NEWTOWN, Conn. - A man opened fire Friday inside two classrooms at the Connecticut elementary school where his mother was a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in corners and closets and trembled helplessly to gunshots reverberating through the building.
The killer, carrying two handguns, committed suicide at the school, and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28, authorities said.
Police shed no light on the motive for the attack. The gunman was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother in Connecticut, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to publicly discuss it.
In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)
The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nations second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead in 2007.
Panicked parents looking for their children raced to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, a community of about 27,000 residents 60 miles northeast of New York City. Youngsters at the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school were told to close their eyes by police as they were led from the building.
Schoolchildren - some crying, others looking frightened - were escorted through a parking lot in a line, hands on each others shoulders.
Some of the deadliest mass shootings around world
The Associated Press
A gunman at a Connecticut elementary school killed more than two dozen people, including children, on Friday. It is among the worlds worst mass shootings. Here is a look at some others:
- Aug. 5, 2012: Army veteran Wade Michael Page kills five men and one woman and wounds three other people, including a police officer, before taking his own life at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin outside Milwaukee.
- July 20, 2012: Twelve people are killed when a gunman enters an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, releases a canister of gas and then opens fire during opening night of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. James Holmes, a 24-year-old former graduate student at the University of Colorado, has been charged in the deaths.
- March 11, 2012: Sixteen Afghan villagers, including nine children, are killed during a predawn attack in which Army prosecutors have charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39.
- July 22, 2011: Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik kills 77 in Norway in twin attacks: a bombing in downtown Oslo and a shooting massacre at a youth camp outside the capital. The self-styled anti-Muslim militant admitted both attacks.
- April 9, 2011: Tristan van der Vlis, 24, fired more than 100 rounds from three guns in a suburban Dutch shopping mall, killing six people before turning one of the weapons on himself.
- Jan. 8, 2011: A gunman kills six people and wounds 13 others, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a shooting spree outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. Doctors say Jared Lee Loughner, who has been sentenced to life in prison, suffers from schizophrenia.
- Aug. 3, 2010: Omar Thornton shot 10 people, eight of them fatally, within three minutes at the Hartford Distributors warehouse in Manchester, Conn., before killing himself in what was the worst mass shooting in Connecticut before Fridays school shootings in Newtown.
- Nov. 5, 2009: Thirteen soldiers and civilians were killed and more than two dozen wounded when a gunman walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas, and opened fire. Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
- April 30, 2009: Farda Gadyrov, 29, enters the prestigious Azerbaijan State Oil Academy in the capital, Baku, armed with an automatic pistol and clips. He kills 12 people before killing himself as police close in.
- April 3, 2009: A 41-year-old man opened fire at an immigrant community center in Binghamton, N.Y., killing 11 immigrants and two workers. Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese immigrant and a former student at the center, killed himself as police rushed to the scene.
- March 10, 2009: Michael McLendon, 28, killed 10 people - including his mother, four other relatives, and the wife and child of a local sheriffs deputy - across two rural Alabama counties. He then killed himself.
- Sept. 23, 2008: Matti Saari, 22, walks into a vocational college in Kauhajoki, Finland, and opens fire, killing 10 people and burning their bodies with firebombs before shooting himself fatally in the head.
- Dec. 5, 2007: A 19-year-old man with a rifle opened fire at Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people before taking his own life. Five people were wounded, two critically.
- Nov. 7, 2007: After revealing plans for his attack in YouTube postings, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen fires kills eight people at his high school in Tuusula, Finland.
- April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho, 23, kills 32 people and himself on Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va.
- April 26, 2002: Robert Steinhaeuser, 19, who had been expelled from school in Erfurt, Germany, kills 13 teachers, two former classmates and policeman, before committing suicide.
- April 20, 1999: Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the schools library.
- April 28, 1996: Martin Bryant, 29, bursts into cafeteria in seaside resort of Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia, shooting 20 people to death. Driving away, he kills 15 others. He was captured and imprisoned.
- March 13, 1996: Thomas Hamilton, 43, kills 16 kindergarten children and their teacher in elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and then kills himself.
- Oct. 16, 1991: A deadly shooting rampage took place in Killeen, Texas, as George Hennard opened fire at a Lubys Cafeteria, killing 23 people before taking his own life. 20 others were wounded in the attack.
- June 18, 1990: James Edward Pough shoots people at random in a General Motors Acceptance Corp. office in Jacksonville, Fla., killing 10 and wounding four, before killing himself.
- Dec. 6, 1989: Marc Lepine, 25, bursts into Montreals Ecole Polytechnique college, shooting at women he encounters, killing nine and then himself.
- Aug. 19, 1987: Michael Ryan, 27, kills 16 people in small market town of Hungerford, England, and then shoots himself dead after being cornered by police.
- July 12, 1976: Edward Charles Allaway, a custodian in the library of California State University, Fullerton, fatally shot seven fellow employees and wounded two others.
- Aug. 20, 1986: Pat Sherrill, 44, a postal worker who was about to be fired, shoots 14 people at a post office in Edmond, Okla. He then kills himself.
- July 18, 1984: James Oliver Huberty, an out-of-work security guard, kills 21 people in a McDonalds restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif. A police sharpshooter kills Huberty.
- Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Whitman opened fire from the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, killing 16 people and wounding 31.
Our hearts are broken today, a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain composure, said at the White House. He called for meaningful action to prevent such shootings.
Youngsters and their parents described teachers locking doors and ordering the children to huddle in the corner or hide in closets when shots echoed through the building. Authorities didnt say exactly how the shootings unfolded.
They also gave no details on the victim discovered at another scene, except to say that the person was an adult found dead by police while they were investigating the gunman.
A law enforcement official identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher. A second law enforcement official said his mother, Nancy Lanza, was presumed dead.
Adam Lanzas older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned.
The law enforcement official who said Adam Lanza had a possible personality disorder said Ryan Lanza had been extremely cooperative, was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records. Ryan Lanza told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.
All three law enforcement officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the unfolding investigation.
The gunman drove to the school in his mothers car, the second official said. Three guns were found - a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car.
Lanzas girlfriend and another friend were missing in New Jersey, the official also said.
State police Lt. Paul Vance said 28 people in all were killed, including the gunman, and one person was injured.
Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.
Thats 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.
He said the shooter didnt utter a word.
Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter was in the school and heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said.
Its alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America, he said. His daughter was fine.
Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran 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 traumatized, he said.
Mary Pendergast, who lives close to the school, said her 9-year-old nephew was in the school at the time of the shooting, but wasnt hurt after his music teacher helped him take cover in a closet.
Richard Wilfords 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.
Theres no words, Wilford said. Its sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him.
On Friday afternoon, family members were led away from a firehouse that was being used as a staging area, some of them weeping. One man, wearing only a T-shirt without a jacket, put his arms around a woman as they walked down the middle of the street, oblivious to everything around them.
Another woman with tears rolling down her face walked by carrying a car seat with a young infant inside and a bag that appeared to have toys and stuffed animals.
The shootings instantly brought to mind episodes such as the Columbine High School massacre that killed 15 in 1999 and the July shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead.
You go to a movie theater in Aurora and all of a sudden your life is taken, Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis said. Youre at a shopping mall in Portland, Ore., and your life is taken. This morning, when parents kissed their kids goodbye knowing that they are going to be home to celebrate the holiday season coming up, you dont expect this to happen. I think as a society, we need to come together. It has to stop, these senseless deaths.
Obamas comments on the tragedy amounted to one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency.
The majority of those who died were children - beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, Obama said.
He paused for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened to Obama.
They had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own, Obama continued about the victims. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children.