A heavily-armed gunman opened fire inside a U.S. elementary school, killing as many as 26 people, including 20 students during a Friday-morning spree that left the country again shaken by gun violence.
State police confirmed the shooter was found dead inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, following the morning attack. The school hosts about 600 students between five and 10 years of age.
The shooter was identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. According to CNN's latest news, the shooter killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home before driving to the school to begin his shooting spree there. The initial reports suggested that Nancy had an affiliation to the school, but Newtown's education officials have since said that they had found no link between the mother and the school. Investigators believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there on Friday.
"According to sources, Lanza shot his mother in the face, then left his house armed with at least two semi automatic handguns...wearing a bullet proof vest," ABC News reported.
According to the Canadian Press, the shooter might have suffered from a personality disorder. So far, authorities have not spoken publicly of any possible motive. They found no note or manifesto, and Lanza had no criminal history. Witnesses said the shooter didn't utter a word.
Lieut. Paul Vance has confirmed that 18 children were killed inside the school and two more were later pronounced dead at a hospital. Six adults and the shooter were also found dead.
Reports suggest two handguns and a .233 Bushmaster were recovered. According to the Associated Press, Lanza's older brother Ryan, 24, is being held by police for questioning. He is not believed to have any involvement in the rampage.
More on the Newtown tragedy:
- Full coverage: Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut
- Harper calls school massacre 'senseless violence'
- Photos from the school
- Video: Obama: 'Our hearts are broken today'
- Video: Parent: A powerless and terrifying feeling
- Raw video: Gunman killed at the scene
- Raw video: Footage from the scene
There were conflicting reports surrounding the identity of the shooter throughout Friday. Early reports had wrongly identified the suspected shooter as the older brother Ryan.
An emotional President Barack Obama addressed the shooting on Friday, saying the country has “endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years”.
“They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, weddings, kids of their own,” Obama said through tears, according to the Washington Post. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
Vance told reporters that state police was notified of the attack sometime after 9 a.m. Local and state police rushed immediately to the scene and swept the building. The entire school was searched through the morning as students were evacuated.
Video and images take at the scene showed the terror of the moment, as adults led long lines of terrified children out of the school to safety. Parents rushed to the scene to reunite with their children as police crews, including SWAT teams and K-9 units, combed the schoolyard.
"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."
[ Related: Kids describe their escapes ]
The school's principal and psychologist were also among the dead, according to a CNN report.
Stephen Delgiudice, the parent of a student at the school, told CBS News that it appears the shooting began in the principal's office. His daughter told him that part of an argument was broadcast over the school's intercom before the shooting began.
The Associated Press called it the second-deadliest school shooting in the nation's history.
Earlier this year, a gunman opened fire in an Oregon shopping mall, killing two people and himself. Twelve others were shot and killed during a midnight screening of the Batman movie. Fifty-eight others were injured.
With files from Reuters, the Canadian Press