Washington/New York, Dec 15: President Barack Obama, a father of two girls, wiped away tears and said “Our hearts are broken today” as the US mourned for the school tragedy that left 28 people dead, even as stunned authorities were trying to figure out what motivated a a heavily armed 20-year-old man dressed in black fatigues and a military vest to shoot so may people, including 20 children, in a Connecticut elementary school.
The children who were killed in Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, about 65 miles north of New York City, were said to be from 5 to 10 years old, according to various media reports. Among the six adults killed were Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s principal, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach.
The shooter, identified by three law enforcement officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also was killed, apparently by his own hand, CNN reported.
A 28th person was found dead in a house in the town and was also believed to have been shot by Lanza. That victim, one law enforcement official cited by the New York Times, was Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, a teacher at the school.
With the death toll at 28, the Newtown shooting is the second-deadliest school shooting in US history, behind only the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that left 32 people, including two Indians dead, and 17 others injured.
Meanwhile, authorities in Hoboken, New Jersey, were questioning Ryan Lanza, the suspect’s older brother, CNN said citing law enforcement sources. Lanza’s father, who lives in Connecticut, was similarly questioned.
“The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” he said and called for preventing similar tragedies “regardless of the politics.”
“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” he said. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
“Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple (gurdwara) in Wisconsin or a movie theatre in Aurora (Colorado) or a street corner in Chicago, these neighbourhoods are our neighbourhoods and these children are our children,” said Obama.
The bodies of the young victims remained where they fell Friday night, as authorities worked to positively identify them.
Flags were ordered to fly at half-staff nationwide in tribute to the victims, and candlelight vigils were planned across the country as Americans came together to try to comprehend the tragedy.
“Evil visited this community today,” Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy said of Friday’s massacre.