(EDITOR’S NOTE: With respect to the victims’ families, the Daily News has purposely chosen to not name the perpetrator who committed this atrocious crime. Naming the perpetrator of such an act, in our view, gives the perpetrator the notoriety they were seeking.)
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A man killed his mother at home and then opened fire Friday inside the elementary school where she taught, killing 26 people, including 20 children.
The 20-year-old killer, carrying two handguns, committed suicide at the school, bringing the death toll to 28, authorities said.
The shooting, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead in 2007.
“Our hearts are broken today,” a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain his composure, said at the White House. He called for “meaningful action” to prevent such shootings. “As a country, we have been through this too many times,” he said.
In West Virginia, state officials released statements regarding the event.
“As parents, Joanne and I are deeply saddened today by the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “This is a tragic and senseless act. We ask all West Virginians to keep these families and this community in your thoughts and prayers during the very difficult days ahead.”
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (both D-W.Va.) echoed Tomblin’s words:
“Let us join as a nation to console the families of those lost and those affected by today’s once unthinkable tragedy,” Rahall said. “With prayer and a reliance on the Almighty, we seek to comfort and help bring peace to their lives.”
“As parents and grandparents, Gayle and I can’t begin to imagine the pain and grief the families must be going through,” Manchin said. “All we can do – along with all West Virginians – is offer our thoughts and prayers that the families can find some peace and comfort within themselves, from each other, their communities, this nation and from God above.”
Police shed no light on the motive for the attack on two classrooms. The perpetrator was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.
Panicked parents looking for their children raced to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, a prosperous New England community of about 27,000 people 60 miles northeast of New York City. Police told youngsters at the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school to close their eyes as they were led from the building.
The president issued a proclamation for all U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff at the White House, all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions, as well as all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations until sunset on Dec. 18.
Tomblin ordered, in accordance with Obama’s proclamation, all U.S. and state flags at all state facilities be displayed at half-staff as a mark of respect for the victims.
A glassy-eyed Obama said that “we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
“The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” Obama said, pausing for several seconds to keep his composure as he teared up and wiped an eye. Nearby, two aides cried and held hands as they listened.
“They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
“This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another,” Obama said. “But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans. And I will do everything in my power as President to help.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.