Newtown Report

We Already Know What Adam Lanza’s Real Motive Was at Sandy Hook

Monday’s report doesn’t conclusively name a reason for the shooting last December, but we know why Adam Lanza was at the elementary school: He wanted to shoot kids.


So maybe 20-year-old Adam Lanza was a kind of pedophile whose idea of having sex with kids was to shoot them.

A hint at that is in the report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders released on Monday by the Connecticut state attorney’s office in Danbury.

Among the items the report says detectives found in Lanza’s room were “materials regarding the topic of pedophilia and advocating for rights for pedophiles.”

The report adds, “Not child pornography.”

But maybe Lanza’s equivalent of kiddie porn was a five-second dramatization of children being shot that was found among this things at home.

He also had a POV video game called School Shooter that allows the player to gun down students with gruesome results.

In the game, the shooter wears fingerless black gloves, just like Dylan Klebold did at the Columbine High School massacre that the report says Lanza was fixated on.

Only Lanza went after much younger victims at Sandy Hook, a choice the report indicates cannot be easily explained by any particular unpleasant experience, real or imagined, that Lanza seems to have had when he was at student there.

In preschool before he arrived at Sandy Hook, Lanza is said by the report to have exhibited such worrisome signs as “repetitive behaviors, temper tantrums, smelling things that were not there, excessive hand washing and eating idiosyncrasies.”

But of his time at Sandy Hook, the report says: “The early school years have him portrayed as a nice kid, though sort of withdrawn. He loved music and played saxophone.”

“He would attend play groups and parties,” the report says.

The report—which calls Lanza “the shooter,” just like in his game—adds, “The shooter indicated that he loved the school and liked to go there.”

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One thing that seems notable in retrospect is the book Lanza made as part of a class project in the fifth grade. He titled it Big Book of Granny. The hero has a cane that is really a gun and uses it to shoot numerous people, children among them.

As he proceeded on to sixth grade and middle school, he was said by a teacher who was interviewed by the detectives to have gotten As and Bs, done his homework, and had at least some friends. He was never in any trouble of note.

The big change seems to have come in the seventh grade. A teacher described him as “intelligent but not normal?” He was said to have had “antisocial issues,” withdrawing and refusing to participate in class. He appeared to have a violent nature. His writing assignments were filled with “a disturbing level” of mayhem, war, and death.

During this same period, his mother, Nancy Lanza, noted that her son had given up sports and stopped riding his bike and climbing trees and playing the saxophone in the school band. He did join the tech club in high school and even had a LEN (pizza and computer games) party at his home.

And while he continued to write about violence, the report notes that he also wrote about “human nature, perception, judgment, morality, lack of control, prejudice, empathy, suicide, mental illness, existential crisis, urban exploration of abandoned areas, hiking and cookies.” He turned unexpectedly lyrical when he was asked to write a poem.

But school was becoming ever more a struggle, and he was becoming ever more withdrawn. The report waxes clinical as it says: “His school issues related to his identified emotional and/or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) spectrum behaviors. His high level of anxiety, Asperger’s characteristics, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) concerns and sensory issues all impacted his performance to a significant degree, limiting his participation in a general education curriculum. Tutoring, desensitization and medication were recommended.”

The report goes on, “The shooter refused to take suggested medication and did not engage in suggested behavior therapies.”

He was extremely picky about what he ate and insisted that foods be arranged in a particular order on his plate. He would only eat certain things with certain utensils. He washed his hands again and again, just as he had in preschool, and he repeatedly changed clothes, leaving his mother to do his laundry every day. Nobody was allowed in his room, where the windows were covered with black garbage bags secured with duct tape.

Deliverymen were asked not to ring the doorbell lest the noise disturb him. He required others to open doors for him because he so abhorred touching the knobs or other metal objects.

“Often going through a box of tissues a day to avoid contact,” the report says.

He also did not like birthdays or holidays, and he refused to let his mother put up a Christmas tree, which she took as a sign that he lacked emotion. He did not like the family cat, so the mother gave it away.

“When the shooter had his hair cut, he did not like to be touched and did not like the sound of clippers, so they were not used much,” the report says. “He would sit with his hands in his lap and always look down, giving one-word answers if the cutter tried to engage him in conversation.”

The mother told people that because her son had Asperser’s he was unable to experience emotion. She asked him if he would feel badly if something happened to her.

“No,” he said.

He had a cell phone, but he neither made nor accepted calls, apparently using it only for emails and texts. He ceased speaking to his mother in person, communicating with her only by email even when they were both in the house.

Oddly, what he did venture out to do, what he apparently loved even more than School Shooter, was a game called Dance Dance Revolution.

From 2011 right up until his final month, he would play an arcade version in a local movie theater lobby on most Fridays and Saturdays, always wearing a specific outfit that featured a gray hoodie, staring at the video screen and moving his feet in time with the flashing lights for hours, showing no sign of fatigue until he was suddenly exhausted.

He kept videos of himself playing Dance Dance Revolution along with the video clip of school kids being shot.

He also had selfies that featured him holding a handgun to his head, holding a rifle to his head, and posing with a rifle and a shotgun, his pockets stuffed with 30-round magazines.

His mother was of the unfortunate opinion that firearms would teach him responsibility and give him confidence. She long been taking him to shooting ranges, and together they had taken the NRA gun safety course. She apparently tried to impart a little holiday spirit in him when she wrote him a check dated “Christmas Day” of 2012 and bearing the notation “CZ83,” meaning for a CZ83 pistol.

She remained an unshakably devoted mother and made sure to cook his favorite meals to get him through her absence as she embarked on December 10, 2012, for a three-day trip to see family in New Hampshire. He bumped his head before he left and it bled a bit, but she could not have taken it as a portent. He seemed fine when she departed.

He had bought himself a GPS, and investigators say it shows he drove in the vicinity of Sandy Hook Elementary School on the afternoon of December 13. His mother returned home around 10 p.m. that night.

She was in bed the next morning when Adam Lanza entered with the one kind of object he apparently had no trouble touching: a firearm. He placed a .22 caliber rifle to her head and curled his finger around the metal of the trigger four times.

“Someone in the area reported hearing ‘two or three’ gunshots in the neighborhood between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m,” the report says. “That person thought them to be from hunters, though the person indicated the shots did ‘sound unusually close.”’

Lanza then set off with a Bushmaster assault rifle, two pistols, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, all of it having been purchased by his mother. He does not seem to have been propelled by some monstrous psychosis as had apparently driven the Washington Navy Yard shooter.

“It is important to note that it is unknown, what contribution, if any, the shooter’s mental health issues made to his attack,” the report says. “Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.”

But there is a suggestion of a blindness on the part of the investigators along with the mental health folks when the report says, “He was undoubtedly afflicted with mental health problems; yet despite a fascination with mass shootings and firearms, he displayed no aggressive or threatening tendencies.”

How can a fascination with mass shooting and firearms not be a predicator of somebody using a firearm to perpetrate a mass shooting?

A fascination with guns almost has to be sexual on some displaced and pathetic level—Freud was only wrong about women. And Lanza proved his predilection by his actions in the same way as any pedophile, by targeting children.

As the otherwise insightful report notes, he does not seem to have gone to the school seeking vengeance for some long-ago wrong. The report adds, “He was never assigned to the classrooms where the shootings occurred.”

He was there because he wanted to shoot kids. He began by killing the 47-year-old principal, Dawn Hochsprung and the 56-year-old school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, because they came into the hallway after he shot his way in through the locked front doors with eight rounds.

In Classroom 10, he began by shooting the teacher, Victoria Soto, to get her out of the way. Six-year-old Jesse Lewis was standing next to her and was apparently grazed in head by a bullet fragment, but he stayed on his feet, facing the gunman. Lanza was proceeding to do what he really wanted, to kill children, when the rifle jammed.

Jesse could have used this moment to try to save himself, but he was the kind of kid who always imagined himself a peacekeeper and protector when he played soldier, sometimes patrolling his family’s yard in a plastic helmet, other times arranging his toy troopers in the bathtub to protect the rubber duckies. His mother, Scarlett Lewis, would later note in her fine book, Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness, that he had inscribed “I love you” along with several hearts in the frost on the car door when he left for school that morning. He now called to nine children who were on the other side of the classroom, holding hands.

“Run!” he told them.

The others dashed out of the room to safety just as Lanza got the gun cleared. Lanza then shot Jesse in the forehead. Lanza also killed behavioral therapist Anne Marie Murphy, firing through her to kill the child she was trying to protect with her body in her own display of remarkable courage. Lanza killed three more youngsters there.

In Classroom 8, he killed the teacher, Lauren Rousseau, and her assistant, Rachel D’Avino, along with 15 youngsters, riddling them with bullets. Investigators recovered 80 spent shell casings from Classroom 8.

The 49 expended rifle shell casings back in Classroom 10 were joined by a single shell casing from a Glock semi-automatic pistol as Lanza placed it to his head just like in the selfies and took his own life as the first police officers arrived at the school. He was found to have 253 live rounds on his person. The rifle was found nearby, one end of the sling having become detached from the butt. The safety was set to “fire.”

As for the shooter, “He was wearing a pale green pocket vest over a black polo style short sleeve shirt over a black t-shirt. He had yellow colored earplugs in each ear. He was wearing black cargo pocket pants, black socks, black sneakers, a black canvas belt and black fingerless gloves on each hand.”

The gloves were just like those Dylan Klebold had worn at Columbine High School. The difference was that this was at an elementary school.

“The obvious question that remains is: ‘Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?’” the report says. “Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively.”

One thing is for sure. The motive must have had something to do with the age of most of the victims.

Ultimately, it had to be about kids.