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Connecticut Elementary School Shooting; President Obama Travels to Connecticut Tomorrow

Aired December 15, 2012 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live right now from Newtown, Connecticut.

The 20 children gunned down in their own elementary school were 6 and 7 years old. They were practically babies, as the people here in Newtown, Connecticut, mourn. We now know the names of the victims of the school massacre.

Authorities releasing the list just a little while ago. We're also learning just how brutally they died. The medical examiner says, every one of the 26 victims were shot more than once, apparently with a semiautomatic.

The relatives of the shooter Adam Lanza say they are struggling to comprehend the tremendous loss of life, including Lanza's own mother, Nancy, who was gunned down as well by her son.

Still, no word on a motive. Police say they have found very good evidence at the school and at the Lanza home.

For more right now on the investigation, let's bring in our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. She's here in Newtown, Connecticut, with all of us. She's working her sources.

What's the latest, Susan?


Of course, the question is what move a 20-year-old young man to target so many innocent victims. Investigator are looking everywhere for clues. For example, trying to fine anything he might have written down, trying to talk to family and friends, even retracing his steps to look for clues.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Investigators are learning more each day that may explain what led 20-year-old Adam Lanza to launch a vicious attack on young children and adults at an elementary school.

LT. J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Our investigators at the crime scene, the school, and secondarily, the secondary crime scene that we discussed, with the female located, deceased, did produce very good evidence in this investigation, that our investigators will be able to use and hopefully painting a complete picture as to how and, more importantly, why this occurred.

CANDIOTTI: Police won't say what the evidence is. However, investigators have been checking out gun ranges and sporting good stores. They followed a lead, the shooter tried to buy a gun Tuesday at this location. After searching store surveillance videos, the tip didn't pan out.

GENE MARQUEZ, ATF ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT: To date, ATF has not uncovered any information that would substantiate the fact he tried to acquire guns recently. We're out there actively investigating.

CANDIOTTI: Federal gun agents also said they recovered weapons at the home the shooter shared with his mother. Sources say three more guns were found. These three rifle models, all older, being traced. At least once has been connected to the mother.

Three more weapons were discovered with the shooter in a classroom where he took his own life. According to law enforcement officials, the two handguns and semiautomatic long gun, called a Bushmaster, were bought legally by his mother.

The chief medical examiner says that long gun was used to kill several victims.

H. WAYNE CARVER II, CONNECTICUT CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: I only did seven autopsies. The victims I had range from three to 11 wounds apiece, and I only saw two of them with close range shooting. All the wounds that I know of at this point were caused by the long weapon.


CANDIOTTI: One relative describes the shooter as a very bright young man who at one point was home schooled by his mother. And a law enforcement official tells us that the shooter's older brother described to them that his younger brother was autistic, but so far nothing, adds up to a motive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti, thanks very much.

Over at the Stratford High School, about a half hour or so away from where we are here in Newtown, Connecticut, there's a vigil under way right now. I want to watch and listen right now.





BLITZER: Jason Carroll is there at the high school, Stratford High School, in Connecticut.

Jason, set the scene for us. This vigil is so moving. The images that we're seeing are so powerful and remembering a special person. JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is exactly how Victoria, Vicki is what her family calls her, this is how Vicki Soto's family wanted to remember her. This is how they wanted to come together and grieve.

And this is -- this is something that took a life of its own because of Facebook. A Facebook message went out saying they wanted to bring the community together, wanted to bring people together and then some tweets went out, one by Vicki Soto's sister saying come to the high school here at Stratford, and this is how we're going to have a candlelight vigil. This is where Victoria Soto graduated back in 2003.

And, Wolf, when I spoke to her family, earlier today, you really get more of a picture, more of a sense as you look at the picture there on your screen, you get more of a sense of who this woman was. That picture was the picture taken from the school, from Sandy Hook elementary. Her mother just got that picture last week. And it's one of her mother's favorite pictures and that's the picture her mother said this is the image we want the world to see of our Victoria Soto.

They describe her as a dedicated teacher. Wolf, this is a woman who didn't call her students students. She called them, quote, "her kids," every time she -- every time she spoke about them. She actually herself wanted to be a teacher every since she herself was a little girl.

And so, it was -- the family was especially proud when she became a teacher. She was really, you know, the rock of the extended family. She was the one who did secret Santa every year during the holidays. So -- but she's just really especially going to be missed.

Also here that you see here in the crowd are her family, her two sisters. She's got a sister, Julian, another sister, Carly, her brother Carlo Matthew, her mother, her father, they are here as well. Her cousin here, who I spoke to earlier today.

A lot of the folks here are wearing green and that's because green was one of Victoria Soto's favorite colors. So, the word went out today, if you've got green, ware a green hat, green gloves, sweater, anything put it on. This is another way to remember Victoria.

They did not want her to be remembered as just a victim, Wolf. They wanted her to be remembered as a dedicated teacher, a loving sister, and a loving daughter -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Such a story, such a story of a wonderful woman, Vicki Soto, a first grade teacher at the school, 27 years old. She had her students huddled behind her, she tried to protect them, as Jason's been telling us. She was shot and killed at the elementary school.

Jason, I want to let our viewers know that we have learned that the president of the United States, President Obama, will come here to Newtown, Connecticut, tomorrow. He will attend the interfaith vigil that will take place at 7:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time here in Newtown, Connecticut. The president of the United States wanted to be here. He wants to comfort the families. He wants to participate in this interfaith vigil that will take place here in Newtown tomorrow night.

Obviously, he has been shaken. We all saw what he said yesterday at that brief statement he made in the White House. He broke down, started to cry, holding back tears.

So, the president will be here tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern for the interfaith vigil here in Newtown.

Let's go back in the meantime to the vigil that's taking place right now over at Stratford High School.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last selection will be performed by myself. And this is "Days of Plenty."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for letting us be here.


BLITZER: This vigil continues at Stratford High School not far away from Newtown, where we are. The vigil that we're watching, remembering Vicki Soto, the first grade who was killed yesterday at the elementary school here, only 27 years old.

Kate Bolduan is still with us.

Kate, you had a chance to speak with parents who are fortunate their little child survived, in part thanks to Vicki Soto.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Wolf. That's what those parents say. This is Robert and Diane Licata. I sat down with them today. They not only have one child that was at Sandy Hook. They have two children that were at Sandy Hook yesterday. Their daughter in second grade, their son in first grade in Victoria Soto's classes, we will continue -- Sandy Hook, I'm sorry, Wolf -- as we continue to look at these pictures of this vigil.

Their first grade son, that's in her class, he talks about not only being able to escape but before that, coming face-to-face with the shooter, Wolf.


DIANE LICATA, MOTHER OF 6-YEAR-OLD IN CLASSROOM ATTACKED BY GUNMAN: What happened when I got to the school and realized it was Sandy Hook, pulled down as far as I could, I couldn't get all the way. I drove over the curb into the firehouse parking lot and I said, it's here, it's here, there's been a shooting here. And I saw -- I saw the EMTs working on a little boy and I knew it wasn't our son because I knew the (INAUDIBLE) it was close. So, I ran to the school. You know the chaos is indescribable. I mean, it's like living through Columbine, everything you've seen on TV. So as the children start to come out, you know, single pile, class by class, group by group, when you see their teacher, I saw my daughter's teacher, and she wasn't -- my daughter wasn't with her teacher and I grabbed her teach somewhere asked her where she was she said she didn't know because she wasn't with the class.

So the kids start to come out. When I saw her, the sense of relief is incredible but it's really short-lived because I still have one in there and I'm waiting for him to come. And he didn't come out.

And I didn't see his teacher and I didn't see his classmates. And so as a parent, you know, I hugged made daughter and I said, you know, I told her to hug her friend in her class and I said go to the fire station, daddy's coming. I'm going to wait for Aiden. I'm going to wait.

And he didn't come out. So you know, when you're standing there waiting, and no one will tell you anything, it's indescribable feeling of helplessness. You know, we are very lucky because I think I was there an hour and then the group stopped coming and I just knew no one else was coming out of that school. I just knew in my heart.

I actually received a text from a friend said that he was at the police station and he was safe there and he was one of the groups of kids that ran that got out, had been picked up. And so, when we went there, and I saw him for the first time, it was just an incredible feeling of relief, and I feel so blessed. It's just a feeling of blessing.


BOLDUAN: It truly is.

R. LICATA: Angels on their shoulder. The children got out of the classroom. It was a blessing. Indescribable.

D. LICATA: It's an amazing feeling. And you feel -- you feel so relieved but at the same time you know that others can't share that feeling. And you just -- your heart doesn't know which direction to go. Their friends, their neighbors.

R. LICATA: These are children that our children went to preschool with, known since they were 2 years old 3 year old. So the magnitude of what's happened, not just for us but for everyone in this community, hasn't even been felt yet, because the children will learn about their friends and their teacher and others that they know.

And, you know, we, as parents, need to do the best to prepare our children for that and explain in the best way we can that makes sense to them what's happened and how to kind of help them through that process.

BOLDUAN: From what you've been told by your son and what you know now, what happened?

R. LICATA: According to Aiden, they went through a normal day. They did their circle time, where they introduce each other, they did their message --

D. LICATA: Over the loudspeaker.

R. LICATA: And they were doing their announcement over the loudspeaker. And that's when they heard noises that he described as initially they thought were hammers falling. Then they realized that it was gunshots. And Mss Soto, who's Aden's teacher, had the presence of mind to move all of the children to a distance away from the door on the side of the room furthest away from the door, and that's when the gunman burst in, did not say a word. No facial expressions, and proceeded to shoot their teacher.

At that time, the children from an early age are taught, when they see a person with a gun, you run and you call 911. And they practice that in school with their fire and emergency drills and everything. We're very lucky that all of the children, my son included, had the presence of mind to react appropriately and they basically ran right next to the gun out the door. And --

BOLDUAN: They ran past the gunman?

R. LICATA: They ran past the guy -- he's just standing in the door and they ran past him and ran down the hallway and they're one of the closest rooms to the main entrance, and Aiden was -- had the presence of mind to hold the door for one of his classmates. And there was another classmate that was behind and waited for him and they all ran to the road, the main road, all the way down, and where they met a woman who is an angel to us, who took them into her van and took them to the police station.

BOLDUAN: How did your son, he's 6 years old, have the presence of mind, faced not only by seeing this horrific act happen in front of him, but then have the presence of mind to run past this person and to safety?

D. LICATA: I think it's impossible to honestly know what was going through his mind. You know, it's sad to say that in today's world I do watch the news with the kids, I do discuss all of the things that happen, and have told them, you know, thinking from a high school or even college perspective, if anybody ever comes into your classroom with a gun, you just run. And I've said that to them countless times, just -- you just run.

And so, I -- I'm sure -- I'd like to think that part of that is deep down inside, my son and he knew he had the presence of mind do that. And I also think part of it was just this fight or flight response, this instinct that just told him and other students in that room to just leave.

And I think maybe because of the way that things played out, how the gunman came in and shot their teacher first, I know they would have looked to her for guidance and without her, to tell them what to do, they just ran. And it's honestly a miracle that I'm able to have -- we're able to have this conversation with you and with our son still with us.

BOLDUAN: Do you think he knows what the -- that she likely did not make it?

D. LICATA: He keeps asking about her. He's reassuring himself that she's going to be OK. He really, really, really cared about his teacher. He was very close with her and she really loved that class. He keeps saying, I really hope she's OK, I hope it's not her.

He knows that she's been hurt but he doesn't know the end result. He knows the kids that he saw getting shot. He doesn't know the outcome. So, I think he's reassuring himself in his 6-year-old mind, I know he's processing it, but I think he's reassuring himself. I think he's telling himself that it's going to be OK.

BOLDUAN: What was yesterday supposed to be like?

R. LICATA: I was supposed to go there 2:00 and build a gingerbread house, you know? This is something we do as parents. All parents in this community very much involved. And, you know, we go in and read books.

Diane's active in volunteering there. And, you know, we know the teachers. We know a lot of the kids.

So, 2:00 I was supposed to go and build a gingerbread house. That's what Aiden's class was doing today.

D. LICATA: It starts out like any other day.

R. LICATA: Any other day. They have a routine.

D. LICATA: Working from home, I had meetings. I was going to the gym and I was supposed to go to Aiden's class but I asked Robert if he had meetings and I said, "Why don't you go? Aiden will be excited." You know, we told Aiden, he couldn't wait for daddy to come. And it starts off like any other day.

BOLDUAN: What was last night like when you finally have your family back together and you come home?

D. LICATA: The day was hourless. I couldn't tell you what time it was. It was -- time almost stood still but at the same time just kept progressing. Having the kids, having us close together, we stayed so close together. We sat on the couch all night.

The kids, we tried to keep them protected, letting them watch whatever they wanted to on television. And we just stayed really, really close. We all slept in the same room last night.

BOLDUAN: Diane, what's that moment like when you know how your day went and then you got everyone together?

D. LICATA: You break -- for me, I've been a very emotional person and you just -- I just broke down because I'm sobbing because I'm relieved, because I have my son. But I'm sobbing because I know that others do not and that adults were lost, children were lost, people are suffering from such an incredible, indescribable loss that the only thing I know how to do to process it is let that -- those feelings out. And I just started crying.

R. LICATA: We didn't know what to expect. We didn't know how -- if they were going to wake up and, you know, with a nightmare, and happily today, I actually slept well and we all -- the kids slept well.

D. LICATA: I didn't sleep.

R. LICATA: You process things. You keep replaying what our son -- what went through his mind and what happened, and I don't think as adults, we can even possibly imagine what any child saw that day, especially no less our son.

So, we weren't sure what to expect. They woke up happy. And, so, you know, what we're trying to do as parents is project a sense of normalcy and a sense of routine.

D. LICATA: A sense of safety.

R. LICATA: Safety.

D. LICATA: Because he -- we had to put the sign out in the front today asking people not to ring the doorbell because he still hasn't internalized the fact that this gunman, this bad guy, is gone and he wants to know if there are more bad guys in the world. And I don't know how to answer that question properly.

And so when someone rings the doorbell, he thinks it's him coming back, coming for him. And so, he -- so I think our biggest concern now is making sure that we handle his sensitive nature properly and carefully and support him and support our daughter because she, again, does process things very differently than he does.

So that's our job as parents now, is to stay close to them, hold them, hug them, love them, and let them know that they are safe.


BOLDUAN: I'll tell you, Wolf, Robert and Diane Licata, they did not want their children to be on camera. They are still processing everything that they have gone through. But I did have the opportunity to spend some time not only with Robert and Diane today but also with their two children. And Aiden and his sister they seem in very high spirits. They seem like two kids on a Saturday morning. But clearly they are shaken after everything they've experienced.

And both of the parents said to me, as hard as it is for this family and what they've been through, they know that there are many more families that are not able to hug their children tonight and their hearts are breaking for them and go out to those families. Wolf? BLITZER: Yes, our hearts are breaking for them as well. Kate, thanks so much for sharing that with all of our viewers. We have something very special when we come back.

Robbie Parker, the father of six-year-old Emilie Parker, she was killed yesterday. He is now speaking out. We're going to hear what he's saying about his beautiful six-year-old daughter when we come back.


BLITZER: President Obama will travel here to Connecticut tomorrow to join in remembering and in mourning the victims of the second deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history at a school. A White House statement says the president will speak at an interfaith vigil for families of the victims as well as families from Sandy Hook Elementary School. That's scheduled for 7:00 p.m., Sunday night, here in Newtown, Connecticut. We have been watching a vigil this hour for one victim, a teacher, who died trying to save her students.

We're talking about Victoria Soto. Today we also learned the names of all six adults and the 20 children who were gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School here in Newtown. We also learned more about how they died. Police say three guns were found at the scene next to the body of the shooter, Adam Lanza. But the medical examiner says all wounds he knows of were caused by what he calls the long weapon, that rifle, that we're talking about. That would be the modified semiautomatic rifle that's a civilian version of the military M-16.

One of the victims of the Newtown Elementary School massacre was a six-year-old girl named Emilie Parker. Her father gave a heart wrenching news conference just a little while ago. Listen to this.


ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF SIX-YEAR-OLD VICTIM EMILIE PARKER: My daughter Emilie would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims. Because that's the type of person that she is. Not because of any parenting that my wife and I could have done. But because those were the gifts that were given to her by her heavenly father. As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts, we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was, and how many lives she was able to touch in her short time here on earth. Emilie was bright, creative and very loving.

Emilie was always willing to try new things, other than food. She loved to use her talents to it touch the lives of everyone she came into contact with. She was an exceptional artist, and she always carried around her markers and her pencils so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her. I can't count the number of times Emilie noticed someone feeling sad or frustrated and would rush to find a piece of paper to draw them a picture or to write them an encouraging note. Emilie's card-making was expressed beautifully this last October when she placed a very special card she had made into the casket with her grandpa, who also just recently died of a tragic accident.

Emilie was a mentor to her two little sisters in delighting and teaching them how to read, dance and find the simple joys in life. Emilie's laughter was infectious, and all those who had the pleasure to meet her would agree tat this world is a better place because she has been in it.

I was leaving to work and she woke up before I left and I have actually been teaching her Portuguese. And so our last conversation was in Portuguese. And she's - she told me good morning and asked how I was doing and I said I was doing well. She said that she loved me, and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door. They were born all born within three years of each other. So by law they're very close. She was teaching my middle daughter to read. She would help my youngest daughter learn how to make things, show her how to do crafts. They looked up to her. And they looked to her when they needed comfort. Usually that's - that's saved for her mom and her dad but it was really sweet to see the times one of them would fall or one of them would get their feelings hurt, how they would run to Emilie get support and hugs and kisses.

She was the type of person that could just light up the room. She always had something kind to say about anybody. Her love and strength she gave us and the example she showed to us is remarkable. She is an incredible person. And I'm so blessed to be her dad.


BLITZER: Robbie Parker, 30-year-old father of little Emilie Parker, who was murdered yesterday here at this elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Anderson Cooper's on the scene with us. I don't know what else to say, Anderson, after hearing a dad like that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It's all just beyond words really. And I said this last night, I feel like all of the words that we speak and all the words that can be spoken are just - it seems so small in the face of this horror.

BLITZER: He works in a hospital. He's a physician's assistant. He deals with saving people's lives. He's at work and all of a sudden he gets a call. There's a problem.

COOPER: It's unimaginable.

BLITZER: And you know, all day long here people have sort of been gathering and in spots, impromptu spots, public vigils, other times just on a street corner. Everybody kind of wants to talk about where they were, what they heard, who they knew. And it's really extraordinary feeling here right now. I mean this is a community which - it all sounds cliche - but it's a community trying to come together, trying to help one another. And it's an extraordinary thing to witness.

BLITZER: It happens the week before Christmas. You know, people have to say to themselves, how could this happen in our little community here, a small city, small town, 20,000 people, not far from Danbury, as I walked around, people don't know what to say.

COOPER: Yes. And I mean, this is the kind of - I mean a parent never gets over the loss of a child, and especially to have it around the holidays and each year that remainder around this time, when everyone else is celebrating. I think people in this community will never forget that and each holiday will be a remembrance of those whose lives were lost.

BLITZER: You know, I got in front of me here, Anderson, this is painful if you look at this. This is the list of the victims the state police released -

COOPER: It's horrific.

BLITZER: The 30 people - excuse me, 26 people who were killed at the school. Six adults and we see their names and their ages, 29, 47, 52, 30, 56, and 27. But then you see the names of the children and all of them, 20 kids, either six or seven years old, Charlotte, six, Daniel, seven, Olivia, six, Josephine, seven, Ana, six, Dylan, six. I mean you see these names. You go down, Jessica, six, Avielle, six, Benjamin, six, Allison, six.

COOPER: And to see the photographs that the parents are releasing. Obviously, we're only showing photographs of children that the families want you to see and want you to know about. Obviously out of sensitivity. But actually we've seen these shootings before, terribly enough and oftentimes it's adults that we're talking about. But to see - again to see that little girl's face while her father's talking about her, it's - it is stunning.

BLITZER: He wanted to go out and make that statement. He wanted to remember his beautiful daughter, Emilie, he has got two other kids, two and four, she was six years, and he wanted to make a statement. He wanted to answer some questions. And you know you and I have covered these kinds of events before, Virginia Tech, I remember, parents wanted to speak about their sons or daughters who were murdered.

COOPER: Yes. I mean oftentimes people - they want you to know who their child was and they want you to know what their child was about and what their child was like. For some it helps, for others, it doesn't help to talk, and we certainly understand that and being very sensitive in giving people the privacy that they want and deserve. But for those who do want to talk, it can I don't know that it helps but it's - it's one step.

BLITZER: We've told all of our producers, all of our staff, you know, we're not going to try to convince people, if they don't want to, they don't have to. If they want to, they're more than welcome. We'd like to hear.

COOPER: But it's times like this, and I think for people watching, other parts of the country might not understand why somebody would come and do a press conference or why they would come and make a statement. But I think you know, people really want, in their grief, they want you to know about who their loved within was and they know the thoughts and prayers of so many around the world are with them right now. They want people to kind of share in that.

BLITZER: Now we know the president will come here and share his thoughts, not only with the people here. He's going to try to comfort them. But he's going to try to comfort a nation that's grieving right now.

COOPER: Yes, he'll be meeting with families and also first responders. Of course I mean you got to think about those first responders and what they witnessed and have been dealing with and they need as much comfort for the things that they have seen in these last 24, 36 hours.

BLITZER: You'll pick up our coverage right at the top of the hour. You're here for the duration, just like me.


BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. We'll take a quick break. More of our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Relatives of the 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, giving us additional insight who he was. His aunt, who lives in Illinois, spoke out a little while ago.


MARSHA LANZA, GUNMAN'S AUNT: I had the TV on yesterday morning and that's how I found out about it. And I was trying to connect the dots. They listed Ryan, the age didn't agree. Because I have a son, Michael, who is a couple of years older than Ryan and when they said the age and the name, it didn't click but the location did.

And it was further revealed it wasn't Ryan, he was now 24. Then it click, yes, that's the right age of Ryan. I couldn't imagine Ryan doing such a thing he's too - too well educated. Works in New York City. He's a CPA. He's got it together. Ryan, he was different, he was quiet. Nice kid. Good kid. I mean he was definitely the challenge of the family in that house. Every family has one. I have one. They have one. But never in trouble with the law. Never in trouble with anything. You know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you start making calls reaching out? At what point did you start -- when you realized -

MARSHA LANZA: I called my husband in North Carolina, I said "Have you heard the news?" He said "No." I said "You need to go listen to it." In the meantime, I was getting ready to head to the airport to pick up my college - coming home from college. And I asked him what he knew. He heard about it but didn't know the names. So I said "You need to listen to the radio on the way home." Of course I lost it. At this point I was hearing, Nancy was not only gone, but PJ. - we call him PJ, his name's Peter was also gone and that's just - we loved him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you had just sent an e-mail to her?

MARSHA LANZA: I did, yesterday, we had been in touch. Chit chat a long ways even though they divorced we were still friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were you chitchatting about? Can you share some of that with us?

MARSHA LANZA: Things in general, life, kids. You know, what are your kids up to?


MARSHA LANZA: Yes, I sent her one yesterday before I found this out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were having these conversations - did she ever express her concerns about her son? I mean, what have you been able to put together now that you think back on who he was and the problems he was having?

MARSHA LANZA: I know she had issues with school. She eventually wound up home schooling him. She battled with the school district and what capacity, I'm not a 100 percent certain if it was behavior, if it was learning disabilities. I really don't know but he was a very, very bright boy. He was smart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he acted out. Did she share with you any -

MARSHA LANZA: No, she didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No violence toward her?

MARSHA LANZA: No. And if he did, I know she wouldn't tolerate it. If they needed help I know they would have gotten it for him. Because they were the type of parents, even when they were married as well as being separated, if the kids had a need, they would definitely fill it.


BLITZER: And we've just received a statement courtesy of our affiliate WFSB, a statement from the father of Adam Lanza. Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who went into that school here in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 26 people.

A statement from Peter Lanza, just released. Let me read it to our viewers. "Our hearts go out to the family and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured. Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heart broken we are. We are in a state of disbelief in trying to find whatever answers we can. We, too, are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened and struggling to make sense of what has transpired."

That have statement just coming in from Peter Lanza, the father of Adam Lanza, the shooter in this horrific, horrific case. Gun control out of the kids say there was - if there was ever a time to push for tough new legislation, it is certainly now when President Obama tearfully spoke about the massacre yesterday. He called for, "a meaningful action to prevent similar tragedies." He didn't spell out, though, what should be done.

I asked the Connecticut senator, Richard Blumenthal earlier today, what he expects to happen.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): We're going to go back to Washington, the United States senate -

BLITZER: Is new federal legislation needed to tighten up gun control in the United States?

BLUMENTHAL: You know, Wolf, I think that is a conversation I am going to have with my colleagues. Today I'm not going to discuss it out of respect to the families. And I'm going to be back again tomorrow. But I'm going to go to Washington and I'm going to raise this issue, and I think it's time for the conversation to be renewed. For the dialogue to begin again, and for the Senate to consider whether that kind of (INAUDIBLE) is necessary.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar. She is taking a closer look at this whole issue of guns in America. Brianna, what do you see?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that sentiment of Senator Blumenthal is very much I think what President Obama feels. As you know, he will be heading to Newtown to speak at that interfaith vigil tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And expect that he will be offering his condolences, no doubt striking a tone of unity but not talking about what he sees as some of the solutions to avert something like this.

The White House feels that they don't want to get into specifics about policies they might pursue in the wake of this tragedy. They're afraid that it would be counterproductive, that it would be inappropriate considering this tragedy just happened. But the sense that I gotten, Wolf, is what President Obama said yesterday should be seen very much as a pledge to do something more than just talk about this problem. And for right now, gun rights advocates are being very quiet. They are basically saying no comment. But gun control advocates are saying they want more than a vague pledge.


KEILAR (voice-over): Just hours after the Connecticut shooting a promise from President Obama to tackle gun violence.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to be prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. KEILAR: But what exactly does he mean by meaningful action? Critics of the president's record on the issue are pressing for specific proposals. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "Calling for meaningful action is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership, not from the White House and not from Congress."

Gun violence has not been a priority for the Obama administration. As he ran for president in 2008, Obama supported reinstating a ban on assault weapons.

OBAMA: Don't tell me we can't uphold the second amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

KEILAR: Once elected he did not make good on his campaign pledge. After his first year in office, the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence gave the president across the board F's on its report card.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate will come to order.

KEILAR: A major obstacle for the president -- Congress, where even in the democratic controlled Senate, there has been little appetite to touch the controversial issue. Multiple bills have been introduced. Not a single one has made it to the floor for a vote. Those involved in the debate over guns says the president has a number of options. Reinstating some form of the assault weapons ban that expired in 1994, banning high-count magazines or improving the reporting of people with mental health issues to make sure they are disqualified from purchasing firearms.

Polls show Americans have become accustomed to daily reports of gun deaths. Friday morning a shooter killed a Memphis police officer who was a mother of four. Friday night, a man shot and killed a woman working at a Las Vegas hotel before killing himself. Early Saturday morning in Birmingham, Alabama, police killed a gunman inside a hospital where three people were hurt. But New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy whose husband died and son was injured when a shooter open fired on a Long Island train in 1993 says the Connecticut shooting may be what forces President Obama and Congress to finally address the problem.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK (on the phone_: Let's face it, we need to have the president as the bully pulpit on trying to get something done. This time, which I saw was different, that politicians that usually don't talk about it were talking about it. So there is a difference this time around there is a difference, maybe the pendulum is turning and the country is ready to get serious about this issue.


KEILAR: White House spokesman Jay Carney, Wolf, yesterday said that now is the time to have sympathy for families. Making it clear he doesn't think it's time to engage in a policy debate. But talking to Congresswoman McCarthy today, she said when she heard that, she said she was upset and that she called up the White House and said what are you talking about? That she said this is something that we should have been talking about years ago.

BLITZER: And Brianna, I understand we're also getting new word about the president and his decision, as far as the next secretary of state is concerned.

KEILAR: That's right, Wolf. We're just finding out that President Obama has decided on Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state. This is coming to CNN from a Democrat who spoke with Kerry. And that same source says that this announcement could be made formal as early as next week. As you know, Wolf, sort of the way was paved here for this to happen when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name for consideration for this post, leaving Senator Kerry as really the only other name that was really being discussed.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar at the White House. Thanks very much. Let me bring Kate Bolduan in quickly. Kate, you know, our coverage is going to continue at the top of the hour with Anderson Cooper. You'll be back tomorrow morning. I'll be back later in the day as well. We'll be gearing up for the president who will be here in Newtown, Connecticut, tomorrow night. Give us a final thought before we go.

BOLDUAN: I think one thing that you and I have definitely seen as we have been here today, I've been talking with families that have children that were at the school. I think it's clear that this is a town forever changed, but a town that was definitely coming together to grieve and heal together. Wolf?

BLITZER: It will take a long time. Kate, thanks very much. That does it for me.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Newtown, Connecticut. CNN's coverage of this tragedy continues with a special edition of "AC360." That's next.