UPDATE: Connecticut officials have confirmed 27 people—including 20 children—died this morning after a lone gunman entered an elementary school and started shooting.
Although media outlets have named the suspect, police officials have yet to release his name, age, or a motive for the attack. Eighteen children and six adults died at the scene. Two more children died at an area hospital. Another adult died at another location near by.
The unidentified shooter walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., a small community about 60 miles northeast of New York City, shortly after 9 a.m. Witnesses described hearing loud popping noises as the gunman fired at students, teachers, and administrators. Adults cowering in nearby classrooms counted as many as 100 shots. Lt. Paul Vance, of the Connecticut State Police, confirmed all of the shooting took place in two rooms, in one section of the school.
School district officials informed parents about the shooting via text message, although they didn’t say where the incident had taken place. Frantic parents quickly converged at a fire station near the elementary school, where almost 600 students between Kindergarten and fourth grade attend classes. Just hours after the attack, Gov. Dan Malloy met with parents whose children had died.
“This is a tragedy of unspeakable terms,” he said. “You can never be prepared for this kind of incident. What happened will leave a mark on this community and every family impacted.”
The first 911 calls started ringing in the Newtown emergency service department at about 9:30 a.m. Local officials quickly requested help from state police. On- and off-duty officers swarmed the wooded campus, entered the school immediately, and began looking for the shooter, Vance said.
Officials confirm the gunman died at the scene but have not said whether he killed himself or was shot by police.
After clearing the building, police set up a perimeter around a house in Newtown. Yellow police tape cordoned off the block, and officers ordered neighbors to evacuate.
During a mid-afternoon news conference President Barack Obama wiped away tears as he described the young children, most between 5 and 10 years old, who died.
“They had their entire lives before them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” the president said between lengthy pauses when only the staccato clicking of camera shutters broke the silence of the White House briefing room.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” he continued. “Each time I react not as a president but as anybody else would, as a parent. That is especially true today. There is not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief I do.”
Although White House staffers warned reporters not to ask any questions about potential policy changes or gun-control laws during the news conference, the president hinted that the shooting might spur legislative action, saying that the country needs to come together, no matter the politics involved, to take meaningful action to prevent similar situations in the future.
Obama ended his remarks by quoting from Psalm 147:3: “May God bless the memories of the victims, and in the words of Scripture, ‘heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.’”
Look for an updated report on the tragedy in Connecticut on Saturday from WORLD’s New York-based reporter Emily Belz.
EARLIER REPORT: More than two dozen people—including as many as 18 children—are dead after a mid-morning shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, an official said.
If the numbers hold true, this will be one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still underway, said the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has been killed and apparently had two guns.
State police said Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m. A SWAT team was among the throngs of police to respond.
A law enforcement official in Washington said the attacker was a 20-year-old man with ties to the school and that one of the guns was a .223-caliber rifle. The official also said that police were searching a location in New Jersey in connection with the shootings. That official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.
The shooter’s motive remains unclear.
Further updates will be posted as the situation develops.