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Connecticut school shooter used assault rifle, had many bullets

December 16, 2012|By Tina Susman and Richard A. Serrano
  • Residents of Newtown, Conn., try to comfort each other during a vigil.
Residents of Newtown, Conn., try to comfort each other during a vigil. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca…)

NEWTOWN, Conn. – School shooter Adam Lanza carried hundreds of bullets when he shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and used an assault rifle to do most of the killing, authorities confirmed Sunday.

Lanza, 20, fired a Bushmaster .223 semiautomatic rifle to kill many of the 20 children and six adults at the school Friday, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said. He used a Glock 10-millimeter handgun to shoot himself in the head. He also carried at Sig Sauer pistol. A shotgun, the type of which was not identified, was found in the trunk of Lanza’s car outside the school.

“The Bushmaster was used in the school, in its entirety, and [a] handgun was used to take his own life,” Vance said.

PHOTOS: Shooting at Connecticut school

Shortly before bursting into the school, Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, 52, in the head multiple times, according to autopsy reports released Sunday. Authorities did not say what type of gun Lanza used on his mother. She was shot in her family home, authorities said.

The four weapons were recovered at the school. Vance also said Lanza had multiple high-capacity magazines for the rifle, each with 30 rounds, and multiple magazines for both handguns with “hundreds of bullets."

Law enforcement sources have said the weapons were registered to Lanza's mother. Some who knew her said she was comfortable using guns and kept several in the house.

FULL COVERAGE: Shooting at Connecticut school 

The autopsy reports on the shooter and his mother were released by Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II, who said earlier that all the children, ages 6 and 7, had been shot multiple times in two classrooms.

Vance said investigators are tracing the history of the weapons and all the ammunition that was used, “back to their origin.” He said that police do not yet have a motive in the mass shooting and that it’s “going to take many, many man hours to attempt to draw this picture, to put this puzzle together.”

"For us to be able to give you the summary of the motive, we have to complete the investigation; we have to have the whole picture to say how and why this occurred,” Vance said, referring to the Connecticut State Police, the lead agency in the investigation. “There are weeks worth of work left for us to complete this.”

Investigators have “executed numerous search warrants” and have obtained a “great deal of evidence” that still needs to analyzed, he said. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the seizures. Some of the children may have to be interviewed as part of the process, he said.

As the state and federal investigation widened, officers led by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were canvassing scores of gun shops, shooting ranges and other facilities.

According to law enforcement officials, more than two dozen officers are knocking on store doors, serving search warrants and reviewing video surveillance recordings in the immediate area around Newtown as well as other parts of Connecticut.

Authorities, speaking anonymously because the investigation is ongoing, said they believed Lanza inquired at a Connecticut store about purchasing a “single-action long gun” as recently as several days before the shooting rampage but was turned away because he did not have a permit to possess a firearm. That is a more basic firearm normally used for hunting, in contrast to the high-powered, rapid-fire, military-style semiautomatic weapons he brought to the school.

“It's a lot of work for us,” one official said. “But it's important.”

Federal law enforcement officials said Lanza damaged his computer and hard drive, but the bureau's laboratory in Quantico, Va., could still manage to recover details about his Internet activity in the days and weeks before the shooting.

Officials said Sunday that school reopening plans are  up in the air.

Lt. George Sinko said it was uncertain whether children ever would return to the two classrooms where the killings occurred. “It's too early to say, but I would find it very difficult for them to do that,” he said.

Arrangements were underway for some children to report to another elementary school in Newtown when classes resume.

“We want to keep these kids together,” Sinko said, explaining that officials hoped children who were moved to new schools could stay with their classmates.

“We want to move forward very slowly and respectfully,” he added, explaining why it was expected to take so long to interview surviving children.

At the news conference, Vance also said the FBI had been asked to help investigate false information posted on social media sites that included “some things in somewhat of a threatening manner” and some purported to be messages from the shooter or others involved in the incident.

“There are quotes by people who are posing as the shooter.... Suffice it to say, the information has been deemed as threatening,” he said.

tina.susman@latimes.com

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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