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Once inside, he had a choice to make. He turned left

  • Article by: EDMUND H. MAHONY and DAVE ALTIMARI
  • Hartford Courant
  • December 16, 2012 - 5:42 AM

NEWTOWN, CONN. - Adam Lanza blasted his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He fired a half-dozen rounds from a semi-automatic rifle to open a hole big enough to step through in one of the school's glass doors.

Once inside, he had to make a choice. Principal Dawn Hochsprung's office was straight ahead. To the right, 25 or so children were rehearsing a play in the cafeteria. To his left were the first-grade classrooms.

Lanza turned left.

It was about 9:40 a.m. Friday. In just minutes, Lanza would kill 26 people in the country's second-largest mass killing. Dead were 20 children, four teachers, the school principal and a school psychologist. Earlier in the morning, Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy, perhaps the only person with whom he was socially engaged. He shot himself as police arrived, sirens wailing.

Several sources in law enforcement and elsewhere provided Saturday what they said was the most current information on how the events leading to the school shootings unfolded.

On Friday morning, as Lanza turned left, Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach, shocked by the sounds of gunfire and shattering glass, bolted into a corridor from a conference room across the hall from the classrooms.

He shot them with the rifle.

The first classroom that Lanza reached was that of teacher Kaitlin Roig, who had hidden her students in a bathroom and closed her door. For reasons that could not be explained, Lanza walked passed.

The classroom he chose to enter was substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau's, where he proceeded to systematically shoot everyone inside -- the 14 children who investigators believe were huddled and clutching one another in fear, Rousseau and a special education teacher in the room. Rousseau was filling in for the regular teacher, who was out on maternity leave. She had been teaching there for six weeks.

"There were 14 coats hanging there and 14 bodies. He killed them all," a law enforcement officer said.

Lanza next arrived at teacher Victoria Soto's classroom. Soto is believed to have hidden her 6- and 7-year-old students in a classroom closet. When Lanza demanded to know where the children were, Soto tried to divert him to the other end of the school by saying her students were in the auditorium.

But six of the children tried to flee. Lanza shot them, Soto and another teacher. Later, in their search for survivors, police found the remaining seven students hiding in the closet. They told the police what happened.

The intense violence lasted about 10 minutes. Lanza fired at least three, 30-round cartridges with deadly accuracy. Two of the people he shot survived.

Mary Ann Jacob, a library clerk, had 18 fourth-graders with her in a classroom when they heard shooting over the school's intercom system.

She said, "I called the office because I thought it was a mistake and that they didn't realize the intercom was on. The secretary answered and she said there's shooting. So we yelled 'lockdown' in our room and then ran across the hall and yelled 'lockdown' in the classroom across.

"I don't think until we opened the door and there were 15 state cops with these gigantic guns and federal agents escorting the kids out that they really realized what was going on."

Art teacher Leslie Gunn said she was beginning a sculpture class with 23 fourth-graders when the shooting began. Shaking, she dialed 911 frantically but was unable to get through to the police. Eventually she reached her husband.

"I told him I don't know what is going to happen to us."

A couple of the boys started to cry. "I told the kids something is wrong and we are just going to have to stay here," Gunn said. "I said I love you. And you are all so brave."

They remained in the room for about 15 minutes. They heard someone banging on the door. When she realized it was the police she let them in and spoke to her students. She said, "I told the kids [to] hold each other's hands and not let go."

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