Community looks for answers to tragedy

Written By komlim puldel on Minggu, 16 Desember 2012 | 20.01

As hundreds stand outside St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which was filled to capacity, a couple embrace during a healing service held in for victims of an elementary school shooting. Picture: AP Source: AP

A GUNMAN has shot 26 people - including 20 children - at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, western Connecticut, after killing his mother and then turning the gun on himself. Updates here as they come to hand. All times are AEDT.

11.45pm: The front page of the Sunday New York Times paid tribute to the victims of the massacre, with their names appearing in a simple design.

11.06pm:  During a concert in New Jersey on Saturday night, the Rolling Stones took a moment to acknowledge the  victims of the shooting. "We just wanted to send our love and condolences to all the people who lost loved ones in the tragedy in Connecticut," Mick Jagger said early on in the concert as the audience applauded. Jagger noted the entire world was feeling the pain of the stunned nation.

10.21pm: World leaders have expressed shock and horror at one of the worst school shootings in history.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to President Barack Obama in which she said she was "deeply shocked and saddened" to hear of the shootings.

Candles are lit and flowers are left outside of Stratford High School during a candlelight vigil in honour of Victoria Soto, the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot and killed while protecting her students. Picture: Jared Wickerham

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth are with the families and friends of those killed and with all those who have been affected." Read more here.

10.08pm: Saturday Night Live made a rare departure from its comedic opening to pay tribute to the children and adults killed at a Connecticut elementary school.

Not known for treating anything seriously or tenderly, the show made a fitting exception during the first moments of its show. Rather than the usual comedic sketch, a children's choir appeared on camera and angelically sang Silent Night, with the touching refrain, "Sleep in heavenly peace."

Then the members of the New York City Children's Chorus shouted out the show's time-honoured introduction: "Live from New York, it's 'Saturday Night!'"

It was the night's sole reference to the tragedy and struck just the right tone.

Jillian Soto, center, thanks the hundreds of people who came out to attend a candlelight vigil in memory of victims including her sister Victoria from the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  Picture: AP /The Connecticut Post, Christian Abraham

Donna Soto (right), mother of Victoria Soto, the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot and killed while protecting her students, mourns with her daughter Karly (second from right), daughter Jillian (far left) and son Matthew Soto (second from left), at a candlelight vigil at Stratford High School. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

9.11pm: A petition posted on the White House's official online forum calling on the Obama Administration to limit access to guns, has topped 113,076 signatures.

Posted on the government's We The People web page, the petition aimed to get 25,000 names to earn the right to a formal response from the US government.

7.50pm: Overcome with grief, the people of Newtown have pulled down some of their Christmas decorations. Signs around town read, 'Hug a teacher today,' ''Please pray for Newtown' and 'Love will get us through.'

A handwritten sign captures the feeling in grief-stricken Newtown. Source: AFP

Robbie Parker, father of a victim killed in the Connecticut shooting, has spoken to media. Credit: Fox News

Firefighters pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the school. Source: AFP

6.50pm:  After Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, police continue to search for a motive as more details of the tragedy emerge.

Police received the first report of the shooting around 9.30am.

The assault lasted about 20 minutes before Lanza took his own life.

As of now, police have not found any connection between the shooter and the school, reports the Washington Times Reporter.

Robbie Parker, the father of six-year-old Emilie who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, fights back tears as he speaks during a news conference in Newtown, Connecticut. Picture: AP/David Goldman

6.20pm: The Herald, a daily South Carolina newspaper, has issued an apology after prominently featuring an advertisement for a gun sale adjacent to a story about Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Huffington Postreports.

The advertisement, for Nichols Store in Rock Hill, S.C., features images of several Smith & Wesson handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle.

5.45pm: The shocking school shooting has prompted Queensland to question it's gun policy.

In August, the Newman government initially announced a six-member panel, comprised of pro-gun lobbyists and gun shop owners, to look at ways to cut red tape faced by gun owners when renewing licences.

Today Premier Campbell Newman insisted the state is not making it easier to own guns, as part of its review of gun licensing.

This photo posted to the Emilie Parker Fund Facebook page shows a family photograph taken of the six year-old. Picture: AP Photo/Emilie Parker Fund

5pm: Shattered families and grieving residents are struggling with grief after the mass Connecticut school shooting.

The 'shy' gunman did not say a word when he entered one classroom and shot a teacher as children looked on.

4.15pm: Police in Alabama have killed two suspects following separate shooting incidents 75 miles apart that left three other people dead and several injured, including two officers.

3.55pm: Gunman Adam Lanza reportedly blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary school, The New York Times reports.

Kitted out in combat gear, the 20-year-old shot his way into the school overpowering its security system which required visitors to be buzzed in.

Massacre victim Dylan Hockley moved to the US from England two years ago. Picture: Facebook

Police were confronted by an eerie silence when they entered the school armed with rifles, the paper said, as victims lay either dead or dying while other students were quietly hiding, under instructions from their teachers.

Meanwhile authorities said they will conduct autopsies on the shooter and his mother in the hours ahead.  All other post-mortems have been completed.

3:30pm: Mother Diane Licata described how her six-year-old son Aiden ran past the shooter in his classroom doorway to escape after seeing his teacher gunned down.

"They heard noises that he described as initially they thought were hammers falling. Then they realised that it was gunshots," she said.

"And ... Aiden's teacher had the presence of mind to move all of the children to a distance away from the door on the side of the room furthest away from the door and that's when the gunman burst in, did not say a word.

Noah Pozner, 6, was one of the victims in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.

"No facial expressions. And proceeded to shoot their teacher."

3:15pm: The bodies of 20 children and six adults shot dead in the US state of Connecticut have been removed from the blood-soaked school as police search for a motive in the massacre.

The formal identification of the victims in one of America's worst mass shootings has marked a new chapter for the horrified small town residents of Newtown, where a 20-year-old man walked in with at least two powerful pistols and killed everyone he could find in two rooms of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Authorities were able to "positively identify all of the victims" and formally notify their families, said Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance.

A woman leaves a floral tribute outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in  Newtown, Connecticut.  Picture: AFP /Emmanuel Dunand

The removal of bodies, which were initially left for investigators, "has been accomplished," he said on CBS television. "That was done overnight.

2:54pm: Sandy Hook Elementary will be closed next week - some parents can't even conceive of sending their children back, Leidlein said - and officials are deciding what to do about the town's other schools.

Asked whether the town would recover, Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library who took cover in a storage room with 18 fourth-graders during the shooting rampage, said: "We have to. We have a lot of children left."

2:29pm: President Obama is expected to meet with the families of the 26 victims when he travels to Newton later today.

He is also tipped to make an appearance on TV's Meet the Press. 

Briefing reporters in Newtown, Connecticut State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said police have uncovered "very good" evidence that should help determine why a gunman forced his way into an elementary school and killed 20 children in one of the worst shooting rampages in U.S. history. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)

2.10pm: British victim Dylan Hockley, 6, reportedly lived across the street from suspected gunman Adam Lanza, it has emerged.

1.15pm: Fox has pulled new episodes of Family Guy and American Dad that were to air on Sunday to avoid potentially sensitive content.

The scheduled episode of Family Guy had Peter telling his own version of the nativity story. The American Dad  episode told the story of a demon who punished naughty children at Christmas. Both series plan to substitute reruns.

Actor Jamie Foxx said Hollywood should take some responsibility for such violence as he promoted Quentin Tarantino's upcoming, ultra-violent, spaghetti Western-style film about slavery, Django Unchained.

In an interview, Jamie Foxx said actors cannot "turn their back'' on that fact that movie violence can influence people.

A couple leaves after paying tribute to the victims of the school shooting.  Picture: AFP /Emmanuel Dunand

1.01pm: A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy from Britain was one of the victims of the school shooting.

Dylan Hockley and his family had only moved to the US from Hampshire two years ago.

12.30pm: Authorities in California's Orange County said shots were fired at a mall in Newport Beach on Saturday evening. One man was in custody.

Shoppers at a Nordstrom at Fashion Island mall told NBC4 that they were on lockdown, but they were beginning to let "out the back" of the store. A shopper at Macy's said they heard 10 shots fired.

11:09am: While leaders call for prayer and reflection, a petition posted on the White House's official  online forum calling on the Obama Administration to limit access to guns, has already attracted nearly 100,00 signatures.

Posted on the government's We The People web page, the petition states that gun control laws should immediately be introduced into congress.

Police say the gunman who slaughtered 26 people at a US school forced his way into the building.

"The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths," the petition states.

"Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve."

The online petition has attracted 99, 989 signatures.  Any submission posted on that web page with more than 25,000 names earns the right to a formal response from the US government.

11:01am: US President Barack Obama whose emotional press conference yesterday echoed the shock and grief of many Americans, will attend an interfaith prayer service in Newtown.

The White House has announced that the president will join a interfaith vigil being held in the the Connecticut town at 7pm, Sunday, local time.

A day after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut's medical examiner told reporters, "This is probably the worst I have seen." Sarah Irwin reports

10:42am: Police remain tight-lipped about what may have triggered the second-deadliest school shooting in US history, though state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence ... that our investigators will be able to use in painting the complete picture, the how and, more importantly, the why." He would not elaborate.

However, another law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators have found no note or manifesto from shooter Adam Lanza of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.

10:20am: Nancy Lanza's brother James Champion, a law enforcement officer in New Hampshire and uncle of the  shooter, didn't deliver a statement as expected. Instead, the sheriff of Rockingham County, New Hampshire, delivered a statement on the Champion family's behalf:

"The family of Nancy Lanza share the grief of a community and the nation as we struggle to comprehend the tremendous loss that we all share. Our hearts and prayers are with those who share in this loss: their families, teachers, staff and the students of Sandy Brook Elementary school, the first responders, and to all others touched by this tragedy. On behalf of Nancy's mother and siblings, we reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for the incomprehensible and profound loss of innocence that has affected so many.

"The family requests that you respect their privacy during his time of anguish and loss."

A younger photo of Adam Lanza, the suspect involved in the shooting of 26 people. Picture: Screen grab from ABC

The chief of police in Kingston, New Hampshire, said that Nancy Lanza lived in Kingston for a good part of her life and was a "very, very kind, considerate, loving young lady."

"She was very involved in the community and very well respected."

Police meanwhile have found more evidence at the house that Nancy shared with her son Adam, CNN reports.

10:10am: Connecticut Govenor Dannel P. Malloy has paid tribute to"the innocent little boys and girls" who were "taken from their families far too soon."

While many were searching for answers to the tragic mass shooting, he said it was important for the community to focus right now on "courage, love and compassion". The governor's comments came as it emerged that all six of the adult victims killed in the shooting were female.

Ryan Lanza, the 24-year-old brother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza, is escorted by police into a cruiser in Hoboken, N.J. Picture: WCBS-TV

In a reference to America's controversial gun culture, he also said there will be soon come a time for Americans to discuss "the public policy issues" which the tragedy had raised.

9:55am: Local clergymen are out in force as the community struggles to come to terms with this tragedy.

Few of those preachers have expressed outrage like Reverend Henry Brown from Hartford, Connecticut's main city.

"I hate to say this, but this isn't going to be the last time," said Brown, a member of Mothers United Against Violence who questioned whether America's elected politicians have the courage to enact tougher gun laws.

"It's all right in America for everyone to have a gun -- but if it's alright for everyone to have a gun, then why are we here today?" he asked. "Something is wrong with that picture... People don't need guns."

9:40am: The father of six-year-old victim Emilie Parker has described his daughter as "beautiful and always smiling". Bobby Parker spoke of his love for his daughter, the eldest of three girls. The family had only moved to Newtown eight months ago. 

9:20am: Reports have emerged suggesting the victims were shot multiple times by Adam Lanza.  

8.30am: Connecticut State Police have released the names of the 26 victims shot and killed in the primary school massacre.

All 20 of the child victims - 12 girls and eight boys - were aged six and seven.

Here are the names and ages provided by police:
Charlotte Bacon, 6;
Daniel Barden, 7;
Rachel Davino, 29;
Olivia Engel, 6;
Josephine Gay, 7;
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6;
Dylan Hockley, 6;
Dawn Hochsprung, 47;
Madeline F. Hsu, 6;
Catherine V Hubbard, 6;
Chase Kowalski, 7;
Jesse Lewis, 6;
James Mattioli, 6;
Grace McDonnell, 7;
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emile Parker, 6;
Jack Pinto, 6;
Noah Pozner, 6;
Caroline Previdi, 6;
Jessica Rekos, 6;
Avielle Richman, 6;
Lauren Russeau, 30;
Mary Sherlach, 56;
Victoria Soto, 27;
Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
Allison N. Wyatt, 6

8.20am: Lieutenant Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police has denied earlier reports that alleged gunman Adam Lanza was involved in an altercation at the school earlier this week.

One of the mysteries on which investigators will focus is why Nancy Lanza would have procured so many high-powered weapons. The Sig Sauer and the Glock are top-of-the-range guns used widely by police forces across the US.

It has emerged that Nancy Lanza mother was not a teacher at the school despite early reports.

8.10am: Post-mortems have been carried out on the Sandy Hook massacre victims and all the victims have been removed from the school, police said. 

The full list of the victims has not yet been released.

7.50am: Connecticut medical examiner Wayne Carver has revealed most of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school Massacre were killed with a Bushmaster assault rifle.

The doctor, who told a media conference the aftermath of the massacre was "the worst thing I have even seen'', said the victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

The rambling media conference has caused a storm on social media with the doctor being slammed for inappropriate laughing and joking with the media.

7.40am: A police source has said that alleged gunman Adam Lanza was involved in some kind of trouble at Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier this week.

The source said the altercation was between Lanza and four adults, and occurred on Thursday, the day before the shooting.

Three of those adults, the source added, were killed during Friday's shooting.

The source was unable to say whether the disagreement took place inside or outside the school, but said that it apparently had something to do with him trying to enter the school.

7.25am: NBC Connecticut reports that alleged gunman Adam Lanza tried to buy a rifle at a Dick's Sporting Goods in Danbury, Connecticut, just days before the shooting but was rebuffed because the state has a waiting period for gun sales.

Store employees are currently searching their store surveillance cameras.

Police say the suspect had access to at least six guns.

6.38pm: Adam Lanza's mother was a gun enthusiast who had an extensive gun collection and took her troubled son to shooting ranges,The New York Post is reporting.

"She'd take them to the range a lot.  Nancy was an enthusiast - so much so that she wanted to pass it on to her kids,'' said her former landscaper, Dan Holmes.

"She took her two sons to the gun ranges quite a bit to practice their aim. She was a really great shot from what she told me. Whenever I finished work and went inside to chit-chat, she spoke often about her fascination with firearms. Nancy had an extensive gun collection and she was really quite proud of it.''

CNN is reporting that three weapons were found with the killer: two handguns and a rifle, all registered to his mother.

6.31am: An Oklahoma high school student is in custody on charges he plotted to bomb and shoot students at the Bartlesville High School auditorium on the same day 26 people were shot and killed at an elementary school in Connecticut

Police arrested 18-year-old Sammie Eaglebear Chavez about 4.30 am on Friday after learning of the alleged plot.

An arrest affidavit says Chavez tried to convince other students to help him lure students into the auditorium, chain the doors shut and start shooting. The Tulsa World reports that authorities say Chavez threatened to kill students who didn't help.

The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise reports Chavez planned to detonate bombs at the doors as police arrived.

6.09am Parents tried to process the deaths of their loved ones by trying to imagine their final moments, a Newtown pastor told TODAY.

Robert Weiss is pastor of St Rose of Lima Catholic Church. He said several parents of children who were murdered by gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hooke Elementary School came to him for consolation.

"Many of the questions are just wondering what were the last moments of these people's lives like," he said. "They were wondering did the child even know what was happening, were they afraid, did they see something coming? And of course no one can answer that question because there were no survivors, so these parents are left with those unanswered questions in addition to just why this had to happen, why to their child?"

One murdered girl was going to be an angel in the church's Christmas pageant, and another was due to make her first Holy Communion. A 5 year-old had been excited about scoring her first soccer goal.

While one mother was talking to the pastor her phone buzzed with a reminder. It was a set alarm, telling her to pick her child up from Cub Scouts.

"She ... realised that was never going to happen again," Mr Weiss said. "The emotions of yesterday were just absolutely overwhelming."

5.47am A former pupil at Sandy Hook Elementary School has written a heartfelt column in The Atlantic asking how this tragedy could have happened.

He said he loved growing up in Newtown and hopes it will be remembered for more than just this massacre.

"There is more to my hometown than one horrific shooting, and I want people to know that. I want them to know about the Labor Day Parade and the General Store sandwiches, about Newtown High School soccer and the $2 movies at Edmond Town Hall, about how we put a giant flagpole in the middle of a busy four-way intersection that everyone seems to both love and hate at the same time."

Newtown was previously famous as the birthplace of Scrabble (originally produced by local man James Brunot), and is the current home of The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins.

5.33am Mass killer Adam Lanza, 20, had an argument with four staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the day before he returned and killed 20 children, six adults and himself, NBC News is reporting.

Three of those four staff members were among the victims on his return.

The fourth member of staff was not at school that day and is being interviewed by federal and state investigators.

NBC also said Lanza had four handguns on him when he stormed the school - and a rifle was found in the car he drove to Sandy Hook.

NBC did not report what was the subject of the argument between the shooter and the staff.

5.05am We are still waiting on the official list of the dead, which will be delivered to the media by the police medical examiner once identification has ended and families have been informed.

In the meantime, here are the stories of five of the adults and four of the children who died in the tragedy.

CNN report that the gunman had tried to buy a weapon a few days before the shooting, but was turned down under the state's strict (for America) gun laws because he did not have the correct paperwork.

4.45am The New Haven Register is reporting new details of the killer's arrival at the school when he began his shooting spree.

According to the Register, Adam Lanza got out of his vehicle in front of the school, shot out the glass next to the main entrance, and then went inside the building.

He began firing at staff members and students with a rifle and a pistol, then proceeded to classrooms where he continued shooting.

4.32am Library clerk Mary Ann Jacob told 18 confused and crying fourth-graders that they were hiding in a storage room for "a drill".

But she knew it was a shooting because she had already called the school office after a strange noise came over the school intercom.

"We were, like, this close together. There were crayons and paper in the storage room, so we tore some (paper) off and gave them clipboards and had them colour."

"They were asking, 'What's going on?' We said, 'We don't know, our job is to stay quiet, it may be a drill, but we're just going to stay here.'"

Sandy Hook Elementary School library clerk Mary Ann Jacob speaks to the press in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 15, 2012. Squeezed into a library storage room with 18 crying and confused fourth-graders, Jacob thought it appropriate to tell a lie in the interests of survival. "We told them it was a drill, so they knew what to do," Jacob told reporters, a day after 20 children and six adults were slain in one of the worst school shootings in US history. AFP PHOTO/Robert MACPHERSON Source: AFP

4.23am Town officials in Connecticut told Associated Press the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary was killed while lunging at the gunman as she tried to overtake him.

Board of Education chairwoman Debbie Liedlien says administrators were coming out of a meeting when the gunman forced his way into the school and ran toward him.

Jeff Capeci is chairman of the town's Legislative Council. Asked whether Mrs Hochsprung is a hero, he says, "From what we know, it's hard to classify her as anything else."

Mrs Hochsprung had worked at the school for two years. Both Ms Liedlien and Mr Capeci say she immediately became a beloved figure. Ms Liedlien says "it's so sad to lose somebody like her" and that residents are feeling "a deep sense of loss" over her death.

3.42am Lauren Rousseau, 30, was a teacher killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary school, reports.

Devastated friends say she was having "the best year of her life" after landing her first full-time teaching job only months ago.

Lauren Rousseau, 30, a teacher killed in the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Picture: Source: Supplied

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that three weapons were found with the killer: two handguns and a rifle, all registered to his mother.

3.20am The last murder in Newtown was a decade ago, a police spokesman told a New Times reporter.

Police officers stand at the entrance to the street leading to the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Picture: Getty Images/AFP Source: Getty Images

Lt. J Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police conducts a news briefing in Newtown. Picture: AP Source: AP

3.02am Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig has told ABC News about the harrowing experience of trying to protect her class as the shooting began.

When gunfire rang out, she gathered her kids together - their classroom had a big, exposed and thus dangerous window - and rushed them into the small bathroom. She pulled a bookcase across the doorway, closed the door and locked it from the inside.

"I told them to be quiet. I told them to be absolutely quiet," Ms Roig said. "I said there are bad guys out there now and we have to wait for the good guys."

Kids would cry. Ms Roig would cup their faces in her hands and try to comfort them. "It is going to be OK. Show me your smile," she recalled saying.

"I'm thinking in my mind, we're next," she told ABC. "I wanted them to know that someone loved them and I wanted that to be one of the last things they heard, not the gunfire in the hallway.".

2.25am Police are hopeful that evidence will "paint a complete picture about how and why this occurred".

An injured school employee "is doing fine and will be instrumental in this case".

And that's it, until we hear from the medical examiner - who will also release the list of the deceased - and the school superintendent.

2.18am "Every crack and crevice" of the school, and the Lanza home are still being searched for evidence.

A medical examiner is finishing their work and will then come to give details of the victims.

The shooter forced his way into the school, Lt Vance says - he was not let in.

2.16am The press conference has begun. A list of victims is about to be released. All families have asked their privacy be respected.

"They are going through a very difficult and trying time," says Lt Paul Vance

"This is an extremely heartbreaking and difficult thing for them to endure."

2.12am: State police have put out a press release about the shooting.

It runs through the timeline of the massacre and the police response, from the first 911 call through to the forensic aftermath.

The families of the victims "have requested no press interviews and we are asking that this request be honoured.

Meanwhile, another victim has been named: six year-old Emilie Parker.  The updated list of victims, as the names come in, can be found here.

Emilie Parker was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Picture: Facebook / Parker family Source: Supplied

1.36am All 28 victims have now been identified, according to NBC - which may account for the delay in the official press conference which was expected to name at least some of the dead.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan reports from Newtown that a truck full of bouquets has pulled up at the firehouse where families of the dead children had gathered before making the sad journey to the school to identify their loved ones.

Sandy Hook firefighters hang bunting on their firetruck, the day after the massacre of children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Picture: AP Source: AP

1.18am A longtime family friend told the New York Daily News that the killer, Adam, had a condition "where he couldn't feel pain."

"A few years ago when he was on the baseball team, everyone had to be careful that he didn't fall because he could get hurt and not feel it," said the friend. "Adam had a lot of mental problems."

Friends and officials have told the media that Adam Lanza suffered from a personality disorder similar to autism or Asperger's Syndrome.

However mental health experts have pointed out that autistic people are no more likely to commit violent crime than people without autism.

"Should the shooter in today's shooting prove to in fact be diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with another disability, the millions of Americans with disabilities should be no more implicated in his actions than the non-disabled population is responsible for those of non-disabled shooters," said an open letter from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

1.02am A letter from the Pope was read to last night's vigil in Newtown, and at a mass for the dead.

Pope Benedict XVI sent his condolences to the community.

The pope "has asked me to convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all affected by the shocking event," Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said in the letter.

"In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy he asks God our Father to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community," the letter said.

12.48am We are still waiting for this morning's press conference in Connecticut.

A CNN reporter says bells have rung out across Newtown, and families have again gathered at the town's church to seek comfort in their faith and in each other.

The bodies of 20 young children and six adults massacred by the gunman have finally been removed from the blood-soaked school, police told AFP.

The formal identification of the victims marked a new chapter for horrified residents of Newtown.

"By early this morning, they were able to positively identify all of the victims and make formal identification to all of the families of the victims," said Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance.

The removal of bodies, which were initially left for investigators, "has been accomplished," he said on CBS television. "That was done overnight."

11.55pm The police are about to start releasing the names of the dead, in a press conference due to start any minute on a cold morning in Newtown.

Around the town, many are creating makeshift tributes to the lost. Local New York Times writer Emily Rueb posted this picture, of a simple farewell message in the window of the Blue Colony Diner.

A makeshift tribute to the dead, in the window of Newtown's Blue Colony Diner. Picture: Source: Supplied

11.20pm The first names of the 20 children murdered by Adam Lanza have been identified. The two girls and boy  were all six-years-old.

Ana Marquez-Greene, aged six, died in hospital after being shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Picture: Twitter Source: Supplied

10:52 pm Slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung was always ready with a smile and "passionately" dedicated to the children of her school, shocked community members have said.

Hochsprung, who had just enrolled in a PhD program in education, was shot dead by alleged shooter Adam Lanza.

"She was really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense," Tom Prunty, a friend with a niece at the primary school, told CNN. "She was the kind of person you'd want to be educating your kids. And the kids loved her.

"Even little kids know when someone cares about them, and that was her," he said.

10:33pm The shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre, Adam Lanza, had a form of autism but was seen as "a genius" by neighbours, CNN reports.

A family member told law enforcement officials Lanza had a mild form of autism. Police said he had no prior criminal record.

"You could definitely tell he was a genius," Lanza's high school classmate Alex Israel told CNN, adding she hadn't talked with him since middle school. "He was really quiet, he kept to himself."

Other former classmates and neighbours, who are shocked by the tragedy, described him as "a nice kid, very polite".

A woman comforts a young girl during a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Andrew Gombert, Pool) Source: AP

9.32pm David Connors, the father of three triplets at the school, said at a vigil that his children were taken into a closet during the lockdown.

"My son said he did hear some gunshots, as many as 10," he said. "The questions are starting to come out. 'Are we safe? Is the bad guy gone?'"

Tracy Hoekenga said that she was paralyzed with fear for her two boys, fourth-grader C.J. and second grader Matthew.

"I couldn't breathe. It's indescribable. For a half an hour, 45 minutes, I had no idea if my kids were OK," she said.

9.01pm Parents are reportedly to be called in one by one to positively identify the bodies of children inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys tweeted the news saying he heard it on WNBC.

8.33pm Monsignor Robert Weiss after a vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, said that six or seven kids who had attended the church were among the 20 children who died.

"I think the families are very broken," he said. "I'm sure that they're still wondering and questioning. I think some of them are still hoping that this really didn't happen. The rough days are just ahead of them."

7.05pm Victoria Soto has been revealed as one of the teachers who died in the line of fire as she saved her students in the Connecticut shooting. Mary Sherlach has also been identified as the psychologist who was killed in the shooting with principal Dawn Hochsprung.

6pm Sandy Hook Elementary School and Nancy Lanza's home are still in lockdown, being treated as crime scenes, while a police investigation continues and the medical identification of the victims is underway.

5.50pm Details have emerged about Adam Lanza's family life, from a former nieghbour who spoke to the Washington Post. His parents, Nancy and Peter Lanza, separated about a decade ago, and his mother, raised their sons, Adam and Ryan Lanza, according to Ryan Kraft.

Kraft recalled their divorce had an impact on him. When Nancy would go out to dinner with friends, she sometimes relied on Kraft to watch Adam Lanza, who was too boisterous for Ryan Lanza to manage.

"He would have tantrums," Kraft said. "They were much more than the average kid [had]." Yet he was not prone to violence, Kraft said.

"The kids seemed really depressed" by the breakup, Kraft said.

5.38pm The US premiere of the Tom Cruise action movie Jack Reacher has been postponed following the deadly Connecticut school shooting. Paramount Pictures said "out of honour and respect for the families of the victims'' the premiere won't take place on Saturday in Pittsburgh, where Jack Reacher was filmed.

4.58pm Children who were evacuated from the school are being comforted with their parents at a firehouse where, outside, an American flag flies at half-staff.

Sign our legacy book for victims of the Connecticut shooting.

Counselors such as Rabbi Shaul Praver are helping them cope with the event, which has left them grief-stricken. Some suffered from "terrible anxiety," Praver told CNN.

"My heart is in a million pieces for those families," said mother Lynn Wasik. "Who could do something like this? It's just sickening."

4.15pm Police radios crackled with first word of the shooting at 9.36am. "Sandy Hook School. Caller is indicating she thinks there's someone shooting in the building," a Newtown dispatcher radioed.

Follow the audio of Police and first responders as they communicate from the scene of a mass shooting in Connecticut. CBS News

3.44pm Former Sandy Hook pupil and Newtown local Lily Holmes says she has fond memories of the hero music teacher Maryrose Kristopik who helped rescue 15 children from the horror shooting.

3.32pm Aimee Seaver, the mother of a first-grade girl at Sandy Hook, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that her children are having trouble coping.

"It's a very rough night here," she said.

"When your first-grader goes to bed and says, 'Mommy, is anyone from my class last year – are they all OK?' and you look at them and say, 'I'm not really sure,' it's a rough night to tell that to your seven-year-old."

How parents can talk to their children about the shooting.

3.28pm Janet Vollmer, a kindergarten teacher at the school, says she locked her classroom doors and - to keep her students calm - read them a story.

Vollmer, her 19 students and the adult helpers in her classroom were not injured, CNN reports.

"You could hear what sounded like pops, gunshots. Of course, I'm not going to tell that to five-year-olds, so I said to them, 'We're going over in a safe area,'" Vollmer told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"And we read a story and we kept them calm, did a lockdown drill, closed the doors, locked (them), covered the windows, and kept the children with us."

3.24pm A photo of Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown has emerged.

2.58pm People have gathered for a prayer vigil at St Rose Church following an elementary school shooting in Newtown.

Others have gathered outside the White House in Washington, D.C., to participate in a vigil.

2.25pm:   As the small community of Newtown held a vigil for the victims of the shooting, incredible tales of bravery by teachers emerged.

Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik was hailed a hero for barricading 15 children inside a closet as killer Adam Lanza stood outside.

Other teachers were also hailed for their calm response as gunshots reverberated around the school.

1.20pm: Alex Israel, who was a classmate of gunman Adam Lanza, described the killer as a "quiet loner"  who was "fidgety" and "kept to himself".

Speaking to CNN's Piers Morgan, Ms Israel said Lanza was a highly intelligent student - "above the rest of us".

But she said he was never violent.

12:40pm:  A classmate of gunman Adam Lanza described him as "just a kid - just a normal kid."

CBS interviewed the unnamed man on the streets of Newtown, and he said there was nothing about Lanza to suggest the 20-year-old would kill.

"I'm still in shock," the man said.

It's also emerged that the weapons used in the massacre were registered to Nancy Lanza, who was found dead in her home - making her the 28th victim of the shooting spree.

12:25pm:  The sounds of the shooting were broadcast over the school's PA system.

Theodore Varga said he was in a meeting with other fourth-grade teachers when he heard the gunfire, but there was no lock on the door.

He said someone turned on the public address system so that "you could hear the hysteria that was going on. I think whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring.''

Also, a custodian went running around, warning people there was a gunman in the school, Varga said.

"He said, 'Guys! Get down! Hide!''' Varga said. "So he was actually a hero.'' The teacher said he did not know if the custodian survived.

11.48am: ABC news in America has obtained a younger photo of Adam Lanza.

According to AP, his brother Ryan Lanza has been extremely cooperative during questioning with police, who is believed to have revealed that Adam suffers from a personality disorder and is "somewhat autistic". 

11:44am:  Latest reports say Adam Lanza, 20, was carrying a .223 rifle and two handguns when he entered the Sandy Hook Elementary school shortly after 9.30am local time (1230am AEDT) and started gunning people down - after he had killed his mother Nancy, 52, at her nearby home.

Witnesses say he was going from room-to-room shooting people after first killing the principal Dawn Hochsprung and psychologist execution-style in the main office.

10:50am:  A body found at the house of alleged gunman Adam Lanza, is his mother, Nancy, who was a teacher  at the school.

Lanza's were separated. It is understood the father is being interviewed by police but is not a suspect.

10.37am:  A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation of the Connecticut school massacre says the brother of the gunman has been ``extremely cooperative'' and is not under arrest.

The official told The Associated Press that Ryan Lanza, of Hoboken, New Jersey, is still be being questioned but is not in custody and is not believed to have any connection to the school killings.

But American television showed images of Ryan Lanza in handcuffs with police officers.

10.33am: More eyewitness reports continue including one 9-year-old who said he was in the gymnasium when the shooting erupted.

"We were in the gym, and I heard really loud bangs," said the boy, as he stood shivering and weeping outside the school with his father's arms draped around him, The New York Times reports.

"We thought that someone was knocking something over. And we heard yelling, and we heard gunshots. We heard lots of gunshots. We heard someone say, 'Put your hands up.''I heard, 'Don't shoot.'

"We had to go into the closet in the gym. Then someone came and told us to run down the hallway. There were police at every door. There were lots of people crying and screaming."

10.03am:  The Governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, has told a press conference: "Evil visited this community today."

"Earlier today, a tragedy of unspeakable terms played itself out in this community. You can never be prepared for this kind of incident. What has happened will leave a mark on this community. The perpetrator is dead, as is the person the perpetrator lived with," Mr Malloy said.

10:00am: CNN reports that the school had only recently upgraded its security system, including visual monitoring.

9.48am:  Eight-year-old Sofia Lebinski has told Fox News of the terror of being in a classroom during the shooting.

"I felt scared," the young girl said, adding "everyone was shaking."

Sofia told how after her class heard the first gunshots their teacher - Miss Martin - locked the door and called 911.

"We heard big bangs, like gunshots," Sofia said.

"Miss Martin locked the door and told us to go the corner and she called police and they came."

9.25am:  A young boy tells US television he heard bullets going past him before  a teacher pulled him into a classroom.

"It sounded like someone kicking the door," the  boy said.

A mother is interviewed thanking her child's teacher for saving her life.

A person walks into the information center at a rest stop in Danbury near the Connecticut-New York state line, where a U.S. flag is raised half-staff in honor of the people killed when a gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Source: AP

9.20am: A tentative timeline of events has been put together based on police statements and witness accounts.

CNN reports that at 9.30am local time (12.30am AEDT) the school principal, vice-principal, school psychologist and other staff were in a meeting.

At 9.40am, the gunman - dressed in black camouflage gear and military vest and armed with at least two weapons, entered the building. Almost immediately witnesses reported hearing heard shots.

At 9.41am, calls began coming into 911. The principal, vice-principal and psychologist go to investigate. Others hear more shots and shouts.

By 9.45am, children are being led to safety outside in various parts of the school. Police arrive at around 9.50am but by then the shooting had ceased.

9.03am:  Reports that the school principal, psychologist and four other adults were among the dead.

Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance says police did not discharge their firearms. 

8.55am:  Police say there were very few non-fatal injuries reported, indicating that once targeted, there was rarely any chance of escape, and that the gunman was unusually accurate in his fire.

Lieutenant Paul Vance said the majority of killings "took place in one section of the school, in two rooms.''

The gunman was reported to be carrying at least two handguns.

Local media reported that the shooter began in the kindergarten section where he killed his teacher mother and her class, then moved on.

The child victims were reported to be aged between five and ten. 

People gather for a vigil outside the White House in Washington, DC, following the Connecticut elementary school shooting, December 14, 2012.AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV Source: AFP

8.06am:  A father has told of his six-year old son's dramatic escape from a room when the gunman burst in and opened fire.

Robert Licata said his six-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.

"That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door,'' he said.

"He was very brave. He waited for his friends.''

Licata said the shooter didn't say a word.

7.55am:  A law enforcement official said the suspect, now confirmed as Adam Lanza, was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and that his older brother was being held for questioning as a possible second shooter, AP reported.

The law enforcement official said the boys' mother, Nancy Lanza, worked at the school as a teacher and was presumed dead.

State police said 18 children were found dead at the school and two later were declared dead, and six adults were found dead at the scene.

They said the shootings occurred in one section of the school but did not give details. Police also said another person was dead at a second scene.

The law enforcement official also said Ryan Lanza's girlfriend and another friend were missing in New Jersey. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.

Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left at least 27 people dead, many of them young children, in Newtown, Connecticut, USA, 14 December 2012. AFP PHOTO / Pool / Andrew GOMBERT Source: AFP

According to the official, the suspect drove to the scene in his mother's car.
Three guns were found - a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols - and a .223-caliber rifle.

The rifle was recovered from the back of a car at the school, and the two pistols were recovered from inside the school.

7.18am: A tearful President Barack Obama makes live address to the US on the shooting, saying the nation will have to "come together to deal with this".

"Our hearts are broken today,'' he said, wiping his eyes during brief comments to reporters in one of the most emotional public moments of his presidency.

He said the children killed were 5 to 10 years old. He said the nation had been "through this too many times'' with recent mass shootings and has to come together to take meaningful action, "regardless of the politics.''

"We have endured too many of these tragedies over the years," Mr Obama said.

Wiping tears from his eyes, Mr Obama said he was speaking as a father.

He says US leaders must "take meaningful action'' regardless of politics in response to the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

The president teared up, at times using an index finger to wipe at the corner of his eyes, as he addressed the nation from the White House.

He also paused repeatedly as he struggled to keep his composure while speaking of the children - ages 5 to 10 - who had died and the life milestones they now would miss.

He said, quote, "Our hearts are broken.''

Shortly before speaking, Obama ordered that US flags be flown at half-staff on public grounds through Tuesday.

People gather for a prayer vigil at St Rose Church following an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND Source: AFP

7.10am: Police say gunman's mother was  a teacher at the school and she was among the victims.

6.56am: A chilling account from a child at the school, told to the BBC by hairdresser Marcey Benitez:

"They heard shots, their teacher locked the door and threw the children in the closet. The man was kicking the door, saying 'let me in', they kept quiet, then police came."

Meanwhile, a neighbour at the nearby home police attended - where reportedly the body of a woman was found - says two brothers lived in the house, and they were "trouble".

6.50am: More eyewitnesses from the scene:

6.47am: A young child told CNN "there was like police officers down on the roof and in the hallways. They didn't really tell us anything.

"Everybody was like crying and stuff."

NBC, and a New York Times reporter, have reported that the gunman's mother was a kindergarten teacher at the school.

6.37am: There is still plenty of doubt over the identity of the shooter, despite several media sources giving a name. A man named Ryan Lanza, who lives in New Jersey and in Newtown, took to Facebook saying forcefully "it wasn't me".

6.30am: An eyewitness told CNN she was at the school and heard a "pop pop pop" in the hall.

The principal, vice principal and school psychologist went out to see what was happening.

Only the vice principal came back into the room, on his hands and knees and bleeding from his leg.

A parent of a student at the school, whose child was not shot, spoke to Associated Press:

"I could try to explain it, but I'm sure I would fail. There's no words that I could come up with that would even come close to describing the sheer terror of hearing that your son is in a place, or your child's in a place, where there's been violence. You don't know the details of that violence, you don't know the condition of your child and you can't do anything to immediately help them or protect them. It is a powerless and terrifying experience."

6.23am: The Connecticut Post is reporting that the death toll has risen to 29, including 22 children.

6.15am: CNN has identified the shooter as a man named Ryan Lanza.

Here is a timeline of the worst shooting massacres in the US.

President Obama and the state governor are said to be giving statements soon.

6.11am: A home nearby in Newtown was searched by police. Locals told Fox News a body was found inside the home, and there is unconfirmed speculation it is the body of the mother of the shooter.

Meanwhile, though the president said today was not the day to talk about gun control, Twitter is showing no such restraint.

"27 SHOT dead by GUN at CT elementary school, 14 r kids, & if I say our lawmakers & gun laws are killing us I'll be told now ain't the time," New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch wrote.

"We know 27 people were shot and killed, including 18 kids. If this is not time to discuss gun control, when is??" tweeted progressive radio host Bill Press.

"If any other plague was leaving piles of dead bodies all over the country, including children, our country would figure it out," said New York Times media columnist David Carr.

6.05am: Several news sources are reporting that the shooter was a 20 year-old man "with ties to the school."

This appears to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. At Virginia tech the perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many more, before committing suicide.

5.51am: State police spokesman Lt Paul Vance did not say that officers had confronted the gunman - which may suggest he was already dead when police arrived.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said today is not the day to discuss gun control.

"I think that day will come, but today's not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation," Mr Carney told reporters.

5.45am: The governor is on his way later and will give more information then, police say. Families of the deceased are being notified, and no more information on the dead - including the number - will be given at this time.

The public is no longer in danger. They are pursuing search warrants in the area, and in another state.

No questions were taken. That's all the information from the first press conference.

5.43am: A police press conference is under way. The first 911 call came at 9.30am, the officer says.

Both students and staff are among the dead.

The shooter is deceased inside the building.

5.42am: Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatised," he said.

Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."

The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.

"There's no words," Mr Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."

5.40am: The White House says President Barack Obama has "enormous sympathy for families that are affected" by the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Mr Obama was briefed on the shooting on Friday morning (about 0500 AEDT on Saturday).

Spokesman Jay Carney said the White House would "do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement".

Mr Carney would not confirm any details about the shooting. Officials with knowledge of the incident said 27 people, including 18 children, were killed.

The president was first informed about the incident by his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, and will continue to receive regular updates throughout the day

5.38am: A second person is reportedly being questioned over the shooting, though their connection to the shooting is unclear.

Meanwhile a home in Newtown is being searched in connection with the shooting.

The shooting is said to have begun in the principal's office, and the start of the attack was heard across the school over the intercom system.

5.24am: A law enforcement official tells AP the attacker in the Connecticut school shootings is a 20-year-old man with ties to the school.

The official said that a gun used in the attacks is a .223-caliber rifle. The official also said that New Jersey state police are searching a location in that state in connection with the shootings, said by an official in Connecticut to have left 27 dead, including 18 children.

5.20am: One report says an entire kindergarten class is unaccounted for, and "may have been gunned down".

5.16am: Police converge on the home of the shooter, who was reportedly the father of one of the students at the school.

The shooter was dressed in black combat gear and a military vest, and had two guns. One of the weapons recovered from the scene included a 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

According to some reports a second person is in custody in connection with the attack.


The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way. Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown was killed and apparently had two guns.

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner. His daughter was fine.

"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said.

The superintendent's office said the district had locked down schools in Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City. Schools in neighbouring towns also were locked down as a precaution.

A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps said a teacher had been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital. Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman at the hospital, said it had three patients from the school but she did not have information on the extent or nature of their injuries.

State police said Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m. A SWAT team was among the throngs of police to respond.

A photo posted by The Newtown Bee newspaper showed a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

"Everyone was just traumatised," he said.

The White House said President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting.

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