Medical Examiner: Newtown Shooting Victims Suffered 'Devastating Set of Injuries'

Officials during a press conference shared some harrowing details of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the nature of gunshot wounds.

Update 6 p.m.

NEWTOWN, CT—Minutes before releasing a heart-wrenching list of those who perished in Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, state officials reviewed some of the harrowing, gruesome details of what appears to have happened inside an elementary school where 20 children and six adults were shot dead by a lone gunman who then killed himself.

Responding to difficult questions posed by a national media corps that descended just one day earlier on this normally quiet town about 60 miles northeast of New York City, the Connecticut chief medical examiner described how and where the bullets entered the children, what the kids were wearing and how he felt about what he’d seen inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know any of my colleagues having seen,” said Dr. H. Wayne Carver II of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where he’s been working for 31 years including 26 as chief.

Carver said he saw no difference in the pattern of shooting deaths between children and adults inside the school.

The weapon used primarily in the shootings was a long rifle, Carver said, and victims young and old were shot “all over” with some at close range and some not.

“I only did seven of the autopsies, the victims I had ranged from three to 11 wounds apiece and I only saw two of them with close range shooting,” Carver said.

The shooter who wielded that gun—discovered dead inside the building Friday with a rifle and two smaller guns near his body, police have said—has been widely reported to be Adam Lanza, 20. His motives remain unclear; state police are investigating.

Carver said he would complete autopsies on the shooter and the shooter’s mother, widely reported to be Nancy Lanza of Sandy Hook, on Sunday morning.

All bodies were removed from the school before dawn Saturday and transported to the medical examiner's base in Farmington—about 40 miles away. The children’s autopsies were performed first so that their bodies could be made available to funeral directors “for obvious reasons,” Carver said.

Asked whether the shooting victims at the school suffered, Carver responded: “To best of my ability to answer that question, which is always less than perfect: If so, not for very long.”

The graphic, detailed information seemed to fly in the face of a more private tone that Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra was trying to set when she preceded Carver at the podium.

Calling Newtown a “close-knit community” whose heart is broken in the wake of a “horrendous tragedy,” Llodra called for media members to respect the privacy of residents, including those grieving for lost loved ones.

“Please treat our community with kindness,” Llodra said. “Please know that we have suffered a terrible loss and we need your respect on this healing journey.”

Carver called the injuries to shooting victims “a very devastating set.”

Relatives identified their loved ones not in person but by photos taken of the victims’ faces, Carver said.

“We did not bring the bodies and families into contact, we took pictures of them, of their facial features,” he said. “It’s easier on the families when you do that. There is a time and place for up close and personal in the grieving process but to accomplish this we felt it would be best to do it this way.”

At one point a reporter asked Carver what the children were wearing, to which he replied: “They were wearing cute kids’ stuff. I mean they’re first-graders.”

Carver also was asked whether he became emotional among the bodies of so many victims, mostly children, and told the corps “Not yet.”

“I think if you don’t’ have to do that, you shouldn’t be in this business,” he said. “For this one, not yet. Notice I said ‘yet.’ “

Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police echoed Llodra’s imploring for privacy, reminding people as he had at an earlier press conference that a state trooper has been assigned to each individual family of the victims. One new piece of information that Vance supplied in response to a reporter’s question was that investigators found no evidence of an altercation in the school involving the gunman.

Update 10:40 a.m.

NEWTOWN, CT -- Though the gunman’s motive remains unclear, some pieces of the timeline, emergency response and ongoing investigation into Friday’s horrifying shooting came into focus Saturday morning as state police addressed media members at a park near Sandy Hook Elementary School.

All 20 children and six adults who died as a result of wounds suffered at the Newtown school have been identified by family members, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said.

Those families are going through “a very difficult and trying time,” Vance said, pleading with the media to respect the survivors’ wishes for privacy. A list that names the deceased will be made available as soon as the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has finished its work. Vance said that the bodies inside the school all have been transported to that office—located in the Hartford suburb of Farmington, about 40 miles from Newtown.

It isn’t clear when the elementary school will reopen. Vance said investigators likely will be on scene for another one to two days. The superintendent of schools in Newtown is expected to address the media Saturday, Vance said.

Echoing what Newtown police told Patch Saturday morning, Vance said investigators are working hard to try and establish the gunman’s motive. Until that investigation is complete, Vance said, no information about its details will be released.

“I have to tell you that there are certain things, that there are simply cards we are holding close to our chest,” he said.

Also echoing Newtown police, Vance confirmed that the gunman appeared to have forced his way into the school by shooting through glass to breach a secure, locked system.

Vance said that “good evidence” was recovered at the school as well as a Sandy Hook home where a woman whose son is believed to be the shooter was found dead Friday.

Multiple news outlets citing police sources have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza as the gunman. According to NBC News, three weapons used in the shootings—two 9 mm handguns and a rifle—were legally purchased and registered to Lanza’s mother.

“[The school and home] did produce evidence that investigators are able to use,” Vance said.

Vance confirmed that all three weapons were located near the shooter by police responding to the scene Friday.

First responders to the school encountered “several students and staff suffering from gunshot wounds,” according to a press release issued by the state police.

On- and off-duty troopers and Newtown Police Department officers responded to what the world quickly learned was a horrifying, unimaginable scene following a 9:30 a.m. 911 call reporting a possible shooting at the school, Vance said in the press release.

“Upon arrival, teams of Troopers and Officers formed ‘Active Shooter Teams’ and immediately entered the school,” Vance said in the release. “Teams performed rescues of students and staff, removing them to a safe location as they searched for the shooting suspect within the building. The building was evacuated and students walked hand in hand out to a safe location.”

The shooter, whose identity police have not yet confirmed, was found dead inside the school, Vance said. Police have said the gunman shot himself.

Multiple media outlets have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza as the gunman. Vance also confirmed that a relative of the gunman was found dead at a residence in Sandy Hook. That deceased person is believed to be Lanza’s mother, Nancy. Nancy Lanza, originally reported to be a teacher at the school, is not in fact a teacher there, according to CNN.

In all, 27 people were killed, police said, including 20 children. Among the adults killed were the school’s beloved principal and psychologist.

The identities of all victims have been established, Vance said. Families of those killed have asked that no media members press them for interviews, Vance said.

The bodies of those that perished have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner, which is located in Farmington—a suburb of Hartford about 40 miles away.

“State Police Major Crime Investigators are continuing to process the school crime scene, gathering evidence and documenting the entire facility,” Vance said in the press release. “State Police Detectives assisted by Newtown Detectives processed the interior and exterior crime scene. Teams of investigators flooded the community and followed each lead, developing extensive information.”

In addition to the support for families themselves, Vance said, a crisis intervention team is being made available to the larger Newtown community. That team can be reached at 203-270-4283, Vance said.

Original Story

Newtown residents reeling from the massacre of 26 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school Friday are facing questions as they wake up to a living nightmare about the gunman’s motive, weapons and just what happened.

Police are expected to hold a press conference at 8 a.m. and have said that they are “working backwards” to piece together the “why” behind the mass shooting in this normally quiet area. A town of about 27,000, Newtown is 45 miles southwest of Hartford, or about 60 miles northeast of New York City. A 12 p.m. Saturday prayer service is scheduled for St. John's Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook, a neighborhood of the town. 

Newtown police Lt. George Sinko, the department’s public information officer, told Patch Saturday morning that investigators have no sense of what prompted the gunman to act.

“There is no sense of motive at this time,” Sinko said.

Though Connecticut State Police have declined to identify the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, several news outlets citing police sources have identified 20-year-old Adam Lanza. According to NBC News, three weapons used in the shootings—two 9 mm handguns and a rifle—were legally purchased and registered to Lanza’s mother, whom police say was found dead at her Sandy Hook home.

Parents of schoolchildren at the scene Friday told Patch that the school was locked and that visitors need to be buzzed in. Sinko said Saturday that the gunman appeared to have blasted his way inside.

Police radio dispatches aired by CNN reveal harrowing early communications to emergency responders who arrived at the elementary school around 9:40 a.m. Friday.

"Caller is indicating she thinks that someone is shooting in the building," a dispatcher says. "The front glass has been broken. We are not sure why."

And later: "All units, the individual that I have on the phone is continuing to hear what he believes to be gunfire. Units are responding to Sandy Hook School at this time. The shooting appears to have stopped. The school is in lockdown."

According to Sinko, the gunman shot out glass next to the front door of the school.

“We say that because the window next to the door was shattered. We are still investigating," Sinko said.

Sinko said investigators are sorting through a “tremendous amount of evidence,” adding that police are looking for no other suspects than the suspected gunman who also was found dead inside the school.

Much of the investigators’ work involves checking motor vehicles, Sinko said.

Sinko said that police are not releasing the names of the suspect or children killed.

Patch will update this article with new information from state police and other officials throughout Saturday.


More links to Newtown Patch’s coverage here:

  • Reaction: Sandy Hook School Shooting
  • Police Raid Sandy Hook Home Hours After Shooting
  • [PHOTOS] Newtown School Shooting


Richard May December 15, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Terribly sad! Makes you want to weep.
Chris Noe December 15, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Suicide is s crime with few criminal convictions. If we legalize suicide let's consider the benefits. Job creation: It would create a reality show named Suicide. "Contestants" who averted death would be compensated handsomely. Guys like this would create their legacy without killing others as they passed over Niagra Falls in a pickle barrel.
Chow mein December 15, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I am very disappointed in Patch in its inappropriate coverage of this tragedy. Morbid curiosity as to the life story of the murderer and news media coverage is a primary motivator for a majority of these insane terrorists. They want their causes and gripes aired! Furthermore, guns are not the problem, as proof, please consider that domestic and international terrorists have used guns, airliners, arson, car and truck bombs, poison gas, etc. to kill people. Think. Yes, take remedial and preventative measures, harden the schools, but deny these terrorists a soap box. Black out these news stories starting now and ending never.
Sheila December 15, 2012 at 08:11 PM
We see violence everyday. We are taught violence, dysfunction and immorality daily in just about every program we see on Television these days and call it "entertainment." We watch in ignorance and blindly watch our children being taught "normal." Yet, we are surprised when this kind of evil happens. We can watch a persons head being blown off in a movie,(because it's exciting and thrilling?), knowing it is wrong, we condone it! What have we become? Yes, what have we become? We can physically dissect and rip apart a child from the safest place in the universe, a mothers womb ... and call it compassion? The right to choose life for another human being who God the creator, Created. He said He knew us even before we were formed in our mothers wombs. He knew every circumstance in which we would all be conceived, yet we become our own Gods and decide the worth of human life. Pregnancy is not an accident! Itmeans things were working correctly!! It's in the design! We wonder how a 20 year old could snap and take what he has seen happen, what he has learned in movies and video games and act it out in real life. I'm am surprised we don't see more of this! If we don't not ammend our ways, if more of us keep silent as we watch evil take over our world, we are in for more than this demonic crime. God have Mercy!
Chow mein December 15, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Hi Sheila, I agree with you regarding morality and the lack thereof. But, the fundamental problem with arguing from a religious viewpoint is that it offends everyone who does not belong to the same religion as yourself. I do not believe in the sanctity of churches, because the same churches that take the high ground against abortions today, tortured and killed off the greatest scientific minds of the dark and middle ages as heretics and burned innocent women as witches just a couple of hundred years ago. The fact that the death penalty is okay but abortion is not should lead one to question the sanity of church doctrine. What good is forcing unwilling mothers into having unwanted children? This policy was necessary in the past to continually "grow the flock" necessary for the growing the economic, political and military power of the church. Why does it make any sense today? In the end, it is safe to bet that this massacre was perpetrated by someone with an unhappy childhood.
Remy Harlinger December 15, 2012 at 11:06 PM
What exactly has been inappropriate with Patch's coverage? What was different about Patch's coverage than any other media outlet? Are we not supposed to try and learn why the murderer committed these acts? It's not simply "morbid curiosity"...I'd like to think most of us don't give two sh*ts about his life story, but we would like to know WHY he did what he did and what drove him to it. Perhaps knowing these things can prevent this from happening again. And if this guy wanted a soap box, he would have written a suicide note stating EXACTLY why he did this. Your point about guns is somewhat legitimate, though I may not necessarily 100% agree with you. But saying the media should black out these stories is neither realistic nor helpful.
Lauren December 15, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Lets keep the abortion issue for another day. That being said, a lot has changed in the church since the dark ages; we are no longer burned at the stake for non belief in fact churches are more open-minded than ever (I belong to a congregational church so maybe this is a bit biased). I think that the church, as a whole, is a safeground for many folks who need a place to go to in times in distress. I don't think that making an argument based on religious beliefs is any different than making a purely scientific argument. Different beliefs, different opinions. Not meant to offend anyone - just voice thoughts.
Sheila December 16, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Chow mein, we have all heard it before, that we may offend those that are not Christian and do not believe. It's best to be quiet, silent about the truth. No ones feelings get hurt. Thank God they didn't do that 2000 years ago or we wouldn't have a church. As far as the statements you made regarding church history, they are false to a significant degree. There are many recorded inaccuracies out there. There is scandal and there will always be. Where there is good, there is evil ready to pounce. In the past 40 years, life, "normal" has been redefined. Satan has moved like the Pied Piper...from every direction and most of us have followed him. To make any "sense" we have to first stop and remove the veil from our eyes. I did not make the rules of the game, He did, and we have simply chosen not to follow... yea, it's the "my way" attitude .. the happily going to hell way. This now common accurance of random shooting, killing sprees, demands our attention. Each and everyone of us needs to do our part.
Sheila December 16, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Hi Lauren. The problem is ... most of us keep silent. Our Christianity demands more and God expects it. We must try to do our part however little that may be most times ... and even if it's going to offend someone. Jesus did the same thing... and was crucified. Out of the worse death known to man, came the greatest gift to all of us. We are small voices individually, but together, we become loud. Voicing the truth, and if I do offend anyone, ... well, maybe I planted a seed? :)
Ava December 16, 2012 at 09:19 AM
I'm with you Sheila, need the word of God coming!! This world needs it a lot . May god bless you and be with you through this, do not listen to anybody who's against god, our god is our "Daily Food" ! His name should be saying all the time, and we "His Children" should be proud and preach his name to this worldly kind people's ! They don't know where their lives are taken them, but for Christian people's this world is only temporally :-) God bless you Sheila
Jim Eastwood December 16, 2012 at 09:27 AM
To All Right or wrong this incident happened. It very well could have happened in Fairfield. So Right Now, Our thoughts and Prayers(No matter what your beliefs) Must be with the Families,First responders and the Community of Newtown. May we ALL learn from this Tragic Incident, re instill our Family Values, be a little bit Nicer to each other, an SUPPORT, SUPPORT and SUPPORT our neighboring Town. Learn from this !!!!!
Daniella Ruiz December 16, 2012 at 01:40 PM
lets not blur the issue too far here. it is far too easy to remind people of other means of death, and forgo any actual remedy for the immediate cause of Adams actions. one killer does not represent all the ills of our complex society, the obvious inadequacies it presents or any of the side effects of attaining social ideals. until people accept that there are different ways of thinking, reacting, and behaving there will be constant finger-pointing and social distress. acceptance of mercy is admirable, perhaps something we all need to display throughout our daily humdrum lives. media has exploited our worst fears, amplified our worst hysteria and run off, laughing at us, to the bank with our money. at least the church was better organized to redistribute the taken wealth it garnered from their followers. (you get my drift i'm sure of that!)
Daniella Ruiz December 16, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Daniella Ruiz 8:40 am on Sunday, December 16, 2012 lets not blur the issue too far here. it is far too easy to remind people of other means of death, and forgo any actual remedy for the immediate cause of Adams actions. one killer does not represent all the ills of our complex society, the obvious inadequacies it presents or any of the side effects of attaining social ideals. until people accept that there are different ways of thinking, reacting, and behaving there will be constant finger-pointing and social distress. acceptance of mercy is admirable, perhaps something we all need to display throughout our daily humdrum lives. media has exploited our worst fears, amplified our worst hysteria and run off, laughing at us, to the bank with our money. at least the church was better organized to redistribute the taken wealth it garnered from their followers. (you get my drift i'm sure of that!)
Sheila December 16, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Thank you Eva. This world has abandoned God in so many ways and because of it we have fallen into an ayiss of sin. We no longer know what sin is. Evil is now taught as good. The 10 commandments mean nothing to many of us. The masses are confused. Just like it was 2000 years ago, many chose to worship everything but God Almighty. God sent His son to show us the way and for a long time, they did. Think of how different it was just 40 years ago.. As we progressed we slowly bowed down once again to the things of the world and have been swept down a river of deceit and deception. Sometimes it seems as if satan is winning, but we know better. We have to spread the Good News and as St. Francis said, "Preach the gospel always ... and if necessary, Use Words. We show our greatest love in how...the way...we live our lives. God Bless You Eva +
Sheila December 16, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Jim, You are right, it could have happened anywhere, ..and it does. Yes, we have to come together as a community and support Newtown and all those efflicted by this demonic crime. We must pray, pray, pray for the families and offer our help in whatever way we can. Secondly, we need to be a voice for change. It is you and I that can make it happen.
Lorna December 20, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Get off your G-damn soapbox! Do you realize that our planet is already over-populated? How can you possibly equate the horrific events of Sandy Hook E.S. with heart-wrenching decisions to end pregnancies? I think you need mental counseling as much as Adam Lanza did.
Sheila December 27, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Lorna, What I stated is truth. Common sense to Christians, to those that are not, I don't expect you to understand. How does one explain love, it is difficult but by showing it to all you give it to all. To throw insults because of my belief in God and HIS plan for the world, not ours, is telling. Your beliefs are different than mine, but I am glad I am on the side of the fence I am on. I can also prove to you our planet has room for many more ... or science, and God are liars. I can send you a couple sites that prove this if you like. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you Lorna. May 2013 be one of Love, Peace, Joy and Prosperity for you and yours. Sheila
steambc March 05, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Sheila, I'm 100% in support of your expressed thoughts. We live in a time where the God of the bible, who is the very definition of goodness and mercy, is an offense to so many who declare themselves to be their own moral agents, i.e. their own "gods". As you mentioned, anything under the sun is ok to worship in today's society, as long as it's not the living God, who is an offense to them because they resent anwering to a higher moral authority. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof leads to death" Proverbs 14:12 God has been summarily kicked out of school and is now being kicked out of all other parts of society. Little wonder we see today the disintegration of family and of respectful behavior toward one another. Society objects to killing children outside of the womb, but encourages it inside the womb. It's so much less visible that way. Our children are taught that they "evolved" from primitive forms, as if this were some kind of fact. When great, great, great grandfather was nothing more than an amoeba, it's very difficult to value life, isn't it?


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