The suspect in the Connecticut school shootings that killed 26 people is 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, and his younger brother is being held for questioning as a possible second shooter, a law enforcement official said Friday. The law enforcement official says the boys’ mother, Nancy Lanza, worked at the school as a teacher and is presumed dead.
The official also said Ryan Lanza’s girlfriend and another friend are missing in New Jersey.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the suspect is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.
According to the official, the suspect drove to the scene of the shootings in his mother’s car. Three guns were found at the scene — a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols — and a .223-caliber rifle. The rifle was recovered from the back of a car at the school. The two pistols were recovered from inside the school.
The dead included 20 children and six adults. The gunman was also dead.
President Barack Obama held a news conference in Washington this afternoon. “They had their entire lives ahead of them,” Obama said. The president ordered flags flown at half staff.
The shooting appeared to be the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
There were unconfirmed reports of a second shooter after witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots fired.
Sandy Hook Elementary School teaches children from kindergarten through fourth grade, roughly ages 5 to 10.
“It was horrendous,” said parent Brenda Lebinski, who rushed to the school where her daughter is in the third grade. “Everyone was in hysterics – parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don’t know if they were shot, but they were bloodied.”
Television images showed police and ambulances at the scene, and parents rushing toward the school. Parents were seen reuniting with their children and taking them home.
“This is going to be bad,” a state official told Reuters, requesting anonymity because the scope of the tragedy remained uncertain.
The shooter, an adult, was dead and two handguns were recovered from the scene, NBC News reported without citing a source.
Lebinski said a mother who was at the school during the shooting told her a “masked man” entered the principal’s office and may have shot the principal. Lebinski, who is friends with the mother who was at the school, said the principal was “severely injured.”
Lebinski’s daughter’s teacher “immediately locked the door to the classroom and put all the kids in the corner of the room.”
Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner. His daughter was fine.
“It’s alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America,” he said.
The superintendent’s office said the district had locked down schools in Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City. Schools in neighboring towns also were locked down as a precaution.
State police said Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m. A SWAT team was among the throngs of police to respond.
Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.
“Everyone was just traumatized,” he said.
A girl interviewed by NBC Connecticut described hearing seven loud “booms” as she was in gym class. Other children began crying and teachers moved the students to a nearby office, she said.
“A police officer came in and told us to run outside and so we did,” the unidentified girl said on camera.
Connecticut State Police said its officers were at the scene with local police but provided no additional details. The emergency call to police occurred at 9:41 a.m., state police said.
Newtown, with a population about 27,000, is in northern Fairfield County, about 45 miles southwest of Hartford and 80 miles northeast of New York City.
Sandy Hook is one of four elementary schools in the district.