Seven or younger, all were hit multiple times, Lanza shot to maim
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The gunman in the Connecticut shooting blasted his way into the elementary school and then sprayed the children with bullets, first from a distance and then at close range, hitting some of them as many as 11 times, as he fired a semiautomatic rifle loaded with ammunition designed for maximum damage, officials said.
The state's chief medical examiner, H Wayne Carver II, said all of the 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown had been struck more than once. He said their wounds were "all over, all over".
"This is a very devastating set of injuries," he said at a briefing. When asked if they had suffered, he said, "Not for very long."
The disclosures came as the police released the victims' names. The children — 12 girls and eight boys — were all first graders, between the ages of six and seven. All of the adults killed were women.
On Saturday, as families began to claim the bodies of loved ones, some sought privacy. Others spoke out. Robbie Parker, whose six-year-old daughter Emilie was among the dead, choked back tears as he described her as "bright, creative and very loving". He added, "As we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not let it turn into something that defines us."
Other details emerged about how, but not why, the attack had happened. The Newtown school superintendent, Janet Robinson, said the principal and the school psychologist had been shot as they tried to tackle the gunman. One teacher had helped children escape through a window.
Another shoved students into a room with a kiln and held them there until the danger had passed.
First responders described a scene of carnage in the two classrooms where the children were killed, with no movement and no one left to save.
A spokesman for the Connecticut State Police, Lt J Paul Vance, said investigators continued to press for information about the gunman, Adam Lanza, and had collected "some very good evidence". He also said that the one survivor of the killings, a woman who was shot and wounded, would be "instrumental" in piecing together what had happened.
But it was unclear why Lanza, 20, had done it. A law enforcement official said investigators had not found a suicide note or messages that spoke to the planning of such an attack. And Robinson, the school superintendent, said they had found no connection between Lanza's mother and the school, in contrast to accounts on Friday that said she had worked there.
Dr Carver said it appeared that all of the children had been killed by a "long rifle" that Lanza was carrying — a .223 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle. The other guns were semi-automatic pistols, including a .10 mm Glock and a .9 mm Sig Sauer.
The bullets Lanza used were "designed in such a fashion the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullet stays in", resulting in deep damage, Dr Carver said. As to how many bullets Lanza had fired, Dr Carver said he did not have an exact count. "There were lots of them," he said.
He said that parents had identified their children from photographs to spare them from seeing the gruesome results of the rampage. He said that four doctors and 10 technicians had done the autopsies and that he had personally performed seven. "This is probably the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen."
Only Lanza and his first victim — his mother Nancy — remain to be autopsied. Lanza shot his mother in the face, the authorities said.
It was eerily silent in the school when police officers rushed in with their rifles drawn after the shooting. There were the dead or dying in one section, while elsewhere, those who had eluded the bullets were under orders from their teachers to remain quiet in their hiding places.
The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and the psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, were among the dead, as were teachers Rachel Davino, 29; Anne Marie Murphy, 52; and Victoria Soto, 27. Lauren Rousseau, 30, had started as a full-time teacher in September after years of working as a substitute. "It was the best year of her life," The News-Times quoted her mother, Teresa, as saying.
Soto reportedly shooed her first graders into closets and cabinets when she heard the first shots, and then, by some accounts, told the gunman the youngsters were in the gym. Her cousin, James Willsie, told ABC News she had "put herself between the gunman and the kids".
School officials have said there are no immediate plans to reopen Sandy Hook Elementary. Staff members will gather at the high school on Monday to discuss what happened, and students will be assigned to attend other schools by Wednesday.
Dorothy Werden, 49, lives across the street from Christopher and Lynn McDonnell, who lost their daughter Grace, 7. Werden remembered seeing Grace get on a bus Friday at 8:45 am. Like the rest of the nation, she said, local residents were struggling with a single question: Why?
"Why did he have to go to the elementary school and kill all of those defenceless children?" Werden asked.
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