Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Continued Reporting of Connecticut School Shooting; Description of the Incident

Aired December 14, 2012 - 14:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Witnesses and parents, they're starting to talk about how this has all unfolded. Their own experiences. Really, the emotions just pouring out. And you can't believe the kind of tragedy that they are feeling. These are some of the folks -- this is what they are telling us. I want to bring them in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I see you've been crying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it because of what you saw?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- no, they wouldn't even let us in the building. All I can say is that one of the cops that, you know, the worst thing he'd ever seen in his entire career, but it was when they told the parents. All these parents were waiting for their children to come out. They thought that they were, you know, still alive. And there is 20 parents that were just told that their children are dead. It was awful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you were unable to do anything. You (INAUDIBLE) help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. We knew at one point they asked the ambulances to leave, that they didn't need them, and we knew that that wasn't a good sign.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're continuing our breaking news coverage of a dramatic, horrific story, unfortunately, unfolding in Connecticut right now. In Newtown, Connecticut, at a small elementary school. The Sandy Hook Elementary School.

For those of you who are just tuning in, we are now getting numbers. Our own John King reporting, quoting law enforcement sources as saying at least 20, but perhaps closer to 30 individuals, many of them children, have been killed in this incident. The individual, the suspect, a 20-year-old, is -- the suspect, the shooter, is a 20-year- old. A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation telling our Susan Candiotti, that suspect, we believe, is dead right now.

You just heard police at a small briefing, didn't provide a lot of information, but they did tell us the area now appears to be secure. But this has been a horrific, horrific mass killing at an elementary school in Connecticut. A school for kids from kindergarten through fourth grade.

We're watching all of this unfold. Lisa Procaccini is on the phone with us right now. She's a parent of an eight-year-old at the school, the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Your eight-year-old is fine, I take it, Lisa. Tell us what happened. Walk us through what you saw and what you heard.

LISA PROCACCINI, PARENT OF 8-YEAR-OLD (via telephone): Well, I got a call from one of the teachers who was with my daughter at the time and locked themselves in a bathroom. They kept my child calm and told her it was just some hammering going on. And this is all what my daughter told me what happened.

Next thing you know, the police came in and they, I guess, knocked on the door and they let the students -- well, my daughter and her teacher out. And as my daughter's walking out, she did see blood and glass. And that's what her -- as much as she saw. That's what she saw. And -- but I got a call from the teacher who was wonderful enough to give me a call and let me know that my daughter was safe.

BLITZER: And she's home with you right now?


BLITZER: And how is she dealing with this? I assume this has been a pretty traumatic experience for her.

PROCACCINI: I don't really think she gets it right now. I don't -- I don't think she understands how serious things are. I'm kind of even numb to the fact of what's going on. I'm just in a state of shock still. So, you know, I think time will tell. I just --I don't know how I'm going to handle having her know all the, you know, the whole situation. So --

BLITZER: Your little eight-year-old has been a student at this school, Sandy Hook Elementary School, what, since kindergarten?


BLITZER: So you presumably knew a lot of the teachers, you knew the principal as well, right?

PROCACCINI: Yes, very -- yes, I did. She's a wonderful --

BLITZER: Tell us about the principal.

PROCACCINI: Beautiful person. She's pretty new with the school. And you couldn't ask for a better principal. She's very warm and personable. And she is always making you feel comfortable about your child at the school.

BLITZER: Is -- did you -- in your wildest imagination, and I know this is a tough situation, Lisa, did you -- could you ever imagine a mass shooting in Connecticut in your small town, not far away from Danbury? Did this ever cross your mind something like this could happen?

PROCACCINI: Well, no. But, however, it's happening so much that, you know, it's those towns that you would least suspect it happening that it's happening to. And why is it happening so much and what are we going to do in the future for other schools? How are we going to stop this?

BLITZER: And what do you think? What do we need to do?

PROCACCINI: I wish I knew the answer to that. You know, just having -- the principals, teachers, more aware, more equipped, perhaps, with things. I don't -- you know, I'd like to see something like that take place.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a horrific, horrific situation.

PROCACCINI: And have all our schools and all our children take place, be safe.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank God your little girl, your eight-year-old girl, is OK, with you at home. Lisa Procaccini joining us on the phone. Good luck dealing with all of this, obviously. A horrific, horrific situation.

Just a little while ago, one of the young students at the school spoke out and said this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the gym at the time. And so the teacher -- we hear like lots of bangs and we thought that it was the custodian knocking stuff down. We heard screaming. And so we -- we went on to -- like we went to the wall and we sat down and then a police came in and is like, is he in here? Then he ran out. And then our teacher -- then somebody yelled, get to a safe place. So we went to the closet in the gym. And we sat there for a little while. And then the police like were knocking on the door and they're like, we're evacuating people, we're evacuating people. So we ran out. There's police about at every door. They were leading us down this way, down this way, quick, quick, come on.

And we ran down to the firehouse. And there was a man pinned down to the ground with handcuffs on. And we thought that was the victim. We really didn't get a good glance at him because he was -- like there was a car blocking it. Plus we were running really quick. So then we got to the firehouse and we sat in our classes and we were all really happy that we're all alive.


BLITZER: Hard to believe this could happen in Newtown, Connecticut, not far from Danbury, Connecticut, at a small elementary school, a few hundred kids in there, kindergarten through fourth grade. The police chief spoke to reporters a little while ago and said this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will give you some very basic and brief information as we know it now. And we will set up regular press briefings as appropriate.

Just after 9:30 this morning, Newtown Police received a 911 call for an emergency at the elementary school. Newtown PD, upon obtaining information as to the status of the situation, contacted the Connecticut State Police and requested assistance from state police and surrounding local police departments. On and off duty troopers responded to the school and with Newtown Police, immediately upon arrival, entered the school and began a complete, active shooter search of the building. That included checking every door, every crack, every crevice, every portion of that school. Our main objective was to evacuate as quickly and as efficiently as possible any and all students and faculty in the school.

The entire school was searched. That was accomplished. A staging area was set up. Students and staff were put into that staging area. And soon thereafter the children were -- and staff were reunited with their parents and their loved ones.

There were several fatalities at the scene. Both students and staff. There is no information relative to that that's being released at this time until we've made complete and proper notification.

The shooter is deceased inside the building. There is a great deal of work that is undertaken immediately upon locating the shooter. And that is, there's a great deal of search warrant activity, there's a great deal of law enforcement activity, both in and out of state, to ensure that we cover all the bases relative to that specific individual.

Suffice it to say, the scene is secure. The state police major crime squad and Newtown Police Department, Danbury states attorney and many agencies are working together to answer all the questions surrounding exactly what happened. As Mr. Occhiogrosso (ph) said, we will keep you briefed. We will keep you informed on a regular basis. We'll put everything out via our website and with these press conferences.


BLITZER: That was the police chief in Newtown, Connecticut. Law enforcement source close to the investigation tells our own Susan Candiotti that the suspect, who is deceased, is a 20-year-old. We don't know the precise connection, the relationship he may have had with this small elementary school. We are working that. Susan Candiotti's going to be joining us momentarily. In fact, she's with us right now.

You're on the scene, Susan. Update us on what you know. SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest information we have now, and I didn't hear your earlier reports just now, but is that the death toll is now rising. Earlier we had heard that it was about 20 people. Now we are hearing the number of fatalities of both adults and children is closer to 30. And 18 to 20 of those dead are children, Wolf.

We are hearing also that the dead shooter in this case, already dead, is someone in his 20s. We do know, according to the state police, they announced at the news conference, that the -- a search warrant is being executed at that suspected shooter's home. The shooter has been identified to me by a source as Ryan Lanza, Ryan Lanza, in his 20s, apparently, we are told from the source, from this area. However, that has not been confirmed by the state police who did say that a search warrant is being executed at this time.

Just a horrific day here in Newtown, Connecticut, as this community is coming to grips ever so slowly with this terrible massacre, Wolf.

BLITZER: So Brian Lanza, you don't know -- you know the spelling of his last name, Susan?

CANDIOTTI: Ryan. It's Ryan.

BLITZER: Oh, Ryan.

CANDIOTTI: I don't know whether you said Brian, but Ryan Lanza with an r, exactly. In his 20s. We are still trying to find out more information, get confirmed information about what connection he may have, if any, to the school. And we do know that would be standard operating procedure, that police would be actively searching his home for any clues as to what may have allegedly led him to this.

We do know, according to another source, that at least two weapons were recovered from his body, which was discovered in a classroom. We do not know whether he took his own life or whether he was shot by police or in some other way. Those two weapons described to me as a glock and a sig sauer. And we don't know the caliber of weapon. But, of course, you have heard police say that multiple shots were fired. Eyewitnesses talk about that as well. And they are still conducting searches throughout the school. But you heard authorities say that they're satisfied that there are no other victims inside that school. We do not know the numbers of those wounded.


BLITZER: And they say the area is now secure. Although the horrific scene obviously needs to be investigated thoroughly. So just to recap, closer to 30 confirmed dead now, Susan, based on your reporting. Eighteen to 20 of them children. We don't know how many individuals, children, adults, were injured. We do know that several were taken to nearby hospitals, especially in Danbury, Connecticut. Is all that correct, Susan?

CANDIOTTI: That's correct. That's correct. And, of course, counseling services are already being made available to surviving children and adults who have gone through this terrible experience as they try to wrap their arms around what happened to them. Imagine all these young children, as well as adults, who heard gunfire, who were hurried out of that school just as soon as police said it was safe for them to do so. While police conducted a thorough search of that school. And they said that they're satisfied that that school has been cleared.

However, they still need all this additional information to try to find out what led to the shooting, precisely who this shooter is and what may have led to this.


BLITZER: And where this shooter got those two weapons that were used in this mass murder at this elementary school.

Susan, stand by for a second. I want our viewers to listen to what a nurse who rushed to the scene to help, what she just said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I see you've been crying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it because of what you saw?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- no, they wouldn't even let us in the building. All I can say is that one of the cops that, you know, the worst thing he'd ever seen in his entire career, but it was when they told the parents. All these parents were waiting for their children to come out. They thought that they were, you know, still alive. And there was 20 parents that were just told that their children are dead. It was awful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you were unable to do anything. You (INAUDIBLE) help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. We knew at one point they asked the ambulances to leave, that they didn't need them, and we knew that that wasn't a good sign.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alexis, you told me that you were sitting in class this morning and you saw a lot of police. Tell me -- tell me how you found out what was going on.

ALEXIS WASIK, WITNESS: Well, we found like there was all these people. And we found out because there was -- we were like right near the window in our classroom. And like we saw like police officers and we heard them on the roof and in our building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was everybody crying, scared, wanting their parents to come get them? WASIK: Yes, they were. And then some people were even like -- they kind of (INAUDIBLE), they got a stomachache.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear any gunshots or anything like that?

WASIK: Well, police officers, like they were -- they were kind of, because there were police officers, like right out the door, like trying to find the guy.


BLITZER: What a horrific scene indeed.

Just to recap. The shooter in this case, the suspected gunman, identified now as Ryan Lanza. In his 20s. That according to a law enforcement source who told that to CNN. The shooter died at the scene. We don't know the circumstances on how he died. We're working those details as well.

We do know that the president of the United States, President Obama, has been briefed on what is going on right now. He wants to get a firmer grasp on what is going on before he speaks out publicly according to our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. But he will be making a statement, Jessica Yellin, our chief White House correspondent, does tell us.

I think, based on our reporting, the president wants to wait until the governor of Connecticut has actually spoken out on this issue. The White House anxious to get information, that the president has been fully briefed on what we know right now. And, remember, a lot of times in a situation like this, a developing situation, some of the initial information proves to be inaccurate. So we want to be as precise as we possibly can be.

Based on our reporting from Susan Candiotti, though, who is now on the scene in Newtown, Connecticut, close to 30 people are dead. Of them, 18 to 20 children at that Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Susan Candiotti is still with us.

Susan, parents who have rushed to that school, especially those parents who are getting the awful news about their kids, do you know where they are, how this is being handled?

CANDIOTTI: Well, I know that when the children were first led from the school, and this was after police said they had searched every crack and crevice, they said, of the school, to make sure that it was safe to evacuate the children, they were led, some of them in lines, and maybe you've seen pictures or videotape of this, with the small children, we're talking about kindergarten to the fourth grade, placing one shoulder on the child in front of them and being led in a line out of the school to a nearby firehouse which is being used as a staging area where they had, of course, adults who had already begun to try to comfort these children, and use that space as some place for parents to go to be reconnected, reunited with their children. We know that some of the parents told us that they found out about this, of course the news media, but others quickly got information via their text phone, or e-mails, something that they could sign up for to receive immediate messages from the school, which is common place these days.

We also know, Wolf, that after the school was cleared, police and investigators continue to look through the area, to make sure that, in fact, there might not be a second shooter involved. They had isolated one car in particular, but were continuing to walk down the street and search and look at other vehicles, other buildings in that area.

Also, according to a source, we know that someone else was being questioned, who is not being called a suspect at this time, but someone else is being questioned in connection with this investigation. That's all we have on that for now. However, the state police do say that they have an active search, we presume they mean a search warrant, being conducted at the home of the dead shooter.


BLITZER: And the dead shooter came in not only with two weapons, but also with armor, I take it, right? Is that the information you're getting, this Ryan Lanza, in his 20s, who is dead, but he came in with not only weapons, but with armor? Is that right?

CANDIOTTI: Well, there are reports to that extent. I don't have that confirmed information. But some people are reporting that at this time. We're calling those unconfirmed reports right now.

BLITZER: Stand by. I want to bring in Brianna Keilar, our White House correspondent. She's getting information.

Brianna, the president is being briefed on this and he will, at some point, make a statement to the American people. What do you know? What's going on over there?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. He's been receiving regular updates from his homeland security team, specifically this morning. He was first briefed of the situation in Connecticut at 10:30 a.m. His homeland security adviser, John Brennan, alerted him as to the developments. And he's since been receiving regular updates according to the White House spokesman, Jay Carney.

We do know, Wolf, that he is expected to address this. To actually come out before the cameras, perhaps, and give some sort of statement to speak to this. He's been in touch with the governor of Connecticut. He's been in touch with his FBI director. The White House has been waiting to get a firmer grasp on the facts. As you know, it's a very fluid situation and the president certainly wants to know that he has a firm grasp on the facts of the case, what is going on, before he addresses the nation, Wolf.

BLITZER: It looks, Brianna, like this may be the worst mass killing at a school in U.S. history, based on the information I'm getting over here. Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado, back in 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 fellow students and one teacher before committing suicide in the school library. In this particular case, Susan Candiotti reporting, John King reporting close to 30, we believe, are now dead and 18 to 20 of them children, if those numbers hold up. This looks like it could be the worst mass killing in American history. Something no one -- no one anticipated would be happening at any point. But listen to the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, speak about this just a little while ago.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president was notified by his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, at a school. The president is receiving regular updates as more information becomes available about this incident. And as the day proceeds, if we get more information, and as we get more information, we'll certainly provide it to you. I do not have anything to confirm for you at this point. The FBI is supporting state law enforcement, which has the lead, as well as local law enforcement, as they respond to and begin to investigate this incident. And as I said, the president will receive regular updates as the day progresses.


BLITZER: Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. The president is going to have to deal with this mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Brianna, other presidents have dealt with tragedies like this. And this president certainly is getting ready to deal with it in an address to the American people. But, go ahead, give us some perspective on what's going on behind the scenes over there at the White House.

KEILAR: No, and certainly it's something that the president has already dealt with in -- I don't want to say similar situation, Wolf, because obviously every tragedy is different, but following the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, and following the terrible shooting at the movie theater in Colorado. These were points in time where President Obama, as other presidents before him, had to step in and give a unified message and certainly a voice of sympathy and understanding for the people who are affected by a shooting like this.

You covered Virginia Tech. I was there as well. That was something where we saw then Governor Kaine and then President George Bush come in as voices because, in a tragedy like this, obviously there are a lot of questions that are raised. There are a lot of concerns that are raised. And that's sort of one of the roles of the president in a situation like this, to try to speak to that and be a unifying voice.

Behind the scenes, we know, Wolf, that President Obama is being regularly updated on this. You know prior to this morning, obviously the concerns were very much surrounding something very different, trying to figure out a deal or trying to figure out where to go with the issue of the fiscal cliff. At this point, obviously, President Obama's attentions have been changed unexpectedly to how to deal with this shooting in Connecticut and exactly grasping -- And this is something that his team around him is working on, the details of the investigation, obviously. Some of this information is -- will be something that the White House, that the president and his advisers are privy to before members of the public are, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the president will be making a statement. We don't know exactly when or where. I assume some place in the White House he'll be speaking out. Are they preparing for that already? We know he wants to -- he wants to hear from the governor first, the governor of Connecticut.

KEILAR: You know, and let me tell you that, because I reported that, that he was waiting to hear from the governor. I'm now told by the same senior administration official that I spoke with before that he may not be waiting for the governor to speak first because he's had this phone conversation with Governor Malloy. So it's entirely possible that President Obama comes out and makes a statement before the governor. I think that may be an indication that perhaps the timeline could be moved up beyond what it was before. But at this point, it's very fluid. It doesn't appear to be set. And it's certainly not public as to when the president will make a statement, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll stand by. We'll have coverage, obviously, of that. And we have been told by the governor's aid, one of the governor's aids, that he is meeting with families, trying to console them. He's on the scene. At some point the governor, Daniel Malloy, will be speaking as well.

David Ariosto is one of our CNN producers who is now on the scene as well in Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

From your advantage point, David, tell us what you're seeing.

DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Hey, Wolf.

Yes, I'm right outside the firehouse that's being used as sort of a makeshift shelter for which family members, including parents and children, are essentially holed up. You do see parents walking back and forth on a -- sort of a wooded stretch that leads up toward the school. Oftentimes they're clutching their children, they're clutching each other, talking on cell phones and almost all the while they're teary eyed.

Most people won't speak with us, although we did get a chance to speak to one little girl, an eight-year-old, third grader, who was inside the school when all this transpired, and to which she described was that police essentially barged in, the teachers barged in and ordered them to hide in the classroom. They were all crying as police and authorities tried to figure out what the situation was, what the crisis was. And essentially their parents were informed by an automated phone call that there had been a shooting at a school. They didn't -- it didn't indicate which school. And so many of the parents here in the region frantically flocked to the schools in which they had -- they had children attending.

This particular parent I spoke to was frantic, arrived here at the school and fortunately found her daughter unharmed. So when we met up with her, she was clutching her, throwing this oversized coat around her as they walked up this road and away from the school. And it's really one of those scenes, Wolf, that you really just can't put your finger on and ask enough questions as to why all this transpired.

I think the community here is still very much in shock. There are questions not only of what actually transpired in terms of the details, but why someone would do this. A lot of tears here in this town, sort of the sleepy New England town, about an hour north of New York City.

BLITZER: About 60 miles or so, not far away from New York City as well. Much closer, obviously, to Danbury, Connecticut.

David, hold on for a moment. Mary Snow is in Newtown as well, outside the suspect's home.

What are you seeing over there, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Wolf, we are being kept far back from the suspect's home. The police have cordoned off this area. There are multiple law enforcement vehicles lined up and residents, Wolf, are being kept away from their homes as well and looking at a car of -- a line, rather, of vehicles lined up of residents who have been told that they cannot go to their homes because police tape has been put up. And there are more than a dozen law enforcement vehicles here.

BLITZER: The suspect, Mary, who is now deceased, he died at the scene, we don't know the circumstances surrounding that, Ryan Lanza, in his 20s. Are you getting any information at all if he had a direct connection to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where this mass killing took place?

SNOW: Not as yet. And I have to tell you, Wolf, we've approached some of the residents here. They are so shaken to the core, as you can imagine. One woman filling up with tears just saying, there are so many small children in this area, that she couldn't really bring herself to talk to us when I asked her about the Lanzas and their connection. So we don't have any information just yet from here about any connection to the school.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, we're going to check back with you. Mary Snow is not far away from the suspect's home in Newtown, Connecticut. Ryan Lanza in his 20s. He died at the scene.

One of our CNN executives, Meredith Artley, a vice president here at CNN, has been on the scene as well and she spoke with an eyewitness. Listen to this.


MEREDITH ARTLEY, CNN VICE PRESIDENT (voice-over): She conveyed to me that she was in a -- she was in a meeting this morning. She said it was around 9:30, 9:35. And she -- there were about seven people in the room. And it was a meeting regarding one of her kids. She has children at the school. And she volunteers at the school as well.

And she heard -- she described it as a pop, pop, pop in the hall. And they all heard it. There were about seven people in the meeting room. They heard that sound in the hall. And they -- she said three people went out into the hall, the principal, the vice principal and the school psychologist. And to hear her describe it, she said, three people went out into the hall, and only one -- only one person came back, which was the vice principal, she said, who was shot in the leg or the foot, who came crawling back.