EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

December 22, 2012

Brief pause in gunfire gave some Newtown students chance to escape

NEWTOWN, Conn. — As many as a half-dozen first-graders may have survived Adam Lanza’s shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

A source said the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shooting is at the State Police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.

The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six adults Lanza killed in the school after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.

On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive.

Several friends of his mother have said that he had Asperger’s syndrome, but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated that it had anything to do with the shootings.

Lanza killed 27 people — 20 children, four teachers, the school principal, a school psychologist and his mother, Nancy — before shooting himself in the head as police began arriving at the school.

The arriving officers encountered a shocking scene in Soto’s classroom. Lanza had shot her, as well as special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy and six of Soto’s 6- and 7-year old students. Seven other children were found unharmed in a classroom closet, apparently hidden by Soto when she heard shooting. The other students fled the classroom.

Based on initial statements from surviving children and the fact that unfired bullets from Lanza’s rifle were found on the ground, detectives suspect that some students were able to run to safety when Lanza stopped firing, probably for a short period of time, the officials said.

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