7 Revelations From the New Report on the Sandy Hook School Massacre

Newtown shooter Adam Lanza had studied previous school killings and only communicated with his mother by e-mail, despite living in the same house

  • Share
  • Read Later
Adrees Latif / Reuters

New Jersey resident Steve Wruble grieves for victims of an elementary-school mass shooting at the entrance to Sandy Hook village in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 15, 2012

Nearly a year after a mass shooting left 26 people dead at a Connecticut elementary school, a newly released report about the gunman responsible is the most detailed description to date of one of the worst shootings in American history.

The investigation, conducted by state’s attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III, does not answer why 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed first his mother and then 20 children and six adults before killing himself at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But it provides a lens into the young man’s world and the tragic day last December.

Here are some of the report’s most significant takeaways:

1. Lanza tampered with his hard drive. 

The report says in a footnote that an unreadable computer hard drive means that “potentially important evidence” is missing. The report says the hard drive “appeared to have been intentionally damaged” and notes that reading any of the data on it “appears highly improbable.” Separately, an Xbox 360 game console was “found to be damaged and inoperable,” although the report makes no mention of tampering.

2. He acted alone.

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. Moreover, none of the evidence developed to date demonstrates probable cause to believe that any other person conspired with the shooter to commit these crimes or aided and abetted him in doing so.

3. Lanza had a troubled relationship with his mother.

The shooter’s mother said in November 2012 that she and her son only communicated by e-mail despite living in the same house. She was not allowed in his room, and some witnesses told investigators that the shooter “did not have an emotional connection to his mother.”

But the mother also cared extensively for her son and told people that she decided not to work so she would have more time to take care of him. She did his laundry every day — he reportedly changed clothes often — and she prepared food according to his specifications. Other witnesses said they thought she “was the only person to whom the shooter would talk,” the report says. The shooter’s estranged father and brother, who both cooperated with the investigation, had not had contact with him since 2012 and 2010, respectively.

4. He was interested in other school shootings.

Investigators found among Lanza’s digital and physical possessions: photocopied newspaper articles about an 1891 shooting of schoolchildren, an article about a 2008 school shooting at Northern Illinois University, a spreadsheet of past mass murders, a five-second video dramatization of children being shot, material about the 1999 Columbine shooting, material about and advocating rights for pedophiles (but no child pornography), and a computer game titled School Shooting, in which the gamer controls a character who shoots at students in a school. Lanza also participated in online message boards about school shootings and was in possession of images relating to suicide, including images of himself holding guns to his head.

5. Lanza was not on medication.

The report says investigators “found no evidence to suggest the shooter had taken any medication that would affect his behavior.” According to the report, the shooter refused to take medications that were suggested for his mental health.

6. Heroes at the school saved lives.

The school’s staff acted to keep children calm — including by having them read or draw pictures — and saved lives, the report says. Here’s the account of one unnamed staff member:

One staff member heard a loud crashing noise and ran toward the front lobby. As the staff member got closer, bullet holes could be seen and gunpowder smelled. Realizing what was going on, the staff member immediately called 911, turned and went back down the hall from where the staff member had come. During the incident, while staying on the line with the 911 operator, this staff member sent other staff to their rooms or had them stay in their rooms, and this staff member went about locking doors. The staff member remained in the hallway on the telephone with the 911 operator until the police arrived.

7. Police responded quickly.

The first police arrived at the school less than four minutes after the first 911 call was received. Police entered the school building less than six minutes later. The shooter killed himself within five minutes of the first 911 call. From the moment he entered the school until he killed himself, less than 11 minutes passed.