sandy Hook school and the families who are enduring this national shock. God bless the surviors and thier families of the school... It is raining there... even the heavens are bursting with sadness..
    Ro the gun lovers, hope this brings sense in your brains and you have a some sense in suppouting the assult rifle ban to stop the senseless killings that have ensued in this beautiful America. Forget the 1800's, show your solidatarty in this time of national grief

    December 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim

    Could not agree with you more....well said

    December 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chris Lawler

    I believe the answer is simple on how to stop the school shootings. Every classroom should have a bullet proof SAFE ROOM who cares if it cost a little more to add these rooms.So the second the schools alarm goes off all kids go to a safe room and lock the door. Eventually evil people will stop targeting the schools if they know they won't have a target.People go back and forth arguing should we arm our teachers with guns. Put the money into real answers.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. marcus101

    Gun laws are not to be blamed. Enforcing existing gun laws should be strictlyt enforced. These guns need to be kept in a safe place and enforement officers should do random checks on gun owners to makle sure their weapos are kept securely. I do agree there is no reason for a civilian to have a an assault rifle. However guns in the right hands do deter crime...look at Kennesaw , Georgia that made it mandataory for its residents to have firearms....burglaries dropped from 65 per annum to 26 the year the law passed and 11 the following year. Guns need responsible owners and inspectors should be responsible to ensure that all gun owners have their guns safely stored or carried.
    Secondly the media is partially to blame as well. Look at the Batman shooting James Holmes is now a celebrity from his depraved act as I am sure Lanza will be now be immortalised for his grave deed. However can anyone name a single victim from the batman shooting ? (besides the families of course) , The press should stop sensationlising these acts and keep the guilty out of the press so they dont get there names publicised and remebered. We must remember the act of course , but not the man. These depraved humans (and I use the term human loosely here) , do this for public effect albeit a reputation a normal person would never want. CNN , FOX news and MSNBC enable this. Instead forget these depraved humans and memorise the names of the victims the ones that deserve recognition and deserve to be immortalised.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ball

    I hope Bushmaster is proud that their weapon was used to murder all these innocent teachers and students...and please folks...don't go on about "guns don't kill" and "cars kill more people then guns". The plain and simple FACT is that guns are manufactured for one single reason: to KILL. Automobiles are not built for this reason, death by automobile accidents are just that...A C C I D E N T S. Death by guns are not accidents...they were made to kill and they ENABLED some sick person to fulfill its sole function. Remove guns from the equation and the severity of the crime is diminished. Take a look at what just happened in China...sure...a sick individual attacked 22 students with a knife. ... and no one died. Why? Because nothing is as efficient at killing things as guns. Why do you want such a killing device so freely available in your population. Thank God I was not born in the US of A.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sue H

    What are you guys fighting about? This guy had a really bad shot, firing 100 ammo with 27 hits. We need to get rid of any rapid-fire or assault weapons. We don't use them to kill deer or rabbits, and we don't need them on the street to kill people..

    December 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    It's strange, I can actually put myself into the mindset of the guy that did this, if I imagine all the hours he killed helpless 'living' beings in virtual worlds, then add in some crazy mentality that mixes reality and virtual worlds... and poof... there he goes to kill kids in a school with a black protective vest and lots of guns and ammo... to rack up points... and die just to start a new life to do it all over again. Maybe this life wasn't what he wanted, a new one would be better? Where have I seen this type of training? How many man hours each year do the kids all over the world train for this? How many kids might confuse reality with a virtual one? You and I won't ever know... but I can guess... so can you.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Alex Demache

    Please ban guns... Please. There is no need for American civilians to have military grade weapons. Civilians are not at war. How many more children have to die until we realize this

    December 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Depends on how many mentally ill individuals can get access to a weapon...

      December 16, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crazyness

      The second amendment wasn't solely intended for protecting your house. Get a clue...

      December 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
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