An unlocked gun safe was in Newtown, Connecticut, shooter Adam Lanza’s bedroom, along with what the search warrants unsealed Thursday describe as an “Adam Lanza an National Rifle Association certificate.”
There also was “one holiday card containing a Bank of America Check #462 made out to Adam Lanza for the purchase of a C183 (firearm).”
There also was a “Sandy Hook report card Adam Lanza,” suggesting that the 20-year old had remained fixated on his elementary school long after leaving it.
“The school was Adam Lanza’s life,” a witness is quoted saying.
Among the newer items found during the search was “one digital image print of a child and various firearms.” There were also three photos of what apeared to be a bloodied dead body, covered with plastic. And there was a newspaper clipping about the Valentine’s Day 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University in which five students were killed.
The gunman in that case, Steven Kazmierczak, had removed the hard drive from his computer before setting out. Lanza’s 500-gigabyte Seagate Barracuda hard drive was found smashed atop his desk, though he had left behind seven journals containing writings and drawings, which have been given to the FBI for examination.
The witness—whose name was redacted in the unsealed documents—was also quoted describing Lanza as a “gamer” and a “shut-in” who spent much of his time engaged in such virtual killing games as Call of Duty. Investigators found a gaming console in his room, along with an Xbox 360, a Sony PlayStation 2, and an iPhone.
In a file-cabinet drawer, investigators found a 10-round magazine that Lanza had not bothered to take along. He clearly had bigger mayhem in mind when he set out for Sandy Hook Elementary School with 10 30-round magazines and a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle that the search warrants describe as a “military-style assault weapon,” along with two semiautomatic handguns and a shotgun.
He had also left behind a .22 rifle, which was found in the master bedroom, where his 50-year-old mother, Nancy Lanza, was found with a bullet wound to the forehead. A blue folder found in the house marked “GUNS” contained receipts and “firearm related paperwork.” All the weapons had been purchased in the mother’s name. A white plastic bag was found to contain what are described as “handwritten notes reporting the address of local gun shops,” along with a Garmin GPS and papers for her two vehicles.
Among the mother’s papers was her own NRA certificate and a receipt from Tin Star Shooting Range in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Her books included a manual for the Bushmaster along with the NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting and a paperback titled Train Your Brain to Get Happy, with various pages marked.
There were two books from which the mother apparently sought guidance regarding her son’s troubles: Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s and Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant.
There was a “handwritten note pad with what appear to be to-do lists for Nancy Lanza for December 14 though December 20.” December 14 was the morning her son shot her in the head.
That was also the day Lanza set out, clad in a bulletproof vest and a “military-style uniform,” leaving a similar outfit and hundreds of rounds of ammunition as well as various swords and knives in his room.
At the school, he emptied 3 magazines completely, leaving his 26 victims with as many as 11 gunshot wounds. Either because his weapon jammed or because he was overexcited, he ejected 3 more magazines when they still had 10, 11, and 13 rounds, respectively.
All told, he expended 154 rounds, killing 20 small children and 6 adults. The Bushmaster had 1 round in the chamber and 14 rounds in the magazine when he took his own life with one of two handguns he carried. A shotgun with two magazines containing 70 rounds was found in the black Honda he parked in the fire lane at the school entrance.
“It is currently estimated that the time from when the shooter shot his way into the school until he took his own life was less than five minutes,” the Connecticut state’s attorney’s office said in a statement accompanying the release of the search warrants.
The news that Adam Lanza had an NRA certificate is sure to further deepen the anger of many Newtown residents toward the organization, which recently began making robocalls to area residents asking them to oppose gun-control measures being considered by the Connecticut Legislature.
These residents are sure to be only more determined in their efforts to press not just the state legislature but the U.S. Congress for meaningful measures to prevent such a horror from happening again. A particularly moving and articulate statement was posted on the Newtown Action Alliance Facebook page by a mother of two Sandy Hook kids, a 6-year-old daughter in the first grade and a 7-year-old son in the second grade. Susan Ludwig had just arrived outside the school when the shooting began.
“I was there in the parking lot when all this happened,” Ludwig says. “I was supposed to making gingerbread houses in my daughter’s class. I watched from the parking lot as a police officer carried out the lifeless little body of my daughter’s friend. She looked so much like my daughter I had to look hard to see that it wasn’t. Her long brown hair flowed down and she had a bullet wound on her head and blood all over her midriff. I am told that the first responder who found her looked into her eyes and told her ‘your parents love you.’
“I watched as the sole survivor from one of the classes came out of the school covered in blood and flesh. I watched and waited in that parking lot, begging God that my kids be safe, until they finally came out of the building.
“There were many parents there that day unable to find their children. They live every parent’s worst nightmare every day. The light of their lives has been stolen and my heart is broken. I constantly think about how impossible it must be for them to live their lives now.
“I will never forget when my daughter found out that her best friend had died. She rode the bus everyday with her. I tried very hard those first days to shield my children from the horror of it all. But there was one day that the TV was on for a moment and Grace’s face flashed across the screen. Summer said “Mom, that’s Grace, that’s my best friend Gracie, why is she on TV? She’s okay Mom, right? She’s okay? And I had to tell her no, she’s not okay. I watched as my little girl crumbled, it was like watching a little piece of her soul being torn from her.”
Ludwig notes that there were 400 other children in the school who have been similarly traumatized.
“There are many children who still wake up screaming from the nightmares night after night. Some don’t sleep.”
Ludwig is certain that lives would have been saved Adam Lanza had not been able to get hold of an assault weapon and high-capacity magazines.
“Some kids and teachers might have died, but not 20 ... My daughter might not have lost her best friend. She might not have lost half of her Daisy Troop friends that day. My son might not have lost his swim buddy.”
She goes on, “I want to tell people that it could be your child or my child next time. We need to change the laws. We need to be the ones to make Congress see that the laws need changing. The changes will not bring back the children of Sandy Hook and this breaks my heart, but the changes might save your child one day. Every day that goes by turns my grief and heartache into a fierce determination for change.”
Ludwig’s statement continues with a detailed and devastating analysis of the way the NRA and the gun companies put profits before the lives even of children.
“More guns equals more money equals more death,” she says.
She recalls going to a meeting in Hartford, where an NRA representative said that somebody bent on homicide will do it “even with a hammer.”
“My reply, I have never seen 26 people die by hammer before.”
She identifies a force that may yet prove more powerful than the NRA.
“When I tell you my grief has changed me, what I should be saying is that it has awakened a fierce maternal instinct deep within and if you think I am going to stand by and let you endanger my children again, then you are sadly mistaken.”
The irony is that it was a mother’s tragically misguided desire to give her son confidence and coax him out of his room that apparently led Nancy Lanza to introduce her son to firearms.
The very fact that she and her son were both certified by the NRA seems proof that the organization fails to apprise citizens of the full danger posed by firearms, most particularly by assault riles with high-capacity magazines.
Adam Lanza’s certificate was found in a blue and white duffel bag that also held paper targets he had used to practice his aim and ear protectors he wore at the massacre. The bag was in his bedroom, along with the gun safe his mother had purchased as a precaution. She had then apparently entrusted it to him, likely to give him the sense of responsibility the NRA promises.
“Teaching safe and responsible gun ownership works, and the NRA has a long and proud tradition of it,” the organization’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, told the U.S. Senate a month after the Sandy Hook massacre.
Meanwhile, all was stillness this week beyond the chain-link fence topped by barbed wire that has gone up around the school since the massacre. The grass is beginning to turn green with spring’s arrival, but that only makes the playground equipment more wrenching to gaze upon as it stands so profoundly deserted in the silent stillness.
Just beyond the playground’s edge sat a lone yellow ball, left where it had landed.