Long-Awaited Report On Newtown School Shooting Closes Case

Nov 25, 2013
Originally published on November 25, 2013 5:05 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's been nearly a year since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six staff members at the school before shooting himself. Earlier, he had shot and killed his mother while she slept. Since then, there has been one overarching question: Why did he do it?

Today, the prosecutor in charge of the case released his report on the shooting. And Jeff Cohen of member station WNPR is here to walk us through it. Jeff, any answer to that question of why?

JEFF COHEN, BYLINE: There isn't, Melissa. The prosecutor says very clearly in his conclusion that he's been asked several times, was there a motive to what Adam Lanza did, and this report doesn't establish a conclusive motive of any kind. We know in the report that Adam Lanza had no drugs in his system, that he had - he did have a familiarity with other mass shootings, particularly Columbine, and that he had, as the report says, significant mental health issues.

He didn't like to take his medicines. He was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. But mental health professionals who were spoken to by investigators said they didn't really see anything in him that would have predicted what ended up happening on December 14th. So in the end, there really is no good answer as to why.

BLOCK: And also, quite a bit of troubling detail in this report not just about Adam Lanza's mental health issues but also his home life.

COHEN: That's right. The report had a lot of detail that would seem to answer some questions. No one was allowed in his room. If you look at some of the photographs that were released, his bedroom windows were taped over with black trash bags to make it really dark in there. Like we said, he had an obsession with mass murders but there's no evidence that he ever spoke with people about it.

Investigators found a hard drive that he had damaged. He had hit it with a dumbbell. He had taken it out of the computer and then damaged it so badly that forensics experts couldn't find anything of use to them on that hard drive. We know he played a lot of video games, some violent like "Call of Duty," others not. He particularly liked the game "Dance Dance Revolution" and would play it at home and elsewhere.

And then there were other details that raised questions. His computers had images of hamsters and Lego creations. And then there were, on some of his electronic devices, material relating to pedophilia and advocating for the rights of pedophiles, although prosecutors said they didn't find any evidence of child pornography.

BLOCK: Also, Jeff, I noticed this detail in the report that even though Adam Lanza shared a home with his mother, he communicated with her only by email.

COHEN: That's right. And he had really lost touch with his mother in that way, but also with his father. The report, you'll note also, Melissa, says it had been a couple of years since his father had really had any sort of substantive contact with Adam. And he contacted only by email. Lanza had a cellphone but -Adam did, that is - but never really used it. So he had isolated himself severely.

BLOCK: Jeff, was there anything new in this report about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on that day, December 14th last year?

COHEN: What really stands out, as you read it, was how quickly the whole scene unfolded. The first 911 call was at 9:35. The first police were on scene about four minutes later, and then Adam Lanza kills himself one minute after that. That really - just the pace of the entire event is mind-boggling, to just think about what happened inside and how quickly it happened.

Other things that stood out were that Adam Lanza had driven near the school at some point in the day prior, based on his GPS, but we're not really sure what that means, you know. So in the end, Melissa, what we realize is that here's a young man who worked alone. Prosecutors don't expect to bring any charges. And unless new evidence is - comes up, the case is essentially closed.

BLOCK: OK. Jeff Cohen of member station WNPR. Jeff, thank you.

COHEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.