Probe Yields Painstaking Details, But No Motive In Deadly Connecticut School Shooting

No clear motive, but case closed in shooting that killed 20 children, shocked nation

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Mike Segar / Reuters

Twenty-seven wooden angel figures are seen placed in a wooded area beside a road near the Sandy Hook Elementary School for the victims of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 16, 2012.

One year after a gunman marched through a Connecticut school and killed 26 people, authorities said Monday that they’re at a loss to explain why he did it, but that he acted alone and their investigation is closed.

A long-awaited report from State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III of the Judicial District of Danbury gives the most detailed description to date of one of the worst shootings in American history. But it’s unlikely to provide much closure to the families of 20 children and six adults who Adam Lanza, 20, killed in the school before turning a gun on himself. Lanza had murdered his mother, who legally acquired the guns he used in his massacre, earlier in the day.

But the 48-page report, which draws upon work by local, state and federal law enforcement officials, does describe in painstaking detail what Lanza did that day at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as some interesting if limited insights into his mind.

“The obvious question that remains is: ‘Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?'” the report said. “Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively.”

The shooting shocked a nation numbed to mass shootings and briefly raised the prospect of expanded gun control measures passing Congress, though that legislative push later fell by the wayside.

“It is the conclusion of this State’s Attorney that the shooter acted alone and was solely criminally responsible for his actions of that day,” the report said. “Unless additional – and at this time unanticipated – evidence is developed, there will be no state criminal prosecution as result of these crimes. With the issuance of this report, the investigation is closed.”

The report lays out, moment to moment, how Lanza shot his way through a glass barrier blocking his entry to the school, and then hunted down and killed his victims with frightening speed. After parking his 2010 Honda Civic in a “No Parking Zone,” he entered the school shortly after 9:30 a.m. The first 911 call was received at 9:35, police first arrived on the scene less than four minutes later, and Lanza killed himself just a minute after that, his entire massacre having lasted about 11 minutes.

Lanza clearly had an interest in mayhem: “A review of electronic evidence or digital media that appeared to belong to the shooter” indicated he had a “preoccupation” with mass murders over the years, particular the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. He also had “a spreadsheet with mass murders over the years listing information about each shooting.”

The report also reveals that investigators were unable to get any information from Lanza’s smashed hard drive, and have concluded that the drive is damaged beyond repair. That unlikelihood of accessing that hard drive, along with the determination that Lanza had no accomplices, led investigators to close the case.

Lanza’s relationship with his mother was also strained. She had said he “would only communicate with her by e-mail, though they were living in the same house,” according to the report. His mother had friends who had never met her son, and he refused to take behavior-modifying medication that had been recommended. But she never feared him, and there’s no evidence that anyone had any real warning of the carnage to come.

And Lanza clearly had his quirks. He liked to play the video game Dance Dance Revolution and “was particular about the food that he ate and its arrangement on a plate in relation to
other foods on the plate.”

Lanza, according to the report, “disliked birthdays, Christmas and holidays,” which his mother explained by saying he “had no emotions or feelings.”

Sandy Hook Final Report by Alex Fitzpatrick