Funerals Begin for Victims of Connecticut School Massacre
A mournful procession marches into a second day in Connecticut with a third child’s funeral in Newtown, where a shooter killed 20 elementary-school students and six adults last week.
Jessica Rekos, 6, will be buried today, according to the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association. Services were yesterday for two other children slain in the Dec. 14 rampage by Adam Lanza, 20, a local man who used a semiautomatic rifle to kill 27, including his mother, before taking his own life.
Governor Dannel Malloy was among those who gathered yesterday under rainy skies to bury 6-year-olds Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto. Both died in the hail of gunfire from the Bushmaster AR-15 weapon used by Lanza as he invaded their school. More burials of children and adults killed in the incident will take place tomorrow and later this week, the funeral directors said.
“You see those little coffins and your heart has to ache,” Malloy said yesterday in a Hartford news briefing.
Noah, the youngest victim, loved animals and video games and would have been “a backbone of our family for years to come,” his uncle Alexis Haller said in a eulogy distributed by the Associated Press. He was the son of Lenny and Veronique Pozner, according to an obituary. Jack, a sports fan and the son of Dean and Tricia Pinto, brought to all who knew him “a joy whose wide reach belied his six short years,” according to his obituary, published in the Danbury News-Times newspaper.
“There are no words to describe what it’s like to see those parents,” Malloy said of the victims’ families.
Funerals will be held tomorrow for students Caroline Previdi, Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, and Victoria Soto, 27, a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher, the funeral directors said. More services will take place later in the week.
Malloy broke down in tears when recalling how he informed parents that their children had been among the victims just hours after the incident unfolded. The state will observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 21, when churches and other houses of worship will ring their bells 26 times, he said.
Investigators are working around the clock to interview witnesses and collect evidence from the two crime scenes -- the school and the Lanza home, where Adam fatally shot his mother, Nancy, 52, in her bed -- in search of a motive.
“The answers are for the poor victims, the families, the people of Connecticut and the need to know and see the clear picture as to exactly what happened here,” State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said in a briefing for reporters.
Memorials dot the landscape of Newtown, a community of 28,000 about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of New York City, now branded by the rampage as a symbol of American gun violence. One display of 26 wooden angels has turned into a pilgrimage site, about a half-mile from the school.
At a weekend memorial service at Newtown High School, President Barack Obama spoke of a community’s immeasurable pain and the nation’s sorrow after meeting with families of those slain. His visit marked the fourth time during his presidency he has gone to a city to console relatives after a mass shooting. At least seven mass murders in the U.S. -- killings of four or more people -- have claimed at least 65 lives this year.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” Obama said. “These tragedies must end.”
All the Newtown school victims were shot more than once, and some as many as 11 times, according to the state’s medical examiner. The children -- 12 girls and eight boys -- were all 6 or 7, and all the adults, the oldest of whom was 56, were women.
It was the deadliest U.S. massacre since 33 people died in a 2007 rampage at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia.
The firearms Lanza used belonged to his mother, who was the first to die, according to a law-enforcement official who asked for anonymity because of a continuing investigation.
It may be weeks before authorities release results of the official investigation. Meanwhile, family friends and acquaintances began filling in details on the life of the killer and his family.
Adam Lanza lived with his mother even as his parents shared joint legal custody under a 2009 divorce agreement, according to court records. He was on medication, Louise Tambascio, a friend of Nancy Lanza’s for 12 years, told CBS Corp. (CBS)’s “60 Minutes.” The mother didn’t work and home-schooled her son, she said.
Ralph Strocchia, 17, who lives about a quarter-mile from the family home, recalled Adam riding the school bus as a high-school senior. The popular kids sat in the rear, and Lanza wasn’t among them, he said.
“He didn’t talk,” Strocchia said. “Nobody knew him well.”
Newtown school personnel monitored Adam beginning in his freshman year after he stood out as “unusually withdrawn and socially maladroit,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
“At that point in his life, he posed no threat to anyone else,” said Richard J. Novia, the director of security for the schools at the time, according to the newspaper. “We were worried about him being the victim or that he could hurt himself.”
Lanza attempted to buy at least one gun before the shooting, said a federal law-enforcement official who asked for anonymity because the investigation was continuing. He didn’t have any prior brushes with the law and detectives haven’t found any current connection between Lanza and the school, Vance said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg amplified his call for new and tougher gun laws alongside 39 gun-violence survivors and dead victims’ families at City Hall yesterday. Videos describing their heartbreak were to be sent to U.S. members of Congress.
Bloomberg, 70, co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, said Congress should ban assault weapons, prohibit sales of armor-piercing bullets and expand gun-purchasing background checks to cover the 40 percent bought in private shows. “With a stroke of the pen,” Obama could appoint a director for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a post vacant for the past six years, Bloomberg said.
“Being consoler-in-chief is part of his job, but his main job is being commander-in-chief,” Bloomberg said. “Gun violence is a national epidemic, and a national tragedy, that demands more than words.”
The American public views the Newtown tragedy differently than it has others, with 47 percent of 746 adults polled from Dec. 14-16 calling it a societal problem, up from 24 percent in a survey following the slaying of 12 people in a Colorado movie theater in July, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
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