Report: Motive in Newtown school shooting may never be fully known

Eleven months after 28 killed in mass shooting, officials say they may never have all the answers

Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims sits at a small memorial near the school on Jan. 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut.
John Moore/Getty Images

Officials have closed the investigation of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, saying in the final report they may never know why the shooter, Adam Lanza, decided to carry out the attack.

Evidence from the investigation shows that Lanza clearly planned the attack, and that he was the lone shooter — but there is little indication of a motive, and the question of why he did it “may never be answered conclusively,” the final report, released by Connecticut's department of criminal justice and compiled by more than 10 state and federal agencies, says.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Lanza killed 28 people, including himself. He first shot and killed his mother while she was sleeping in her bed, then proceeded to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 20 first grade students spread between two classrooms, the principal, school psychologist, and four teachers before taking his own life.

The shooting was over in less than 11 minutes, according to the report, which says that by the time police arrived on scene just minutes after the first reports of a shooting, Lanza had already killed all his victims and himself.

There were early concerns of a possible second shooter in the attack, based on preliminary reports of an unknown male running outside the school at the time of the shooting, as well as reports of the sound of gunshots coming from outside the school. Police also found two black zip-up jackets outside Lanza’s car, along with shell casings outside of the school.

Adam Lanza covered his bedroom windows with black trash bags.

However, officials in the investigation ruled out the possibility of a second shooter, saying Lanza orchestrated the mass shooting on his own, using guns and ammunition that was all purchased by his mother.

The report says that Lanza was “heavily armed,” carrying three guns on his person – a Bushmaster Model XM 15-E2S rifle, a Glock 20, 10 mm pistol and a Sig Sauer P226 9 mm, semi-automatic pistol. An Izhmash Saiga-12, 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun was found in the car.

A fifth gun found at his mother’s home — a Savage Mark II rifle, which was determined to be the rifle that Lanza used to shoot and kill his mother.

Lanza had “significant mental health issues” that “affected his ability to live a normal life,” even amongst his family members, but the mental health officials that saw Lanza said they did not see anything in his behavior that would have tipped them off to the shooting.

He was also obsessed with mass shootings, particularly the April 1999 Columbine High School shooting, but kept plans of his shooting rampage a secret. Lanza kept a spreadsheet of information on mass murders over the years, and also had newspaper clippings from school shootings dating back to 1891.  

Investigators also attempted to search Lanza’s computer hard drive, but were not able to due to what appeared to be intentional damage. Other electronic evidence and digital media recovered outlined Lanza's obsession with mass shootings.

Investigators found bookmarks for websites on firearms, the military, mass murder, ammunition, two videos showing suicide by gunshot, commercial movies depicting mass shootings, a computer game named "School Shooting," in which the player controls a character who enters a school and shoots at the students inside, and 172 screenshots of the game “Combat Arms.”

Adam Lanza kept gun magazines in his desk.

They also found pictures of Lanza holding firearms to his head, pictures of him holding a rifle and shotgun with multiple gun magazines in his pockets, a five second video dramatization showing children being shot and various documents on weapons and magazine capacity.

He also had several violence-themed video games, including “Left for Dead,” “Metal Gear Solid,” “Dead Rising,” “Half Life,” “Battlefield,” “Call of Duty,” and “Grand Theft Auto.”

Lanza’s mother kept several guns in the house, and a search of the home found a check written to Lanza from his mother to purchase a new pistol for Christmas.

The report also revealed aspects of Lanza’s home life, calling the relationship with his mother ‘strained,’ and noted that Lanza covered his bedroom and computer room windows with black trash bags.

The report says Lanza’s mother had grown concerned about him because “he hadn’t gone anywhere in three months,” and “would only communicate with her by e-mail,” despite living in the same house, but noted that Lanza’s mother never showed any signs of fear toward her son.

Lanza wouldn’t allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree, and disliked birthdays and holidays. He also forced her to get rid of a cat.

The state has ruled out any criminal prosecution in the case, the report says, and with the report issued the investigation has been officially closed unless other evidence or information surfaces that would implicate another person who may have assisted Lanza in the shooting spree. Officials do not expect any such information to develop.

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