Adam Lanza, who killed 20 first-graders and six educators at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school last year, was obsessed with the April 1999 shooting at Columbine High in Colorado, according to a prosecutor’s report.
There was no evidence of a motive in the rampage, Stephen Sedensky III, the state’s attorney for Danbury, said in the report released today, almost a year after the Dec. 14 shootings. Lanza had “significant mental health issues” that kept him from living a normal life, though practitioners who saw him had no indication he would kill, according to the report.
“He had familiarity with and access to firearms and ammunition and an obsession with mass murders, in particular the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado,” according to the report. “Investigators, however, have not discovered any evidence that the shooter voiced or gave any indication to others that he intended to commit such a crime himself.”
Until today’s report, investigators hadn’t provided details on Lanza’s mental-health records, the police response to the shooting and clues to a motive. Sedensky is fighting in court to keep recordings of the 911 calls from being made public.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought international attention to the town of 28,000 about 78 miles (126 kilometers) northeast of New York City. It led states from California to New York to tighten gun regulations. A similar push by President Barack Obama, which included help from parents of the slain children, failed by six votes in the U.S. Senate in April.
In Newtown, the day of the deadliest U.S. massacre since the 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech University is remembered simply as 12/14 -- in the way that 9/11 has become shorthand for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Residents seeking to move beyond the shooting voted last month to demolish the elementary school in Sandy Hook, a village that’s within Newtown’s jurisdiction. A new school building will be built on the site. Students have been attending class in neighboring Monroe.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said he hopes the report will help prevent similar acts of violence.
“If there is one thing I believe we must do, it’s that we must honor the lives that were lost by taking steps to protect ourselves from another horror like this,” Malloy said in a statement.
In March, Sedensky said the Bushmaster .223 caliber model XM15 rifle used by Lanza had a 30-round capacity magazine. The 20-year-old shooter used a single shot from a Glock 10mm handgun to kill himself before police arrived and had a 9mm Sig Sauer P226 handgun with him, Sedensky said. It took Lanza less than five minutes to shoot his way into the school and fire 154 shots from the Bushmaster on his way to gunning down the children, the staff and finally himself, Sedensky said.
The guns, which also included a 12-gauge shotgun found in Lanza’s car, were all purchased by Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, Sedensky said in the March statement, when warrant returns were unsealed in court. Lanza killed his mother in their home before heading to the elementary school.
Today’s report sketched a picture of a young man diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder in 2005 who, starting in seventh grade, withdrew from playing baseball, soccer and the saxophone. After showing signs of the social impairments and extreme anxiety associated with the disorder, Lanza refused medication and therapy.
In the house he shared with his mother, the windows were taped and covered with black trash bags in Lanza’s bedroom and a computer room on the second-floor, the report said. Investigators found a spread sheet of mass shootings over the years, and materials that indicated the obsession with Columbine. That shooting on April 20, 1999, left 12 students and a teacher dead. The two student shooters also killed themselves.
On computer hard drives and memory cards, investigators found pictures of people killing themselves with guns and rifles. They also found evidence of a computer game titled “School Shooting” having been played. In the game, a player controls a character who enters a school and kills students.
On the weekends, Lanza would go to a local movie theater, sometimes with an acquaintance, and play “Dance Dance Revolution” for four to 10 hours at a time, the report said. The game requires participants to press on pads with their feet to follow dance moves on a screen. He would routinely wear a grey hooded sweatshirt and black slacks for the outings.
“The shooter had stamina for DDR and never appeared winded unless really exhausted,” an acquaintance told law-enforcement officials, the report said.
After a snowstorm in 2011, Lanza stopped going to the theater to play the game, it said. When he returned in February 2012, he seemed more anti-social and no longer played the game with others, according to the report.
Later on in high school, teachers described him as increasingly withdrawn, though there were no signs he was bullied. His mother told acquaintances that he wouldn’t touch door knobs and was obsessed with changing his clothes.
“It is important to note that it is unknown, what contribution, if any, the shooter’s mental-health issues made to his attack,” the report said.