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THE SITUATION ROOM
Connecticut School Shooting Leaves Close to 30 Dead; Further Details of the Incident and Aftermath; Inteview with Connecticut State Police Officer; President Obama Wipes Away Tears; Mass Shooting at Elementary School; 20 Children, 6 Adults Dead
Aired December 14, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In addition to this, we are also told by our sources that another person is being questioned at this time, but is not being called a suspect right now, and also that person is not being identified, Wolf.
So while the school is being called secure and safe by law enforcement authorities right now, they are -- they still have a lot of investigating to do. They have not officially released the name of the shooter or the other person being questioned or the names of any of the victims at this time.
It's just an awful scene, and parents found out about this, Wolf, when they received a lot of them text messages, alerts from the school. That had them rushing over to the school. As a 911 call came in, police arrived on the scene, they tried to secure the scene and make sure that it was safe so that all the children were then immediately evacuated from the school and brought to a safe location nearby, where they could be reunited with their parents.
Also, Wolf, we know this one thing from the shooter. We understand that at least three weapons were found at the scene, one of them a Glock, one of them a Sig Sauer, and one of them a 223 Bushmaster. We don't know exactly what kind of models, but we have that as well. And here's more about how it all came down from start to finish.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): These Connecticut parents had dropped off their kids for a typical Friday at school. Then about 9:30 in the morning, they received robo-calls and text messages. Sandy Hook Elementary School was put on alert.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just got a message saying from the superintendent that there was there was an unconfirmed shooting and, you know, everybody is in lockdown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a little scared. And I felt sick to my stomach.
CANDIOTTI: A gunman was firing away as teachers went into lockdown and parents rushed to the scene.
BRENDAN MURRAY, STUDENT: I heard screaming. And so we went -- like we went to the wall and we sat down and then police came in. It's like, is he in here? Then he ran out. And then our teacher -- then somebody yelled get to a safe place.
CANDIOTTI: Inside, children were hiding as a gunman fired away.
MERGEM BACKU, BROTHER: They were crying in the closet, in the closet of the art room. And eventually, they were leaving and when they were leaving, the police made them hold hands. The police told them to close their eyes.
CANDIOTTI: Told to keep their eyes closed because a gunman was on a killing spree, killing the principal, a counselor, child after child.
LT. J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: On- and off-duty troopers responded to the school. That included checking every door, every crack, every crevice, every portion of that school.
CANDIOTTI: And again, our understanding is that all of this happened in one particular area of the school, just one area of the school where all the shooting occurred, according to police, in two rooms.
They may be two classrooms. We certainly know that the shooter, Wolf, was found dead in one of those classrooms as well. So a lot of questions, a lot of heartache and people walking around this small town now in Connecticut, Newtown, Connecticut, it's so hard for them to believe and to understand what happened here -- back to you.
BLITZER: They haven't said officially that the shooter wound up killing himself, have they?
CANDIOTTI: They have not. They have not revealed that.
They have not officially released the shooter's name either. We also understand, remember, there is another adult at another location who was also found dead and we believe that that has some connection to the shooter in this case, and yet someone else was also being questioned.
So this investigation is far from over. There is a warrant being served at the place where the suspect lived with someone else, who was also involved in the shooting. And so a lot of questions, of course, as we all have at this time to find out how this happened and, Wolf, why this happened.
BLITZER: Yes, many questions that law enforcement will be investigating.
Susan, stand by.
Joining us on the phone right now is Lieutenant Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police. He's in Newtown himself.
I don't know if you have the answers, Lieutenant, and you must be overwhelmed right now. But first of all, can you identify the shooter in this particular case? Can you give us that person's name?
VANCE: Wolf, we do have a tentative identification, but for investigative reasons we're holding back that information for our own purposes.
You are correct in saying that there is a secondary scene in Newtown away from the school at a private home where there's another deceased adult that may be related to this. But just for investigatory reasons, we're holding back that identity right at this time.
BLITZER: Can you tell us if the shooter did have a connection, though, to the school? There's been a lot of speculation that the shooter's mother, for example, was a teacher inside one of those classrooms.
VANCE: We need to, again, be extremely cautious in releasing that information.
That will be forthcoming, I would say, within the next three or four hours, but at this time we haven't discussed that at all.
BLITZER: Is there another suspect on the loose right now? I just want to clarify that because we are getting some conflicting indications.
VANCE: We are examining every facet of what occurred as far as this shooter is concerned, and by that I mean we are talking to everyone who possibly had any connection with him whatsoever. We had to obtain search warrants to search his residence and place of employment and interview friends and relatives.
So, we are really ensuring or making sure that we that we leave no stone unturned as we look into the background of this individual.
BLITZER: And just to make sure that the numbers that we received are precise, 26 people were shot, of those, 20 were children, and then the shooter himself. Do we suspect he killed himself?
VANCE: That will be determined by the medical examiner. As far as we know, there was no law enforcement discharge of weaponry any time as we were entering the building.
It's important to note when the call came in, Newtown police officers and state police officers all responded immediately and upon arrival went in on a tactical entry, in other words, immediately entered the school and began searching every nook and cranny to perform a rescue of all the students and staff we possibly could.
We did accomplish that task, but unfortunately encountered as you said the deceased students, which numbered 18 in the school. Two were transported to area hospitals, were pronounced dead at the hospital. And six adults were pronounced dead at the scene and then the secondary senior which was another adult.
BLITZER: Can you tell us about this secondary scene, if there is a connection between the shooter and the person who is dead at the secondary scene?
VANCE: It's all preliminary, Wolf, to be very candid with you.
I am directing 99 percent of my attention here at the school. You can understand there is a great deal going on trying to keep family and friends and relatives informed as to what is going on and what has happened so far and what we know. But we certainly discovered that scene in concert with this investigation. As I was saying, we did a lot of work once we had a tentative I.D. on the shooter to look at all related areas for our investigation.
BLITZER: Is the secondary scene in Newtown itself somewhere in that vicinity of that small town in Connecticut?
VANCE: It's a very small town. So it's not too far away. To be very candid with you, I don't have it in front of me the name of the street. But it was in a residence right here in the town, Newtown, that the secondary scene was located by troopers.
BLITZER: We have one crime scene, the school, obviously, then a secondary scene, where there is another individual is dead. Are there any other locations in Newtown or elsewhere that you are searching or looking at?
VANCE: Well, we're hoping not. But in any investigation, we have a great deal of personnel here. We brought in not just one major crime team, but we brought in two crime teams, our forensic laboratory.
We have got everyone here. And we certainly are responding and checking anything and everything that could possibly be related to this tragedy that we're participating here in Newtown.
BLITZER: Lieutenant Vance, John King is here with us here at CNN and he has a question he wants to ask you.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lieutenant, I know your officers are still collecting evidence at the scene. But What is your preliminary estimate of how many shots were fired inside that school?
VANCE: That's a tough one.
I wouldn't even venture a guess, quite frankly. We will have to determine that with several systems of checks and balances, one certainly being a medical examiner's examination of the deceased and collecting the physical evidence and shells and examining the weaponry and collecting any bullets that may have been randomly shot. It is going to be a long process before we can even begin to guesstimate that question.
KING: I know you are holding some sensitive information so you can continue the information and make sure you have checked every box, but is your the understanding, as we're told by some sources, that the shooter came there with a primary target all obviously armed for a mass killing, but came there for a primary target? And again my sources are saying that that was his mother. VANCE: That, I do not know. I'm sorry. I can't answer that question. That's information that has not been provided to me as of yet.
BLITZER: Were there explosives discovered in addition to the weapons?
And that's a very good question because once the scene was secured, we utilized our tactical team to check all the ancillary sites, any vehicles and anything to do with the shooter to ensure that there were in fact no explosives or no other issues that we needed to engage.
BLITZER: Did the shooter in addition coming in with these weapons also have -- was he dressed in armor and did he have protection for himself?
VANCE: That, I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't know the answer to that.
BLITZER: But he was obviously found dead on the scene and there were no other -- police, law enforcement did not come in and kill anyone. Presumably this individual wound up killing himself, but you can't confirm that yet, at least not yet. Is that right, Lieutenant?
VANCE: That's absolutely correct, Wolf. That's a very good assessment as to what we know so far.
BLITZER: John has got one more question.
Go ahead, John.
KING: Lieutenant, we are told at the second scene that the neighbors were evacuated from their homes around the home. Was that just done as a precaution or do you have some indication of some concern there, either heavy weapons or explosives in that home?
VANCE: No, that's just standard procedure of what we do. We certainly want to be extremely cautious and we err on the side of caution. We simply evacuated those neighbors just in the event that there was anything that was harmful as we began to examine that scene. We wanted them out of harm's way.
KING: If I could sneak one in, Lieutenant, one more quick one, I'm sorry. Was this person a known person of concern to local law enforcement officials or when you found out his identification, I know you are not releasing it yet as you check the box, but when you found it out, was it a total surprise?
VANCE: I am not aware that it has any specific history, but that's something that our detectives will look at as they are continuing the examination of this entire case and we will certainly make it a point to know his history, any criminal justice history he may have had. That's all part and parcel of everything that we will do in this case.
BLITZER: When are you release the numbers, Lieutenant Vance, one thing really jumped -- in addition to the huge number, 26 people killed and 20 of them children. But then you pointed out that one person was injured, only one injury. What does that say to you, that 26 people were shot and killed, but there is only one person who was injured?
VANCE: You know, Wolf, to put it very bluntly, this is a very, very tragic, tragic scene for everybody.
Certainly, our hearts are broken for the families here. The first- responders, the people that had to go into that school and to see the carnage and see the death at this time of year, I can almost have difficulty putting it into words. I have been a trooper a very, very long time. I have seen some horrific things and this is right up there with him.
BLITZER: What a horrific story.
Lieutenant Vance, thanks so much for updating our viewers here in the United States and around the world. The story unfortunately is so horrific, but people all over the world are appreciating what's going on and we are only beginning to get the beginning of this information. Lieutenant Paul Vance is with the Connecticut State Police. Thank you very much, Lieutenant.
Joining us now on the phone is Declan Procaccini, who is a parent as well.
Tell us where you were and what was going on, your connection to the school, Declan.
DECLAN PROCACCINI, PARENT: My daughter is a third grader and she was there actually in her reading class.
And they heard bangs. And thank God for Mrs. Summers (ph), because her reading teacher grabbed my daughter and brought her into a bathroom and locked the door along with another teacher. And in a short time, some police somehow were able to get them out of there and escort them through the hallways. Unfortunately, it was a pretty messy scene for my daughter.
BLITZER: Earlier in the day, I spoke with your wife, Lisa (ph). She says your daughter seems to be OK. You also have a 10-year-old son. How are the kids doing now?
PROCACCINI: I don't know if my daughter is in shock or not, but from what she told me she saw, she is doing incredibly well.
My son is doing great too, but of course there is just a lot of fears at this kind of thing. Everything -- the game has changed from this point onward. So...
BLITZER: What does that mean when you say the game has changed?
PROCACCINI: I mean my -- my kids are already asking when is this going to happen again? It was only a week ago that we were talking about this type of situation. And I said the chances of it happening are one in a zillion at Sandy Hook. And I was wrong about that.
BLITZER: We know, Declan, you knew the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, well. She was killed in this mass murder today. Tell us a little bit about her.
PROCACCINI: Oh, she was just so nice and she loved her job.
And she, actually, on a couple of occasions, went out of her way just to help us with certain things that we were working on with our daughter. I just -- this is all so surreal. So, please forgive me if I am -- if I am a little cloudy right now.
BLITZER: No, we appreciate -- believe me, we appreciate what you're going through. We can't even imagine what you are going through.
KING: Sir, sadly, in any community when tragedy like this happens, there's always question about the notification systems. How did you first learn, how specific was that information, and obviously the officials at the school were dealing with a tragedy on the scene. But do you think that part of it was handled appropriately?
PROCACCINI: I think they did the best they could do. I don't know how you prepare for something this crazy.
My wife called me. I work down in New York. And my wife called me and told me there was a shooting and so, I rushed home. My wife was already in town. So far the Newtown school system has been great in leaving automatic phone updates with all the parents.
BLITZER: A sad story. Quick question before I let you go, Declan. At some point, you're going to have to make a decision about letting your kids go back to Sandy Hook Elementary School. What are you going to do?
PROCACCINI: I mean, this is all so new. I mean, I have been talking to my kids and just explaining, look, this is what happened. You do your best to communicate with them and do your best to -- you know, it's funny that a bomb hits and there is a lot of smoke and it's still here. I haven't had my -- enough time to really plan, but hopefully by the time they go back to school, I will have done a good enough job of making them feel as comfortable as they can be.
BLITZER: How is your wife Lisa doing?
PROCACCINI: Well, she is hanging in there.
BLITZER: Please give all of them our love, our sympathy, our support. We wish -- we wish them only the best.
Declan Procaccini is a parent of the two kids from that Sandy Hook Elementary School. Those kids got out OK, but obviously 20 other children, John, did not get out OK. Eighteen of them died on the scene and two others died at the hospital as a result of the injuries. KING: I think a remarkably thoughtful conversation you just had there with the a parent who's dealing with the unthinkable in trying to explain to young children in the middle of the holiday season that the unthinkable happened in their school and that for many of these children when they go back, assuming they do go back, many of their friends won't be there.
KING: And so, it's a tough task for the parents.
I just wanted to wrap up the earlier conversation with Lieutenant Vance. Understandably, you covered stories like this in the past, unfortunately.
The police are being careful what they say publicly, but I just wanted to give you a little bit more of the information I have received, which is that federal law enforcement officials based on information from their people on the scene and the state police on the scene do believe that the shooter showed up with the intent of obviously armed for a mass killing. But they believe his mother, a teacher there, was the primary target and most of the devastation happened in and around her classroom at the school. That is the theory they are operating under as they collect the evidence in the scene and they found a family member among those were slain at the second site in Newtown and we're told that they're also interviewing friends and roommates in the life of the alleged shooter as they try to put this together.
But their belief at this point is he arrived at the school and went directly towards and to her classroom and that most of the killing was done right in that area.
BLITZER: Right, and those children were killed right there. They found three weapons, is that right?
KING: I believe that's correct.
BLITZER: Three weapons, assault weapons, these are pretty sophisticated weapons that they found. When you hear these numbers, John, 26 people kill and 20 of them children, all killed, one person injured. Usually if you have a situation where 26 people are killed, there's a lot of other people who may have gotten wounded in an incident like this. But it looks like this individual may have deliberately wanted to execute these people.
KING: It's why I asked the question of Lieutenant Vance, and I understand he couldn't answer it. But I was told by a federal law enforcement source that the scene inside, the number of spent shells was just mind-numbing, even to veteran enforcement officers. That when the gunman opened fire, he kept -- he was in a concentrated area of the school, he was not running around the halls, he was in a very concentrated area of the schools. And I'm told, in and around his mother's classroom, but that he just kept firing.
BLITZER: And he a lot of rounds, because some of the eyewitnesses were telling us earlier they heard boom, boom, boom, boom. I mean, almost never ending what they heard coming from those little classrooms.
KING: When you -- the number of shots fired obviously I think is the reason why you don't have five, six, eight, 10, 15 people being treated at the hospital. It's a low number, because of the devastation.
Mary Snow is on the scene for us in Newtown, Connecticut.
Mary, you are outside the shooter's mother's home we suspect in Newtown, is that right?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And, you know, you are talking to Lieutenant Vance of the Connecticut State Police, who have referred to a second scene, presumably, he was talking about this scene, because police have been here for hours now, several hours.
Just about an hour ago, we saw a tactical SWAT team leaving the scene. It has been blocked off. Not only to us, but to residents who can't go into their homes. We did also see an ambulance leaving the scene about 3:15 and police are being tight-lipped here about the location where they are.
But what we can tell you from residents, one who lived near the suspect's mother said that police came in at about 11:00 to her home and told Hershey (ph) needed to get out right away. At one point she was escorted back to her house and told she had to leave again. And there's no time table being given to the residents about when they can reenter their homes.
Many law enforcement vehicles are at this scene and in terms of what neighbors are saying, these homes are pretty far apart. We haven't found many neighbors who knew the suspect or his mother, but we did reach one woman who just described the suspect at troubled, saying that the parents have been divorced and didn't really want to go further than that. But as you can imagine, this community is just so shaken to the core and people just filling up with tears any time you even approach them, saying that there are so many young children in this community.
BLITZER: And this is a small community. And just to set the scene, it went only about 80 miles from New York City, about 40 miles or so from Hartford. And under 2,000 people live in Newtown. So, it's a small community not far from Danbury, Connecticut.
Very peaceful and wonderful place where, we heard from a lot individuals, Mary, that the families moved there because the school system is considered excellent there and despite the Sandy Hook Elementary School, kindergarten to fourth grade is a wonderful, wonderful -- it is a wonderful school, although this tragedy certainly devastated so many folks.
SNOW: Yes. Certainly, people had such high praise for the school system here and it's been described as a sleepy New England town. It's lined with beautiful homes on a very quiet road here. And, you know, shock is such an under statement to say that that's what people are saying. They just hear it over and over again that people never thought something like this can happen.
BLITZER: They can't believe it and it is unbelievable, but it happened, it's real unfortunately. So real.
Mary, stand by.
Adam Reiss, one of our CNN producers, is in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the river from New York City. He is joining us.
What's the connection, explain to our viewers, Adam, the connection between what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, and what's going on in Hoboken, New Jersey, right now.
ADAM REISS, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, Wolf, we believe the shooter may have lived here. This may be the location where he may have set out from this morning to head up to Newtown, Connecticut. We do know, police tell us they have in custody two people who may have been roommates of his. They are being questioned. They do not believe they were involved in the shooting.
FBI agents, local police and the bomb squad have been here for most of the afternoon. FBI agents went back into the building. It's a five- story building and has two halves to it, there are one, two, three bedrooms inside. They're rental.
I talked to several residents here who live in the building and live nearby. None of them know the shooter, or the alleged shooter, or his brother who may have lived here. They have seen pictures in news reports. The pictures do not look familiar to them.
You may know that Hoboken is a waterfront community that looks across from New York City. It's been a growing community for young professionals. It was hit hard by hurricane Sandy. So, we wait and there has been no movement other than the police here that you see in the picture standing guard. And FBI agents are coming back and forth inside and outside the five-story building.
BLITZER: And so, you see the whole area cordoned off? We are looking at live pictures right now. Police officers and we see the tape that's been posted.
Give us a little bit more description of what you're seeing.
REISS: Well, at least two blocks in east direction is blocked off. Obviously, there's a huge media presence waiting to see what developed here, whether or not this is in fact the home of the alleged shooter, whether or not his brother lived here with him, what the connection is to Newtown, what the connection is with his mother.
There is a Facebook page that indicates his home here, that he is originally from Newtown. I cannot confirm that's him and that's his page. But that's all we know from here.
The area is cordoned off at least two blocks in each direction.
BLITZER: Are local police there at Hoboken, New Jersey, Adam, saying anything at all, providing the news media with any information?
REISS: There was a very short briefing from the local police chief. And as I indicated before, two people are in custody. They may be the shooter's roommates, but they don't believe they had any involvement in the shooting.
BLITZER: When we say in custody, it sounds like they may have been -- had some sort of role. Maybe more precisely, they are just being questioned about what they know or may have known about this alleged shooter. Is that right?
REISS: Right. I don't want to suggest they had any role. It just may be they are looking to find out, you know, more background information about the alleged shooter.
BLITZER: Yes, I think that's an important distinction that or viewers appreciate.
Adam, anything else you want to update our viewers with?
REISS: Just anxiously anticipating what may come out of this -- what's inside the apartment, what may lead us to understand why someone may have done this, what -- you know, what kind of reading material he's had, what is on his computer. We just don't know.
BLITZER: So, there a lot of questions that are going to have to be answered and if there is some sort statement, some sort of letter, some sort of indication of why this individual went to that small elementary school, that Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and simply opened fire, killing a teacher, killing a principal, killing 20 children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade. What a shocking, shocking story.
Adam, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you.
A young boy who was at the school where the shooting happened described how he and other children escaped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENDAN MURRAY, WITNESS: I was in the gym at the time. And so, the teacher and we heard like lots of bangs. And we thought that it was the custodian knocking stuff down and we heard screaming. And so, we went -- like we went to the wall and we sat down and then a police came in and said, is he in here? And then he ran out.
And then our teacher and someone yelled get to a safe place. So, we went to the closet in the gym. We sat there for a little while.
And then the police like were knocking on the door and they were like, we are evacuating people, we are evacuating people. We ran out and there were police at every door. They're leading us down this way, down this way, quick, quick, come on. And we ran down to the firehouse. There was a man pinned down to the ground with handcuffs on and we thought that was the victim. We didn't get a good glance at him because 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: By the way, when we interview these young kids, we do it only with their parents' permission. Their parents are there on the scene. We don't talk to these young children unless the parents say they wanted the child to speak out and they are there to watch these interviews. We are very sensitive to young children in these kinds of tragedies.
Obviously, a lot of families are feeling the pain right now. We heard earlier from the president of the United States.
But let's bring in Dr. Drew Pinsky. He's the host of "Dr. Drew" on our sister network, HLN.
And we have been talking, Dr. Drew, about what's going on. That these kinds of tragic incidents often can be prevented if loved neighbors, family members, neighbors, friends pay attention to warning signs.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: That's right, Wolf. Paying (VIDEO GAP) overarching lesson from so much we have been hearing in the news these days. But denial by family members and parents is the enemy here. You cannot imagine how many situations I've been in where I give patients, family members, very specific directions to prevent disasters and they choose to stay in denial and then to come to terms with the fact that their loved one is not doing well and may not be trustworthy, may be aggressive or violent.
You know, as I sit and listen to the story, Wolf, I have been watching this wonderful coverage you have been providing, which helps us understand what happened. As the days go on, we'll try to understand why it happened.
The feelings that rush over me, run from sadness to disgust and rage myself. And disgust is mostly where I find myself today. Disgust that these lives should have been extinguished so young, we cannot allow these lives to have been lost in vain.
You did a remarkable interview about 10 minutes ago with a father of a young child who was in one of the rooms. He said they had just been discussing this issue. I'm sure he was talking about the Oregon shooter and reassuring his children this could never happen in their community.
And now he is addressing them with the question they are asking him, when is this going to happen again? That is the question that every one of our children will ask us tonight. They will feel vulnerable and when is it going to happen to us and happen again? These stories are flooding the news today and we must, each of us as a household lead our way out of this. This requires leadership everybody. Our political leaders are sort of not giving us quite what I think we need today. We will be OK.
This is a resilient country and we will get through this. We are in a new zone when evil has prevailed. We are not going to allow this. It's OK to be firm and empathetic with people if someone is misbehaving. Be firm and take action. We will get through this. It's going to be OK. That's what we have to tell our kids.
BLITZER: Dr. Drew, what motivates someone to go out there and shoot and kill children?
PINSKY: Wolf, you are asking a question that it fills me with disgust to have to answer. It's one thing to explain what happened in Oregon. Perhaps this young man had a break or was exposed to a chemical or something that caused him to think in a distorted way.
This is not just that. This is somebody who felt entitled and justified to act out his aggression to this manner. This is grandiosity and feeling special. This is feeling like he is more important than any of these other lives or exposed us to this violence.
And he is going to show why he is so important and feel very justified in what he is doing. This is a longer term kind of distorted thinking than what we saw in Oregon.
BLITZER: And then this person supposedly winds up killing himself. It seems so totally crazy.
PINSKY: Right. Why wouldn't he just kill himself? Why does he have to take the lives with him? That is the grandiosity and the distortion and the entitlement and aggression.
When people talk about evil, I suspect that's what we are talking about here. I don't know what happened and the details about this man's mental health, but I suspect it's going to be chronic severe troubled behavior that for whatever reason was not properly managed.
BLITZER: One final question, Dr. Drew, before I let you go, chemical imbalances in the brain, sometimes you hear psychiatrists and psychologists talking about something that snaps and causes people to do this. Give us your sense.
PINSKY: That's what I was talking about just days ago in relation to Oregon. That was more that kind of a circumstance. This no doubt there was stress. All human behavior is because of this instrument up here.
Something obviously did cross a threshold for him that caused him to act out violently. Again this is something of a more chronic, severe, structural wiring nature in the brain and regions not firing or never firing that would allow someone to be empathic or feel like a part of humanity. There are parts of the brain that allow us to feel that way. Those parts of the brain in terms of misfiring the brain, I suspect those are the areas we will see chronically were not operating normally with this individual.
BLITZER: Not normally at all. Dr. Drew, thanks very much for your perspective. Our CNN producer has been in a fire house near the Sandy Hook Elementary School where the panicked parents rushed to find their children and many of those parents are inside right now including parents who have lost their kids.
David Ariosto is joining us on the phone. Describe what's going on based on the information you have seen and heard, David.
DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Wolf, for the last several hours now, we've had emergency vehicles parked in and around this firehouse and they make their way towards the school. This is sort of the stopping point where emergency vehicles stop at and head towards the school.
We have seen ATF. We've seen FBI, state and local police forces. Many of these individuals have been carrying assault weapons and wearing gear and like you mentioned, there are families still inside this firehouse. I think it's a short while ago really quite a moving scene.
There were about three sets of parents that we can only assume are parents. Three sets of couples walking out of the firehouse and their eyes were bloodshot and lips trembling and the firemen who is escorting them out seemed as visibly shaken as them.
They are not talking to anyone, but it's a small slice of what's happening and it happened throughout the day here. Since I have been standing here for the last several hours, you see those parents and you see those individuals.
You've seen nurses and you'll see school cafeteria workers. You see nuns even walking in and around and speaking with those emergency workers and speaking with parents. There few words that you can put to someone. Ask them about what they are feeling.
I was thinking about what I might say about all of this. It's one of the few instances that leaves you without words to capture the true magnitude of what's happened here. I walked into town earlier and sat in a restaurant and people are watching the news.
Every once in a while, someone will breakdown and cry and then pick their head back up and watch again. Others are at the media staging area to get a sense of what is transpiring and the sense of wanting to be with the community.
Like you mentioned, this is a small sleepy town in New England. There is a cemetery that sits over the overpass that looks on to that firehouse and down the road is the school.
When you think about what transpired in that school, it's like Dr. Drew said, it leaves with you a sense of disgust.
BLITZER: Total disgust. It's going to be dark there pretty soon, but the firehouse where you are, the parents and loved ones are being consoled by grief counsellors and others, clergy inside as well. We spoke to a rabbi just a little while ago who is inside consoling some of the family members.
ARIOSTO: That's right, Wolf. What you can do to console someone who just lost a child. Someone at that age, I can't begin to imagine. The word inconsolable applies here. This is something that the community is going to be dealing with and reeling from for quite a long time now.
You talk to residents and get the sense that a lot of these people know each other. A lot of people moved to this area from what they told because of the school system. I talked to a teacher who said exactly that.
To have something like this take place in one of the schools and one of the elementary schools at that, it just leaves you without words.
BLITZER: David, thanks very much for that update. David Ariosto is one of our producers on the scene. We have Mary Snow there and Susan Candiotti. We have other reporters and producers watching what's going on in Newtown, Connecticut.
Also we saw Adam Reece he is on the scene in Hoboken, New Jersey, a connection between a residential area and what unfolded at the small elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
I want you to listen it a local nurse who ran to the scene soon after the shooting and described what she saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see you have been crying.
MAUREEN KARENS, NURSE WHO RAN TO THE SCENE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it because of what you saw?
KARENS: No, they wouldn't let us in the building. All I can say is one of the cops said it was the worst thing he had seen in his entire career. It was when they told all these parents who is were waiting for their parents to come out, they thought they were still alive. There are 20 parents that were just told their children are dead. It was awful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Awful indeed. CNN's Ashleigh Banfield is now on the scene for us in Newtown, Connecticut as well. Ashleigh, I know you got there a little while ago, but give our viewers a sense of what you are seeing and hearing.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm in the same place, Wolf, that the Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy just updated us all. You can see from the collection of microphones this is a concentrated media center.
There are dozens and dozens of reporters here already and they are arriving every moment. I hate to bring this up, but it gives me the sense of Columbine and how massive the scope of this story has become.
One of the updates we got, some devastating detail on this. That is the investigation that is about to ensue. Wolf, the bodies of those children are still in the school. Eighteen children died in the school and were dead on the scene.
Two more were taken to the hospital and died there. Those six adults also who died at the school, their bodies are still there. The police who updated us told us that the scope of the investigation, the amount of work they have to do to piece this all together is going to take a very long time.
You can imagine how the parents are dealing with the fact that they can't even get the information or at least know that their child is being brought out of that school. It is just overwhelming in this tiny community of 27,000 people really in the sticks.
When you drive here, you are winding roads and hills and the homes are far apart and yet the community is quite close together. A couple of other things that shed light on the detail on how the shooting took place, the police told us that the shootings were concentrated and they were in an area of the school, particularly two rooms.
There wasn't running through the halls as they described it. No shooter running through the halls and shooting. It might give some description as to why we think there was a concentration of one entire class is unaccounted for that the shooting happened in those particular two rooms.
There was another crime scene now in this tiny town of Newtown, Connecticut. The police say that they are now investigating another body in a home. We can also tell you that there were many couch terms being used. People are being very careful in how they report this, but they said the shooter in the school lived with one of the victims.
We also know that his mother was a kindergarten teacher and shot dead in the school. Whether that is the home where they are investigating as well is unclear. His father apparently living in the town as well and then a brother too so there is a lot of detail we need to piece together.
Another piece of detail that came from the mouth of a little child with the sweetest voice who is being interviewed earlier this afternoon. This child told a story of how the teachers tried to protect them from the information as they were getting them out of the school.
Saying there was an animal in the school and that's why they needed to lock the doors to protect them from the noise they could hear, which was a wild animal that got into the school and to hear that tiny voice telling that, it was pretty remarkable.
BLITZER: Ashleigh, I know this is a difficult story for all of us to cover. I know you have children.
BANFIELD: I have two small children in a Connecticut school about 30 minutes away from here as well. When the news broke it was tough to sort out where it happened, which elementary school it was.
As the details roll in, everybody has been immensely affected and apologize, Wolf, but it is remarkable to see this many seasoned reporters who I have been in the field with for 20 years all having the same reaction to what's transpired.
BLITZER: You choked up and the president of the United States is choking up and wiping away tears as well. Your girls, how are they, your kids.
BANFIELD: My kids are fine. In fact, what's interesting is even though they are about half hour away from here, when I called the school to find out is everything OK and are we under lockdown and what's the protocol and are you sending the kids home?
It affected them deeply. They did perimeter checks and made sure that all the locked doors were locked. They did something I didn't know about. They went into an information protective mode and said no one is allowed to discussions the details within the school walls.
In the only 30 minutes away in a different district, but they would have staff and security outside that school just to handle the potential for children to hear about it. They clearly want the kids to hear about it from their parents.
They are all going to hear about it and ask questions and make sure they are sensitive to the surrounding children as they can be. It is a really overwhelming feeling to live here and to be here as a reporter.
BLITZER: It's a powerful, powerful image that you are presenting and just think about it. Saturday and Sunday, kids don't have to go to school, but Monday morning, kids in your neighborhood and Newtown, Connecticut and all over the United States, they are going to be going back to school the week before Christmas and what an awful time to have to endure this pain.
BANFIELD: I tell you what, Wolf. The school is beyond those trees. I don't know if it's light enough to see. We are located in the staging area where the police wanted to make sure the hundreds of media they would send here would be able to be safely park and out of the way of the residents.
Beyond this playing field and over those trees is where the school is located. Because one of the descriptions that came in from someone who was in a meeting with seven grown up when is this happened, there were roughly 100 rounds that this parent could hear, a woman telling her story. The investigation alone, once the tiny bodies are removed and the adults are removed. The investigation of the trajectory and where the bullets landed or angle the bullets came from, there was so much that will need to be known. I doubt anyone will be coming to this school for a long time.
BLITZER: Police are going to be getting their investigation. Please stand by. I will come back to you and I know you are collecting more information here in Washington. There is a vigil outside the White House and a lot of people are gathering right now.
The president ordered all flags flown at half-staff until December 18th. You can see the pictures coming in from the White House. These are people who want gun control and they are holding a vigil outside the White House right now.
Inside the White House, a little while ago, President Obama went into the briefing room to address the American people and became very emotional.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mullen. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, couple their families.
We have endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years and each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but anybody else would, as a parent. That was especially true today. I know there is not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.
The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.
Among the fallen were also teachers and men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. Our hearts are broken today. For the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children and for the families of the adults who were lost.
Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well. For as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early and there no words that will ease their pain.
As a country we have been through this too many times whether it's an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theatre in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago.
These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. We are going to have to coming to and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics.
This evening Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and tell them we love them and we will remind each other how deeply we love one another.
But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. They need all of us right now. Hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans and I will do everything in my power as president to help.
Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need to remind them that we're there for them and we are praying for them and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but in ours.
May God bless the memory of the victims and in the words of scripture, heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.
BLITZER: The president of the United States obviously very, very emotional like so many millions and millions of people all over the country right now. We will take a quick break and resume the special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We are continuing the breaking new, the tragic news out of Connecticut. Twenty six people were killed and 20 of them children when a gunman opened fire in a small elementary school. Children killed were ages 5 through 10, kindergarten through fourth grade.
So how do families and especially children cope when a tragedy happens like the one that unfolded today in Connecticut? CNN's Lisa Sylvester is here I THE SITUATION ROOM. She has been taking a closer look at this story.
It hit so powerfully. I know you have kids and the president has kids. We heard Ashleigh Banfield react. It's a powerful, powerful emotional moment for the country.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have a kindergartener and you know, every parent out there thinks the same thing. You know, you say, you waive goodbye to your child and they have their backpack and you assume you will see them later on tonight.
I don't think, Wolf, that there is a parent out there who has seen this story and not impacted by what happened today. For parents it is hard to even comprehend or say the words 20 children killed.
We are talking about a class of very young children. How do you make sense of it all? It's hard as an adult and as a parent, but it's tougher if you are a child.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER (voice-over): If there is an image that sums up this story, it is this. Any parent out there can relate. Psychiatrist Charles Raison is with the University of Arizona's College of Medicine.
DR. CHARLES RAISON, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: How do you wrap your mind around something like this? With a good deal of heart break with the understanding that will it take a while and there will be people that were closely impacted by this who will never wrap their minds around this.
The human minds are not infinite. This is appearing to be probably the worst school catastrophe in history. There will be a huge fallout for this that will also impact the people's emotional well being and we need to gear ourselves up for the fallout. This is a horrible thing.
SYLVESTER: The news is traumatic for parents and for children. This happened at a school where kids are supposed to feel safe.
RAISON: How do you explain it to children? It depends on the age of the child, but I think simple forthright explanations are the best. I think one of the things I tell children is there some bad people in the world and sometimes bad people do terrible things.
A terrible thing happened and there have been children killed. This is terrible, but you are safe and you necessary a situation now where you are not going to be harmed.
SYLVESTER: The American Academy of Pediatrics said take into account the age of the child and do not offer details that may alarm them. Ask them what they know and answer questions. Parents can share feelings in the way they are coping and find ways to help others.
RAISON: Children are resilient and what matters now is how we help them understand what's happened and even I think more importantly --
BLITZER: Here's the police chief. Let's listen in for the latest.
LT. J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: We are limited as to some of the details we can give out to you for obvious reasons. First let me state that I have told you the number of deceased in the building and the hospital and the secondary crime scene. It's our policy that we have to establish positive identification of those victims.
It's a time consuming process and something that will take a great deal of time. They worked closely to expedite that and get it done as efficiently as possible. As I told you, the families have been assigned a trooper or officer as a line of communication.
That was done to ensure the families that they have constant communication with the investigation and they won't have on sit and watch television news or anything. They will be the first to know any of the progress that is made as the investigation continues on. As I stated earlier, the assets utilized initially were when the call came in, Newtown Police Department immediately responded and immediately called for hospital. They sent out officers and the state police sent off duty and on duty troopers to respond to gain access to the building and begin that search process that I alluded to before.
We had the say the police team and canine teams out here. We had trooper in the air and take some of your helicopters away, quite frankly, but every possible asset came out to the scene the minute this alarm came in or this call came in. It was certainly to do everything we could to protect and property.
The community has been outstanding in supporting the effort. You have taken over their park and they are showing up and offering condolences and doing everything they possibly can to support the victims, the victims' families of this horrific tragedy.
The FBI crisis management team offered to respond here tomorrow to assist a crisis management and not only with the families and the family members, but with all the first responders and the police and fire and EMS. All working at what I described as a horrific and difficult scene.
Certainly a local mental health crisis intervention team had been on scene and have been here all of today working and assisting and helping. I wanted to make it clear that there were 18 children pronounced dead at the scene and two children transported to area hospitals and pronounced dead at the hospital.
Six adults pronounced dead at the scene and obviously, the shooter was also pronounced dead at the scene. I don't have much detail about the secondary scene, but there is a related scene we discovered as we were continuing the criminal investigation and specifically investigating the shooter.
You probably saw and someone asked me about the bomb squad and yes, we brought all our assets in, in case they were need and we went out to search or execute search warrants or examine other scenes, we took them with us to ensure they were right there to react if it was necessary.
That's about all I have as far as the details are concerned. I want to give you one more briefing and try it get back up here for more briefing. I will take a couple of brief questions, but I must tell you there certain things we cannot discuss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have anyone in the hospital now that survived this?
VANCE: No, sir. One person was injured that suffered an injury and did survive, yes.