NEWTOWN, Conn. – Four days before Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage at an elementary school last December, his mother cooked him some of his favorite meals and then left for a three-day trip. He had been refusing to talk to her for three months, communicating with her only by email, although their bedrooms shared the second floor of their home in Newtown.
On the day before the shooting, Lanza, 20, went to the area around the school, Sandy Hook Elementary, his GPS device showed.
However, after an 11-month investigation, the Connecticut State Police could not determine a motive for the attack, one of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings, according to a 48-page report released Monday.
Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary between 1998 and 2003, but the report found that “the shooter indicated that he loved the school and liked to go there.”
The report, which had long been anticipated, was issued by Stephen J. Sedensky III, the state’s attorney in Danbury. It was drawn from the file of the State Police investigation, some 2,000 pages, according to law enforcement officials.
The horror of the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Lanza fatally shot 20 first-graders and six adults, has become part of the national psyche. The report depicts Lanza’s internal life and complicated relationship with his mother, Nancy, in vivid and chilling detail.
Lanza changed clothes so often that his mother did his laundry every day, but she was not allowed to enter his bedroom.
He was enthralled by violent video games, including one called “School Shooting,” but he also played “Dance Dance Revolution” at a local movie theater. Usually dressed in a gray hoodie and slacks, he would play the game, re-creating a dance routine, for four to 10 hours at a time.
His mother, who separated from his father, Peter, in 2001 and lived alone with Adam, was worried about him, saying she could not have a job because he required her constant attention. But there was no sign that Nancy Lanza was concerned he would become violent. The police found a check indicating that she had planned to give it to him to buy a firearm for Christmas last year. She also took him to shooting ranges.
By 2012, the report says, Lanza was not in contact with his father or his older brother, Ryan, who had also moved away. Nancy Lanza was planning to move from Newtown, possibly to Washington or to North Carolina, with Adam. To prepare the house for sale, she intended to buy a recreational vehicle for Adam to sleep in because he refused to go to a hotel.
On Dec. 13 at 10 p.m., Nancy Lanza returned from her three-day trip to New Hampshire.
The next morning, her son shot and killed her in her bed at close range. The .22-caliber rifle that he used was found later by her bedside.
He then went to Sandy Hook Elementary armed with 30-round magazines for a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, along with several other weapons. Shortly after 9:30, he blasted his way through the plate-glass window at the locked front entrance.
In less than 10 minutes, Lanza fired 154 rounds from the rifle, killing the 26 children and staff members. At 9:40, he took his own life with a pistol.
He was wearing a pale green pocket vest over a black polo-style short-sleeve shirt over a black T-shirt, according to the report. “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. He had an empty camouflage drop holster that was affixed to his right thigh.”
The report comes nearly a year after the massacre set off a national discussion about gun control, mental health and violence in American popular culture. In that time, families of the victims have struggled to put their lives back together, the town has tried to heal and the school itself has been razed. But, until Monday, very little information compiled by investigators had been publicly released.
Even basic facts, like the exact path Lanza took inside the school, were kept secret.
Relatives of the victims were permitted to view a draft of the report earlier this month.
After months of speaking with investigators, sharing stories with other families of victims and endless news media accounts, some said there was little surprising in the draft report. The family of Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher whom Lanza shot and killed as she tried to keep her students out of the line of fire, released a statement noting that there were some questions that could never be answered.
“While others search for the answer as to why this happened, we search for the how. How can we live without Vicki?” the statement read.
“So, yes, we have read the report. No, we cannot make sense of why it happened. We don’t know if anyone ever will. We don’t know if we will ever be whole again. We don’t know if we will go a day without pain. We don’t know if anything will ever make sense again.”
Through interviews with surviving children, investigators learned that some of Soto’s students were holding hands in the far right-hand corner near the chalkboard, away from Lanza’s initial line of fire. When Lanza stopped firing because his gun had jammed, student Jesse Lewis yelled for kids to run. Jesse was shot to death. Six of the children ran past Lanza to safety as he reloaded his gun.
Investigators struggled to make sense of the “contradictory” descriptions about Lanza by those who knew him.
The report notes that while his “significant mental health issues” affected his ability to live a normal life and interact with others, it remained unclear if they contributed to his violent actions. Lanza was given a diagnosis in 2005 of an autism variant known as Asperger syndrome, but there is no scientific evidence that people with Asperger’s are more likely than anyone else to commit violent crimes.
There were reports of troubling behavior by Lanza as early as the fifth grade, when he produced “The Big Book of Granny” for a class project. The main character has a gun in her cane and shoots people.
In 2006, when he was in the seventh grade, Lanza was described by a teacher as intelligent but obsessed with violent imagery.
His mother noted a change in his behavior around that time. He stopped riding his bicycle or climbing trees. He no longer showed interest in his saxophone, dropping out of a school band. His life turned increasingly inward.
Investigators found a wealth of disturbing digital evidence at the Lanza home, but were not able to recover any information from one computer hard drive he destroyed.
Lanza had two videos showing suicide by gunshot, a five-second video dramatization showing a child being shot, and images of Lanza himself holding a gun to his head.
In addition to a large amount of information related to other mass shootings, Lanza had “materials regarding the topic of pedophilia and advocating for the rights for pedophiles.” The report makes a point of noting that it was not child pornography; the report did not otherwise address pedophilia.
It is unclear how aware Lanza’s mother was of his strong interest in violent imagery. One of the activities they shared in recent years were trips to the gun range.
“The mother wanted to buy the shooter a CZ 83 pistol for Christmas and had prepared a check for that purchase to give the shooter,” according to the report. “The mother never expressed fear of the shooter, for her own safety or that of anyone else.”