NEW YORK, USA (6th UPDATE) – At least 26 people were killed when a gunman assaulted a US primary school on Friday, December 14, and another body was found dead at a second linked crime scene, police said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance told reporters that the attacker killed 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The gunman was identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who also allegedly killed his own parents.
Lanza also died at the scene, and a 28th body, believed to be the attacker’s mother, was found in a second location in Newtown, but police have yet to confirm whether the same person is behind the incident.
Police had earlier confused the gunman with his brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, whose identity card Adam had been carrying with him when he went into the school. US television reports said the surviving brother was in custody and was being questioned.
There has also been confusion over whether the shooter killed his mother at the school, where she reportedly worked, or whether she was the extra victim found in the Newtown home. Police are witholding all information on the identities of the victims and the killer for the time being.
“Evil visited this community today,” State Governor Dan Malloy said.
In a televised statement, US President Barack Obama cried and said he mourned the dead in the Connecticut school shooting. Hearts “are broken” over the tragedy, he said.
If confirmed, the toll would be the second highest death toll in a US school shooting, after the 2007 campus shootings at Virginia Tech, which left 32 dead.
The number would far exceed the 15 killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which triggered a fierce but inconclusive debate about the United States’ liberal gun control laws.
“I was in the gym at the time… we heard lots of bangs, and we thought that it was the custodian knocking stuff down. We heard screaming. And so went to the wall, and we sat down,” a young boy told WCBS television.
“Then the police came in. It’s like, is he in here? Then he ran out. Then somebody yelled get to a safe place, so we went to the closet in the gym and we sat there for a little while,” he said, as stunned parents arrived.”
“Then the police like were knocking on the door, and they’re like, we’re evacuating people, we’re evacuating people. We ran out.”
“(There are) police at every door leading us down this way, this way. Quick, quick, come on. We ran down to the firehouse. There’s a man that pinned down to the ground with handcuffs on,” he said.
Police swarmed into the leafy neighborhood after the shooting, while other area schools were put under lock-down, police and local media said.
The Newtown Bee newspaper said that a child was carried out of the school with apparently serious injuries.
A photo on the Bee’s website showed officers leading more than a dozen frightened small children across a parking lot. Another image showed officers gathering in the quiet street nearby.
On the Newtown Public School District website an alert was posted warning that “afternoon kindergarten is cancelled today” and that there would be no lunch-hour bus runs.
Deadly shootings are a frequent occurrence in US public places, often ending only when the gunman is shot or kills himself.
On Tuesday, December 11, a man with a semi-automatic rifle raked an Oregon shopping mall, killing two people, then taking his own life.
In the most notorious recent incident, in July this year, a 24-year-old, James Holmes, allegedly killed 12 people and wounded 58 others when he opened fire in a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.
Last month, gunman Jared Loughner was jailed for life for killing six people in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011 in an attack targeting congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at point-blank range but survived.
However, despite the tragedies support for tougher gun ownership laws is mixed, with many Americans opposing restrictions of what they consider to be a constitutional right to keep powerful firearms at home. – Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse