While authorities and the public try to sort through the shock of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, family members and friends of the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, are trying to fathom what made the honor student tick.
Neighbors and classmates describe him as quiet and kind. A mild-mannered teenager, he was an honor-roll student who kept to himself. Alex Israel, a classmate of Lanza’s at Newtown High School, told CNN affiliates that he was a genius:
Alex Israel was in the same class at Newtown High School with Adam Lanza, who lived a few houses down from her.
“You could definitely tell he was a genius,” Israel told CNN, adding she hadn’t talked with him since middle school. “He was really quiet, he kept to himself.”
Even Lanza’s former bus driver weighed in, saying that she never had an inkling that he’d ever be responsible for the horrific massacre at the elementary school where he allegedly previously attended.
Marsha Moskowitz, told CNN affiliate WABC that he was “a nice kid, very polite” like his brother.
“It’s a shock to even know (the family),” she said. “You can’t understand what happened.”
A former classmate told CNN affiliate WCBS that Lanza “was just a kid” — not a troublemaker, not anti-social, not suggesting in any way that he could erupt like this.
“I don’t know who would do anything like this,” the classmate said, before walking away distraught. “This is unspeakable.”
But that account of Lanza, a soft-spoken, scholarly student, isn’t the man that the world seen yesterday.
Lanza would walk into Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, dressed in battle-black fatigues and a military vest. He was carrying two high-powered handguns; a Glock and Sig Sauer. Witnesses said the shooter didn’t utter a word. The New York Times reports say that principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was fatally injured in the shooting, buzzed Lanza into the school because she recognized him as Nancy Lanza’s son. Conflicting reports say that his mother was either a teacher or a teaher’s aide at the school. The web of connections has yet to be confirmed.
Then, in an event that would be quick but also one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, he would unleash his rage on a two classes of children, ages 5-10, then on a number of adults before turning the gun on himself.
Later, authorities discovered that he had also shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the face. Her body was discovered much later while police were trying to collect clues from the Lanza home.
In all, Lanza would shoot and kill 28 people. Twenty of those were children. And he would leave millions in the nation shocked, disheartened, and sad.
But where did Lanza go wrong? When did the honor-student who grew up in a picturesque Connecticut home decide he wanted to take away the lives of innocent children and the adults who were trying to protect them?
CNN reports that Lanza had no previous criminal record. A booklet from Newtown’s Bennetts Farm neighborhood indicated that Lanza had moved to Connecticut from New Hampshire with his parents and his older brother Ryan. He was a fan of video games, soccer and skateboarding. He seemed by all accounts, a “regular” kid.
But in September of 2009 when Adam was 17-years-old his parents divorced. Peter Lanza, his father, got remarried. And not much else is known about how that affected both Adam or Ryan.
However, Ryan Lanza, who was previously suspected to be the gunman in conflicting reports earlier that day, told the New York Post a very different account of his brother. He said that Lanza did indeed suffer from autism and a personality disorder. Reports are saying that Lanza might have Asperger’s, a highly-fucntional form of autism. And a woman whose college-age son knew the killer and remembered him for his alternative lifestye said that she remembers Ryan calling his brother “a nerd.”
Catherine Urso also said this about Lanza:
‘He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths.”
Adam Lanza belonged to a technology club at Newtown High School that held ‘LAN parties’ – short for local area network – in which students would gather at a member’s home, hook up their computers into a small network and play games.
Lanza’s aunt, Marsha Lanza, defended her nephew and his otherwise “alternative” lifestyle. After Ryan’s allegations that Lanza suffered from mental illness, Marsha Lanza had this to say to an Associated Press affiliate:
Lanza’s aunt, Marsha Lanza, said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who would not have hesitated to seek mental help for him if he needed it. Marsha Lanza described Nancy Lanza as a good mother and kind-hearted. If her son had needed counseling, ‘Nancy wasn’t one to deny reality.”
Reports are conflicting, with another relative to the family saying Adam Lanza as not well and that he was, in fact, “troubled.” The relative even described Nancy as being rigid and at times, overbearing.
Authorities have yet to confirm nor deny any reports about Adam Lanza as of yet. While the incident is still being investigated, it’s not clear whether the community, nor the nation, will ever be able to figure out what made Adam Lanza take the lives of so many innocent people.