WASHINGTON – The man suspected of killing his mother and then gunning down more than two dozen people Friday at the Connecticut elementary school where she taught may have suffered from a personality disorder, law enforcement officials said.
Adam P. Lanza killed his mother at their home before driving her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School with three weapons – two handguns and a .223-caliber rifle – and carrying out the massacre and killing himself, officials said. Investigators were trying to learn as much as possible about the 20-year-old and questioned his older brother, who is not believed to have any involvement in the rampage.
A really rambunctious kid, as one former neighbor in Newtown, Conn., recalled him, adding that he was on medications. He was a son of an accountant and a schoolteacher.
So far, authorities have not spoken publicly of any possible motive. Witnesses said the shooter didn’t utter a word.
His parents, Nancy and Peter Lanza, separated about a decade ago, and his mother, a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook, remained in the family’s home with her sons, Adam and Ryan Lanza, according Ryan Kraft, now 25, who was a neighbor.
The separation hit the children hard, Kraft recalled.
When Nancy Lanza would go out to dinner with friends, she sometimes relied on Kraft to watch Adam Lanza, who was too boisterous for Ryan Lanza to manage. “He would have tantrums,” Kraft said. “They were much more than the average kid.” Yet he was not prone to violence, Kraft said.
“The kids seemed really depressed” by the breakup, Kraft said of the Lanza brothers. Ryan Lanza, 24, now lives in Hoboken, N.J. He was questioned by police Friday, but law enforcement officials said he was cooperating and is not suspected of having anything to do with the shootings.
Adam Lanza and his mother, Nancy, lived in a well-to-do part of Newtown, a prosperous community of 27,000 about 60 miles northeast of New York City.
A grandmother of the suspect – who is also the mother of the slain teacher – was too distraught to speak when reached by phone at her home in Brooksville, Fla.
“I just don’t know, and I can’t make a comment right now,” Dorothy Hanson, 78, said in a shaky voice as she started to cry. She said she hadn’t heard anything official about her daughter and grandsons. She declined to comment further and hung up.
Ryan Lanza told authorities that his brother was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and be “somewhat autistic”
Ryan Lanza had been extremely cooperative and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records. Ryan Lanza told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.
Brett Wilshe, a friend of Ryan Lanza’s, said he sent him a Facebook message Friday asking what was going on and if he was OK. According to Wilshe, Lanza’s reply was something along the lines of: “It was my brother. I think my mother is dead. Oh my God.”
Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School, and several local news clippings from recent years mention his name among the school’s honor roll students.
A neighbor in Newtown, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from monthly get-togethers that the neighborhood women had a few years back.
“She was a very nice lady,” Cullens said. “She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person.”
Cullens recalled that Lanza liked to garden and to make her house look nice for the holidays. Lanza joked, though, that no one noticed because the house was out of view, up a hill, she said.
For several hours Friday, authorities and the news media misidentified the shooter as Ryan Lanza, who, like his father, is an accountant, a law enforcement official said.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a friend of Ryan Lanza’s as saying that Lanza works for Ernst & Young. “He [is] a little shy, but very nice and sweet,” the friend, Katie Colaneri, 24, of Hoboken, told the Journal.
Nancy Lanza put the best face possible on her domestic troubles, the former neighbor said. “Nancy was really pleasant,” Kraft said. “She would come by the house and have a glass of wine with my mom.” The couple’s divorce was finalized in 2009, according to court records.
Beth Israel, who lived for a time on the same street as the Lanzas, recalled Adam Lanza as withdrawn, but not threatening in any way.
“Overall, I would just call him a socially awkward kid, I don’t know, shy and quiet. Didn’t really look you in the eye,” Israel said in a telephone interview Friday night. “Just kind of a weird kid, maybe. I can’t tell you any specific incidents why [I thought so],” she said.
Peter Lanza, a vice president and tax specialist at GE Energy Financial Services, is remarried and lives in Stamford, Conn., according to the Stamford Advocate. When he arrived home Friday and was approached by a reporter, the newspaper reported, he appeared “surprised and horrified” and declined to comment on the mass shooting.
A woman who is a close friend of Peter Lanza’s became highly emotional in a brief telephone interview Friday. “His son was doing wonderfully,” she said of Adam Lanza. “This is inconceivable. Peter adores his children. His son was doing so well.”
Sandeep Kapur, who lives two doors down from the Lanza family in Newtown, said he did not know them and was unaware of any disturbances at the Lanza house in the three years that he and his family have been in the neighborhood.
He described the area as a subdivision of well-tended, 15-year-old homes on lots of an acre or more, where many people work at companies like General Electric, Pepsi and IBM. Some are doctors, and his next-door neighbor is a bank CEO, said Kapur, a project manager at an information technology firm.
“The neighborhood’s great. We have young kids, and they have lots of friends,” he said. “If you drive past this neighborhood, it gives you a really warm feeling.”
–The Washington Post contributed to this report.