Community mourns victims of elementary school shooting - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Futures for group of 1st graders never realized

Robbie Parker, the father of a slain student, fought back tears as he reassured the world that he was not angry about what happened. (Source: CNN) Robbie Parker, the father of a slain student, fought back tears as he reassured the world that he was not angry about what happened. (Source: CNN)
Mourners set up a sign at a memorial site in Treadwell Park, near Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Source: CNN) Mourners set up a sign at a memorial site in Treadwell Park, near Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Source: CNN)
President Barack Obama used his weekly address to talk about the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings of Friday and has made plans to visit Connecticut. (Source: President Barack Obama used his weekly address to talk about the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings of Friday and has made plans to visit Connecticut. (Source:
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NEWTOWN, CT (RNN) – The lives of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary ended before anyone really knew what type of people they would become.

The town has repeatedly been described as tight-knit. Their loving yet firm principal fostered an environment that encouraged personal growth and positive development. They had every reason to feel safe as a homicide had not occurred there in their lifetime.

Their lives were off to a good start that did not have a proper ending.

One of those lives was Emilie Parker, who her father described as creative, nurturing and bright.

She was quick to draw a card for people she felt were feeling bad, and she was a shoulder to cry on for her two younger sisters.

At 6 years old, Emilie was the oldest of the Parkers' three girls.

"I've actually been teaching her Portuguese, and so our last conversation was in Portuguese," said Robbie Parker, her father. "She told me 'Good morning' and asked how I was doing, and I said that I was doing well. She told me she loved me, and I gave her a kiss, and I was out the door."

Like Emilie, all of the children killed Friday were first graders. All six adults were women, and three of them were 30 years old or younger.

Among them was Victoria Soto, 27, who appeared to have died trying to protect her students, according to an interview WFSB conducted with her family. A vigil was planned in her honor Saturday night.

Several other vigils had been planned at various locations during the weekend. Newtown Methodist Church left its doors open throughout the day, allowing people a place to go to deal with everything that has happened the past two days.

President Barack Obama is expected to visit the town on Sunday, according to the White House. He addressed the nation Friday and fought back tears, saying he was speaking as a parent and not the nation's top executive.

"Our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost," Obama said in a news conference. "May God bless the memory of the victims. And in the words of scripture, 'heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.'"

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodria, who serves as the town's chief executive official, addressed media publicly for the first time Saturday.

"We are coming together with love and support for those affected by this loss," Llodria said. "We will find a way to heal so that all residents, young and old, can find peace."

The community lost one person vital to the development of their young children when Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hocksprung, 47, was gunned down at the school.

She was described by many as a no-nonsense administrator that had abounding compassion for her students. Her diligent attention to details possibly prevented more loss.

"We have lockdown drills, I forget how many, but you have to have a certain number of drills every year," library clerk Mary Ann Jacob said. "A certain number of fire drills, a certain number of evacuation drills, a certain number of lockdown drills. So the kids and the teachers know the routine."

Families of the victims finally got clues about what happened to their loved ones, albeit at a distance.

Families were shown pictures of the victims' facial features instead of viewing them personally because of the severity of the injuries.

Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II said during a news conference that all victims appeared to have multiple wounds, and several of them were likely not shot at close range.

A medical examiner for more than 30 years, Carver said this was the worst case he has personally worked on or heard of from his colleagues.

"There have been times in my career, for reasons I don't appreciate, I go in the locker room and sit down and cry," Carver said. "If you don't have to, you shouldn't, but on this one I haven't yet - notice I said yet."

A team of four doctors, 10 technicians and one student who was beginning her first day on the job worked on autopsies of the bodies.

All 26 victims at the school died from rifle shots, and each appeared to have multiple wounds.

"This type of weapon, the bullets were designed in such a fashion that the energy is deposited in the tissue, and so the bullet stays in," Carver said. "This is a very devastating set of injuries."

Police officials told the Associated Press that the suspected gunman was 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who is believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The autopsies have been performed on everyone except for two people - the shooter and his mother, Nancy Lanza.

Lanza shot his mother dead before arriving at the school.

The Lanza family released a statement through the police department of Kingston, NH. The shooter's father, James Champion, is a police officer there.

"On behalf of Nancy's mother and siblings, we reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for the incomprehensible loss of innocence that has affected so many," the statement said.

The Connecticut State Police confirmed during a Saturday morning news conference that the shooter forced his way inside Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing 20 students and six adults. 

The school had recently informed parents via letter that it was implementing new security measures that would include buzzing in visitors and monitoring them with a camera.

The AP reported that a custodian ran down the hall and alerted classrooms a shooter was inside the building. Someone in the office then turned on the intercom.

Eighteen of the children died on scene, and two more died at the hospital. 

The young age of the victims and the slowly evolving chain of information has led Newtown's residents and people around the world to ask the same question: Why?

"We've peeled back the onion layer by layer and examined every crack and crevice of that facility, and that does not exclude the outside of the building," said Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance. "The outside of the building is also a part of the crime scene - every single vehicle in that lot. It's going to be a long, painstaking process."

Police recovered two other weapons at the scene - a Glock and a Sig-Sauer, which are handguns. CNN also reported that police are investigating the shooter's possible access to three additional guns.

Adam Lanza was called "remote," "smart" and "one of the goths" by classmates who spoke with the AP.

Nancy Lanza was a substitute teacher at the school, according to a parent interviewed by the AP. She was found shot dead at the home she shared with her son. He left her there and drove to the school in her car.

Their deaths drove the total number of fatally wounded people up to 28, the second-worst mass shooting at a school campus in U.S. history. One other person was wounded and survived.

The largest mass shooting at a school campus was at Virginia Tech University on April 26, 2007, when 32 people were killed and 17 more were injured.

Sandy Hook is the second mass shooting this week after Jacob Roberts opened fire in a Portland, OR, mall, killing two and wounding one before committing suicide Tuesday, Dec. 11.

According to WFSB, authorities received word of the incident at the school around 9:41 a.m. EST. When police from state and local agencies arrived on scene, they began a search of the building, going room to room. Students and faculty were evacuated to the nearby Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department.

Sources told WFSB that Yale-New Haven Hospital activated an emergency triage unit, which responds to mass casualty incidents, in the school's parking lot.

Danbury Hospital had at least three people admitted as a result of the incident, including a teacher who got shot in the foot, CNN stated. WFSB said officials at Bridgeport Hospital confirmed that they had admitted one woman who was shot, and she was in stable condition.

The school superintendent's office announced all campuses in the district had been locked down, and kindergarten classes at the school were canceled.

According to the AP, the shooter was initially reported as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza. He is the older brother of the alleged gunman. Once realizing he was being implicated through media reports, the elder brother, who was in New York City at the time of the shooting, took to his Facebook page to clear his name.

"IT WASN'T ME I WAS AT WORK IT WASN'T ME," the brother said in one message.

Ryan Lanza was believed to be the shooter because the younger Lanza had his identification with him. Police took Ryan Lanza in for questioning, but told the AP they do not believe he is an accomplice, and that he was "cooperative."

He reportedly told law enforcement that Adam Lanza had a history of mental illness.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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