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. jim dollinger

    there should be an investigation into the psychiatric medicines this killer was on. the side effects from prescriptions are more dangerous than guns.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crazyness

      Now that just makes too much sense...

      December 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christian

      That is what is wrong with this country. Everyone wants to point fingers and blame someone else... The medication manufacturer, the NRA, etc.No one wants to accept responsibility and say this person obviously should not have had access to a gun plain and simple. There are sick people in this country plane and simple.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • krehator

      Yes, yes, let us blame someone else instead of the perpetrator of the crime, right?

      December 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • CommonSense

      Questions like these can only have 2 side effects, one being that it leads to some in-depth studies of the medications used to treat mental illness. The other being that people who take meds will become stigmatized for doing so(aside from the problems these people already have). "What's that? Prozac... Ohh.. *walks away swiftly*". This will only discourage people who need these meds from taking them (and I know a few, already). I for one do not want to discourage someone with a psychotic illness from taking their meds. In my opinion the real question is, not gun bans but gun regulation (go ahead call me liberal) and a need to educate people about the differences between certain mental illnesses. That's just me, of course there are those who choose to simply evade a real problem/solution by calling it an agenda, or by citing some end amendment which isn't in question.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • answering common sense

      you are right
      some people can take those meds and do well on them
      but MOST do not!
      they are simply a way for the industry to make money – because taking one med leads to another and another and another until you are dead – and you never knew the feeling of wellness again after the first pill
      so NO
      keeping the horrific abuse of the pharma driven corruption in the mental health system should no longer be an option – this type brainwashing of the masses has gone on for way too long – with countless many dead as direct result – or so sick now – they will always be victims to the system – which was the plan to begin with

      December 17, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Crazyness

    Dear liberals, if you want my guns so bad, molon labe....

    December 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • krehator

      Yes, many do. This is not a liberal vs conservative issue. It is paranoid people vs people who value rights and the risks that come with them.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. larry

    China doesn't have an over crowded penal system. They know how to keep it down. Liberals are the problem, not the solution.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Liberals are YOUR problem and will be here to stay.You offer zero solutions.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Samira Haddad

    The US government is responsible for the death of those innocent little children, not Adam Lanza, if you know what I mean!

    December 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Alexander Dunbar

      No Adam Lanza is the only one at fault...the day we stop living in a world where people are responsible for their own actions is the day human civilization goes the way of the dodo.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • krehator

      "the day we stop living in a world where people are responsible for their own actions is the day human civilization goes the way of the dodo."

      Makes sense to most people.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    Until the laws become better on mental health issues this type of trajedy will keep happening. Currently a clearly insane person can go about their lives and cannot be forced to get help unless someone is physically hurt. By then infortunatly it's too late and the damage has been done. Doesn't anyone else see something wrong with this? So a husband, wife or loved one of that mentally ill person can't force that person to get help? What kind of sense does this make? I really hope congress works on this issue as well.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ratified1791

    Virgina Tech – "Seung-Hui Cho" walks in College Classes w/.40 cal Pistol (32d, 17w)

    PROTECTED BY LIBERALS despite diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic "by a judge" and family

    Negligence allowed people to die

    December 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ohdear

      How exactly? Liberal protection would be to treat the disease to prevent such a thing happening. So would conservative protection. Otherwise, how is it protection? Silly.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. guncontrol

    Children have been killed in Detroit and Chicago for years. It's really sad that gun control is a problem now since the tragedy happen in your own back yard. Where were you people when those kids lost their lives... You speaking now to change the law but what about back then. It's really sad that this nation is so screwed up that people only take action when it hit their area..... People stop being selfish and care about all kids....
    God Bless those little ones......and staff.....

    December 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clatyon

      guns didn't kill insane person did. Let's get the real problem...the psychopaths and the scourge of the earth

      December 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Delmark

      That is a sweked and pathetic argument. Yes, many children and of course adults are killed every year. This one is just a little different, genius. It s a mass murder of women and children at school. Have some shame.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • poodetwa

      I totally agree. i am saddeened and pray for all regardless where they are from, what race they are, religion. I live in the suburbs of htfd and when i read about a drive-by, i pray.

      i do agree that these mass shootings are taking place in suburbs and by caucasion, honor roll, affluent males.

      December 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeremy

    99.99% of guns in the US killed NO ONE on Friday.

    How many died due to cars?

    How many died due to medical malpractice?

    Once you take care of the top killers in the US THEN you can look at guns.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • krehator

      Liberal way – Punish innocent people for what others do wrong.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod

      Idiotic argument. That kinda absurdity isn't going to fly anymore.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ohdear

      I'm not sure that the solutions to horrific suffering can be prioritized that way. We do what we can when we can. I'd love to hear your solutions to the problems you listed.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Alexander Dunbar

      No it's not idiotic...he has a point. The actions of a few shouldn't affect the population as a whole.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. notea4me

    Same profile, paranoid anti government folks.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve

    We've murdered 176 innocent children with targeted drone bombing killings in Pakistan alone. Is Obama going to cry for them or demand "swift action". Will they each get a slide on CNN's special report page? Or how about the 1600+ children in the US who will drown this year? The saddest thing is the president either doesn't understand numbers or is simply exploiting these poor children's deaths for political gains.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ohdear

      Drawing a corollary between pools and this is difficult to understand. One can be prevented by supervision.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banaway

    how about if we ban you from banning – think of all the people made mentally ill just on friday alone – you gonna babysit them for the rest of their lives so you can do some banning???

    December 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RI Resident

    Gun Control is the only solution to make it difficult for any crazy people to do it again.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • krehator

      Really? Ask Russia how that is working out for them?

      December 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CF

    I just can't wrap my mind around how a person can do this to other human beings, let alone small, innocent,defenseless children. Obviously this person had a serious mental illness, but even saying that, I still can't get my head around it.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ...

    These people who want to off themselves should go ahead and do it. Just don't try to make everyone else miserable in the process.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. invisibleman47

    Wait a minute, I'm the NRA and I think the 2nd Amendment and this HORROR actually argue for more guns in schools, not less. In fact, I see a TOMORROW where every American classroom will have firearms on the wall in glass-faced boxes, like fire extinguishers.

    December 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • cm

      oh yeah, that's what we want- our kindergarten and first grade teachers "packing" while they are teaching these babies their letters. What a mess that would be. We definitely need to do some serious (sans NRA lobbyists) figuring out what to do about this new phenomena of young white males deciding to go out in a blaze of glory and taking innocents with them.

      December 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
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