Sandy Hook School Shooting & More Campus Rampages (Photos)

From Sandy Hook to Virginia Tech, the worst school shootings since the Columbine massacre.

Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee, via AP

Sandy Brook Elementary, 2012

When alleged gunman Adam Lanza, 20, opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut the world watched in horror. With an estimated 26 people confirmed dead—including 20 children—it is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The outbreak brings back chilling memories of similar school shootings that have rocked the nation through the years. From Columbine to Virginia Tech, here is a look back at the worst incidents in recent history.


Mark Duncan / AP Photos

1. Chardon High School

In the early hours of February 27th, a young man at Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio, walked into his cafeteria and began shooting. Firing into the crowd, his shots ended the lives of three, and seriously injured two. Witnesses quickly identified the shooter, who attempted to escape to his car following the incident as a schoolmate, 17-year-old T.J. Lane. On Dec. 31, 2011, Lane posted a rhyming rant on his Facebook profile, in which he describes “a man with a frown” who is consumed with resentment and ruminates about conducting a massacre. Lane, who turned 18 shortly after, was tried as an adult and convicted of three-counts of aggravated murder. Killed in the attacks were Demetrius Hewlin, 16, Russell King Jr., 17, and Daniel Parmertor, 16.


Laura Rauch / AP Photo

2. Columbine High School, 1999

In 1999 two teenagers killed 12 students, a teacher, and themselves in a shooting rampage at Columbine High School outside Denver. Though it wasn’t the first major school shooting in the U.S., it was considered at the time to be the worst, covered extensively in the media and broadcast on live television. The killings sparked a national debate over bullying, as many initially believed the killers were outcasts teased by other students, who were then targeted on an “enemies list.” The U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Education Department began studying school shooters after the incident, and in 2002 presented research that found most shooters were either depressed or felt persecuted. But in the years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the fatal attacks, psychologists have found that neither one was bullied. The “enemies” on their list had actually graduated from the school a year earlier, and the boys had in fact planned to kill thousands in a large terror plot that devolved into a shooting spree when the bombs they carried into the school cafeteria proved to be faulty. Harris, who schemed the attacks, is described in the book Columbine as an intelligent and charming liar with a “grand superiority complex, a revulsion for authority and an excruciating need for control.” Klebold was allegedly extremely depressed and suicidal.

Nick Ut / AP photo

3. Santana High School, 2001

While the Columbine killers didn’t fit the “persecuted” mold of the typical school shooter, 15-year-old Andy Williams did. A freshman at the suburban Santana High School near San Diego, Calif., Williams would often tell students who teased him that he would shoot them with his father’s gun. “Everybody would just laugh and tell him to shut up,” a friend told the Los Angeles Times after the incident. In March 2001 Williams, with his father’s .22-caliber revolver, loaded his gun in the boys’ bathroom. He shot dead two students and wounded 13 others before taking a bullet to his own head.

John Miller / AP Photo

4. University of Arizona, College of Nursing, 2002

A student flunking out of the University of Arizona nursing school stormed into a lecture hall in October 2002 and fatally shot two of his professors. Robert Flores, 41, was enraged that his professors had banned him from taking a test and acted on his aggression during the exam. He then asked the students to leave the room before turning the gun on himself. The rampage began earlier, when Flores entered the College of Nursing and shot another professor in her office before making his way to the exam hall.

Ann Heisenfelt / AP Photo

5. Red Lake High School, 2005

The shooting massacre at Minnesota’s Red Lake High School in 2005 was the deadliest since Columbine, leading many in the community to blame others for not keeping a closer watch on the troubled teen who murdered seven people and wounded five others before killing himself. Jeffrey Weise, 16, often showed his classmates disturbing pictures he had drawn of skeletons or guns or people with bullet holes in their heads. Weise was a Native American who described himself as a “NativeNazi.” Other students picked on him for his bizarre behavior and appearance (he was fascinated with Goth culture and wore a black trench coat to school every day). It was later discovered that he actively posted on neo-Nazi online forums, admitting to a “natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations.” On another forum, Weise wrote that he had friends but was “basically a loner inside a group of loners.” Two years before the shootings, he had written a graphic story detailing a scene of carnage at a school

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

6. West Nickel Mines School, 2006

One of the most disturbing school shootings in recent years occurred in October 2006, when a crazed gunman killed five girls and critically wounded five others at a one-room Amish school house in rural Pennsylvania. Charles Carl Roberts IV, a local milk-truck driver, arrived at the school with a checklist that included tape, eyebolts, a hose, bullets, guns, binoculars, earplugs, flashlights, wood, and candles—many of which were checked off when the list was found. Holding a 9mm handgun, he ordered the male students and a female teacher to leave the classroom before lining his 10 victims—all girls between the ages of 6 and 13—up against the chalkboard. When police arrived on the scene, Roberts began shooting at the girls and then shot himself. In a suicide note to his wife, Roberts wrote that he was haunted by dreams of molesting children. Incidentally, police found KY lubricant jelly on the scene of the crime, though there were no signs that any of the girls had been sexually assaulted.

Alan Kim, The Roanoke Times / AP Photo

7. Virginia Tech University, 2007

The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre—the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history—was a painful reminder of the Columbine shootings and ignited another national debate over a number of social and legal issues, including dealing with mental illness on campuses. The nightmare began when Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old English major at Virginia Tech, shot dead two people at a school residence hall with a 9mm pistol and a .22-caliber handgun early one morning in April. Several hours later, Cho opened fire in several different classrooms of the school’s engineering building on the opposite side of campus, killing 30 and wounding 25 others before ultimately shooting himself in the face. In the time that elapsed between the two attacks, Cho sent a package to NBC News containing an 1,800-word rambling manifesto, photos of himself holding weapons, and 27 QuickTime video files, in which he referenced the Columbine shooters (“martyrs like Eric and Dylan”), compared himself with other martyrs like Christ, and talked extensively about his hatred of the wealthy. Newsweek speculated that the photos may have been inspired by the film Oldboy. It was later revealed that Cho had suffered from various forms of mental illness since he was a child, but that federal privacy laws prevented Virginia Tech from learning about his past when he was admitted to the school.

Jim Killan, Northern Star / AP Photo

8. Northern Illinois University, 2008

A former student at Northern Illinois University, Steven P. Kazmierczak returned to his alma mater on Valentine’s Day in 2008 armed with three handguns in his coat and a shotgun hidden in a guitar case. Dressed in black, Kazmierczak stepped out from behind a curtain of a large lecture hall, fired roughly 30 shots in the audience and then took his own life. Six out of the 22 people shot died, while the others sustained injuries. Kazmierczak, who had a history of mental illness, was studying to get his master’s in social work during the time of the shootings. One of his professors described him as “the most gentle, quiet guy in the world.” School officials later learned Kazmierczak’s behavior had been erratic in the weeks leading up to the shootings, as he had refused to take his medication.

Tim J. Mueller / AP Photo

9. Louisiana Tech University, 2008

The shootings at NIU occurred just a week after another fatal attack at the Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge, when Latina Williams shot two other female students and then committed suicide.

Butch Dill / AP Photo

10. University of Alabama, 2010

Amy Bishop, a Harvard-trained biology professor at the University of Alabama, was charged with murder after killing three fellow biology professors and injuring three other school employees in a shooting spree at the school’s Huntsville campus in 2010. Bishop, who fatally shot her brother in 1986, pleaded insanity at a 2011 hearing for the University of Alabama murders and is scheduled to go on trial again this March.