The Newtown Shooter Was Obsessed with Other School Shootings

The Sandy Hook report was released this afternoon by the Connecticut State Attorney's office. 

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Update: The Sandy Hook report was released this afternoon by the Connecticut State Attorney's office. The report, a summary of the police report on the tragedy, confirms that the gunman, who took his own life, acted alone. No criminal charges will be filed as a result of the deadly mass shooting. The report also contains a timeline of events, and confirms that all of the weapons used by the gunman Adam Lanza were legally purchased by his mother, Nancy. According to the report, the time between the first 911 call from the school and the first officer entering the building was six minutes.

Here are some other details from the investigation:

  • For awhile after the shooting, officials searched for a second shooter. It turns out that law enforcement officials detained at least four people near the school as possible suspects: a parent with his cell phone out in the school parking lot, two reports who were found in the woods near the school, and someone from New York who happened to be in town. He heard about the shooting and went over "to see what was going on." 
  • Here's a description of Adam Lanza's room: "The shooter’s second floor bedroom windows were taped over with black trash bags. The second floor computer room also had its windows covered. There, investigators found a computer hard drive that appeared to have been intentionally damaged. To date, because of the extensive damage, forensic experts have not yet been able to recover any information from that hard drive. " 
  • Among the items found in Lanza's room: several video games and relevant materials, including Dance Dance Revolution; a Christmas check from his mom, apparently designated for him to buy a  CZ 83 firearm; a New York Times article on the 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University; photographs that appear to show a dead body; the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, on the 2006 Amish school shooting, and "Photocopied newspaper articles from 1891 pertaining to the shooting of school children;" and a "spreadsheet" documenting and categorizing mass shootings over time. There's also a list of electronic items from seized "digital evidence" belonging to the shooter, which include the computer game "School shooting," images of Adam Lanza holding a gun to his head, and a "large amount of materials relating to Columbine shootings and documents on mass murders"
  • Lanza owned a GPS device, which shows that he took a trip to the vicinity of the school on the day before the shooting. 
  • In November of 2012, Nancy Lanza expressed concern for her son, based on his behavior, which included the fact that "he hadn’t gone anywhere in three months and would only communicate with her by e-mail, though they were living in the same house." That included a period of time after the October 2012 Superstorm Sandy, which left the Lanza home without power. 
  • The total weight of the guns and ammunition carried to the scene by Lanza was 30.47 pounds. 
  • Over the years, Lanza underwent a series of mental health evaluations. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder in 2005. Evaluators noted "he lacked 
    empathy and had very rigid thought processes." It was recommended that he take up medicinal and behavioral therapies, all of which he refused. However, the report makes the following note on the connection between his mental health issues and the events of December 14: 

It is important to note that it is unknown, what contribution, if any, the shooter’s mental health issues made to his attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School. Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see  anything that would have predicted his future behavior.

The report does not answer the question most asked about the actions of Adam Lanza that day: 

The obvious question that remains is: “Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?” Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively, despite the collection of extensive background information on the shooter through a multitude of  interviews and other sources. The evidence clearly shows that the shooter planned his actions,  including the taking of his own life, but there is no clear indication why he did so, or why he targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Original Post: Just weeks before the one-year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, the Connecticut State Attorney's office will release a long-awaited report on the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings. On December 14 of last year, Adam Lanza killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders, at the school, and then shot and killed himself. The report is expected to provide a clearer timeline of events from that day, possibly with some photographs of both the school and Lanza's home.

The release is also one of the first big tests of the state's attempt to manage two, often conflicting, elements of the shooting's aftermath. First: there is the unified demand for privacy from the residents of Newtown and the victims' families. And second: there is the public right to access records from the state, including the worst details of the report itself.

Right now, we still know relatively little about the timeline of events before, during, and after the tragedy. Today's release of the official timeline will do some work to fill in the gaps, but the vast majority of public records on the shooting are still withheld, which has frustrated the state's governor Dannel Malloy. Earlier this month, Malloy told reporters that the report took way too long to come out:

"This has gone on longer than any of us would have liked and certainly is not representative of how I would have handled the timing of this report. It needs to get out. It needs to get out this week; next week; it needs to get out."

Earlier this year, Connecticut passed a law restricting the state's Freedom of Information transparency law, allowing officials to withhold visual images of a homicide victim if those images could "reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the victim or the victim's surviving family members." The law also restricts the release of audio from law enforcement calls in which the condition of a victim is described. Emergency 911 calls are exempted from that restriction. The state created a task force as part of the law to determine further restrictions and revisions to the state's transparency laws. While the restrictions apply to crimes other than the Newtown shootings, they were passed specifically to restrict the release of otherwise public information on the mass shooting.

To prepare family members of Newtown victims for today's report, the state attorney's office consulted with family members on its content. Family members and Newtown residents have provided several arguments against the release of information on the school shooting that would typically be available with other crimes. Those arguments include the young age of the victims, a general sense that the community should be able to recover in private, and a fear that more information on the crime could lead to continued harassment of the family members by conspiracy theorists.

Reflecting that concern for the families, the state attorney's report is more or less a short summary of a longer police report into the tragedy. The procedure is a big change from how public information is usually released following a crime. The full report (in a redacted form) is likely thousands of pages long, and officials probably won't release it until some time next year. The Associated Press has more on how the state has argued for their secrecy surrounding the investigation into Newtown: 

 Sedensky, the state's attorney for the Danbury region, said he was spending roughly half his time on the Sandy Hook investigation between meetings with police and working with victims' families. Victims' relatives have said Sedensky told the families he would do what he could from a legal standpoint to address their concerns about what might be released publicly. One argument raised by Sedensky is that if identities of 911 callers are released, they could be harassed by conspiracy theorists accusing them of being "crisis actors."

The 911 calls from the incident could be released in the coming weeks, since the state's Freedom of Information commission overruled the decision by Newtown officials to keep those tapes private. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.