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. Andler

    ...because there were no armed guards like airports, courthouses and other government buildings have.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JoshD

    The only real question is : How many whites were killed? The more the merrier

    December 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. w5cdt

    To all media and press: The more you beat this story to death the more nutcases are influenced to commit the next violent act. Get a clue. You have more influence than gun control.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    I'm sorry for the loss of american lives, and I'm going to donate to the families.

    As a Canadian, I'm hoping that Americans can use this event to come together-like they used to-remember? Remember when people used to discuss things instead of being in their own little world? Those were the days, weren't they.

    Well its time for you to come together and stick it to the NRA. AND YES, NOW IS THE TIME TO DISCUSS GUN CONTROL.

    Its also time to stop shouting over one another and try to see the other side of things. Please. Stop thinking about yourself and your agenda and put yourself in the other mans shoes.

    Americans are generous, kind people but you've lost your way. I'm saying this as a friend. Cheers.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red Dog

      As a Canadian you should just stay the hell out of it. Worry about your own mass murderers.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Tom....you are so right....!

      December 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hj

    Arm teachers with mace guns!

    December 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red Dog

      No need. Just assign a fully armed police officer to school security. As a taxpayer I would have no problem with that.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • sadsadsad

      or better yet – arm the kids. target pratice in early morning, followed by gun maintenance labs and then gun safety educations. who needs to learn math and literature if your survival is on the line in this society?

      December 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • KILGORE TROUT

      Kids should be allowed to carry their own guns to school

      December 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • EdD

      Forget mace...give them police grade tazer guns. Non-lethal and will drop the suspect to the ground.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • GNG

      I agree with Red Dog. We don't want 1st grade teachers acting like cops and wielding their guns instead of teaching the kids. Law enforcement must be inside school. So, they will have proper training and facilities to exercise restraint as well as act depending on the situation.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JASON

    Just like cHENEY nEOCONS HAVE NO HEART! How else could you explain a neocon dooche moose killing 20 kids

    December 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. the prophet

    Exactly is preposterous, to attack people on social media, clearly sounds like our civil liberty, freedom of speech, and second amendment are under attack

    December 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      The media is the the most guilty here. They use this tragic event to further their agenda of gun control. Let me tell you this America, Gun Control leads to Genocide. If the dead could speak from Germany, Russia, Cambodia, Serbia they would tell you to keep your guns.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wildernessyes

    Guns. They produce nothing good and so much destruction. And so many gun crazy America is in love with them. What sad thing to bring into and our society an upon our innocent children. All you gun lovers own this and should be ashamed of your support of these type killings. Disgusting.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • angela

      I am not 100% against gun control, however, there is absolutely no reason people need assault weapons of any kind. Want to hunt? Get a nice rifle that shoots just a few bullets at a time. I also firmly believe violence starts in the home when parents allow their children to spend hours on games that are so violent. Parents take a stand and, if not for the safety of your own children, do it for the safety of others.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wyatt

      Guns laws would have meant nothing in this case.

      A law adbiding citizen was murdered and her leagally owned guns werre then stolen, and used in the killing spree.

      The second amendment is a right that is bolstered by multiple supreme court decisions that also state we have a reasonable right to bear arms in order to protect ourselves, outside the home.

      The framers knew that individuals could be evil. Evil people are nothing new. The law provides for you to be able to protect yoruself. If you don't like the fact that we have a RIGHT to bear our arms, just as we have a RIGHT to speech, then go right ahead, convince 66% of congress and the states to ratify an amendment to remove our RIGHT to bear arms.

      Until you can do that, your argument is moot, pointless, and a waste of time.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      you are right Wildernessyes
      it is the sheer access of guns in the US, but , you know, the NRA LOVES to whip up paranoia and fear...then they can make a lot of money at the expense of FEAR....put out alot of weapons ...and a recipe for disaster.....
      other countries must think we still live in the wild west.....shoot em up cowboy!

      December 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JASON

    the shooter was born south of the Mason-Dixon line or he spent a lot of time there. On weekends he hung around the gun & ammo. department at Walmart. He lived in a trailer park, drank Everclear and had intimate relations with his sister. He was a rabid nascar fan, a card carrying member of the Tea Party and he always voted republican. There you have it. His profile in a nutshell"

    this message about the shooter needs to be publicized

    December 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blain Smipy

      Just removing the 2nd second amendment won't do it, there are millions of guns hoarded and buried. What can we do about that? We have to go house to house and find these guns, force the owners to turn them in and destroy them...all. All guns kill. Gun control? What a joke, there are something like 20000 on the law books now and not a damn one stopped this or the other shootings. Gun REMOVAL is the only realistic answer to the crisis's in America now...and it is a national crisis. If the military is unwilling or unsympathetic to the cause then the Homeland Security and TSA along with the UN need to step up and provide the vehicle to do this. We need safety in our public places now! Never forget these were BABIES, 6 years old.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. saywhat

    This suicide shooter wearing battle fatigues, military vest. With access to at least 5 guns and hundreds of rounds massacres children & innocent adults deliberately in cold blood spreading fear & terror would be called by all names but 'terrorist'.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • sadsadsad

      I would absolutely agree. It's a terrorism act. nothing less. I for one would never forgive the killer and his mother after what he did to so many poor kids. taking on a bunch of defenseless kids says a lot about how coward and messed up this moron is.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    Has any motive been put forth? In other incidents that is talked about immediately. In this case it is a quiet, intelligent person who committed this crime, for no obvious reason. I'm beginning to wonder if he did it with the intent of doing something so horrible that it pushes the control debate back into the forefront.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pat L.

    There were NOT 500,000 homicides committed in 2011. Maybe total deaths in U.S. Fact: over 16,000 homicides committed in 2011, over 11,000 by FIREARMS in USA

    December 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      and less then 1% of those with semi automatic rifles...

      December 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rob

    The NRA is being awfully quiet considering it is the result of their lobbying that has led to the murder of 20 first graders and six women who had dedicated their lives to education.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Excuse them for having the class to not politicize this before the bodies are even cold........ we still havnt even had it confirmed what was used. liberals run off emotion. normal people run off logic.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • What a stupid comment

      dan: You are incorrect. The chief medical examiner confirmed they were killed by the "long rifle" at the conference. Also telling us that all the victims had multiple wounds, none were at close range. These are facts you want to ignore, these are facts you are searching to make excuses for. There is no excuse, there is no explaining why such weapons are available to the public.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GNG

      Well, NRA is busy making guns and don't have time to show their empathy for the dead.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lonestar8209

    My heartfelt sympathies to these families. May the prayers help your families to recover well from this.
    how could all these networks put advertisements on such sensitive videos? Could you people be anymore insenstive? How much money would you like to make out of these advertisements? And how many viewer would like to buy products that have been advertised on these videos? And if there is an iota of sense left, these networks and their advertising partners apologize to the victims for exploiting their state. If you cant/wont contribute, atleast dont exploit their situation.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bucko in WI

    Laws limiting sales of guns and ammo are a start, but it's the nuts pulling the trigger where the problem lies. Have every prospective gun buyer undergo a complete battery of psychological tests. . . at their expense. Armf forces and police are screened.

    December 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
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