Newtown, Dec. 16: The gunman in the Connecticut shooting blasted his way into the elementary school and then sprayed the children with bullets, first from a distance and then at close range, hitting some of them as many as 11 times, officials have said.
He used a semiautomatic rifle loaded with ammunition designed for maximum damage, they added.
Chief medical examiner H. Wayne Carver II said all of the 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, had been struck more than once in the fusillade. He said their wounds were “all over, all over”.
“This is a very devastating set of injuries,” he said at a briefing in Newtown. When he was asked if they had suffered after they were hit, he said: “Not for very long.”
He said that parents had identified their children from photographs to spare them from seeing the gruesome results of the rampage. He said that four doctors and 10 technicians had done the autopsies and that he had personally performed seven, all on first-graders.
“This is probably the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen,” said Carver, who is 60 and has been Connecticut’s chief medical examiner since 1989.
The bullets Lanza used were “designed in such a fashion the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullet stays in”, resulting in deep damage, Carver said. As to how many bullets Lanza had fired, Carver said he did not have an exact count. “There were lots of them,” he said.
The disclosures came as the police released the victims’ names. They ranged in age from 6 to 56.
The children — 12 girls and eight boys — were all first-graders. One little girl had just turned 7 on Tuesday. All of the adults were women.
On Saturday, as families began to claim the bodies of lost loved ones, some sought privacy. Others spoke out. Robbie Parker, whose six-year-old daughter Emilie was among the dead, choked back tears as he described her as “bright, creative and very loving”.
But, he added, “as we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not let it turn into something that defines us”.
On a day of anguish and mourning, other details emerged about how, but not why, the devastating attack had happened.
The Newtown school superintendent said the principal and the school psychologist had been shot as they tried to tackle the gunman in order to protect their students.
That was just one act of bravery during the maelstrom. There were others, said the superintendent, Janet Robinson. She said one teacher had helped children escape through a window. Another shoved students into a room with a kiln and held them there until the danger had passed.
It was not enough: First responders described a scene of carnage in the two classrooms where the children were killed, with no movement and no one left to save, everything perfectly still.
The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, had grown up in Newtown and had an uncle who had been a police officer in New Hampshire. The uncle, James M. Champion, issued a statement expressing “heartfelt sorrow”, adding that the family was struggling “to comprehend the tremendous loss we all share”.
But it was unclear why Lanza had gone on the attack. The school superintendent said they had found no connection between Lanza’s mother and the school, in contrast to accounts from authorities on Friday that said she had worked there.
Carver said it appeared that all of the children had been killed by a “long rifle” that Lanza was carrying; a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle was one of the several weapons police found in the school. The other guns were semiautomatic pistols, including a .10 mm Glock and a .9 mm Sig Sauer.
Officials said the killing spree began early on Friday at the house where the Lanzas lived. There, Lanza shot his mother in the face, making her his first victim, the authorities said. Then, after taking three guns that belonged to her, they said, he climbed into her car for the short drive to the school.
Outfitted in combat gear, Lanza shot his way in, defeating a security system requiring visitors to be buzzed in. This contradicted earlier reports that he had been recognised and allowed to enter the one-story building. “He was not voluntarily let into the school at all,” a police officer said. “He forced his way in.”