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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Mass Shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut
Aired December 14, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The parents were waiting for their children to come out and thought they were still alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you wrap your mind around something like this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The community trying to make sense of what their governor said was evil visited upon this community today.
I'm Ashleigh Banfield in Newtown, Connecticut. Anderson Cooper 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ashleigh, thanks very much.
Good evening, everyone.
There is, of course, only one story tonight. You know what it is. We have new details to tell but and we won't pretend we understand it any better than we did right after it happened.
It is a horror beyond words. And elementary school, kids as young as 5-years-old. So, sadly to the names Columbine and Jonesboro, we have to add Newtown, Connecticut to Virginia Tech now at Sandy Hook Elementary, the second deadliest school shooting ever in the United States.
Twenty little kids, seven adults killed plus the shooter who apparently took his own life. All in a close-knit quiet community about 90 minutes drive from New York. We are going to give you the latest information tonight, but what we will not do is repeat the shooter's name over and over again. We don't want history to remember this murderer. We want history to remember the victims, the teachers and the children, those whose lives have been unfairly taken.
We have a team of correspondents working on the tragedy. We begin with Soledad O'Brien who, of course, is on the scene.
Soledad, there vigils tonight. We will be checking in with Soledad shortly. There are vigils tonight to tell you about at the people of Newtown try come to grips with what happened. So much happened and so much we have learned since this morning.
Right now, there is an active crime scene, many of the bodies still where they fell. Still inside that school including that of the killer. We do at least tell you his name once. It's Adam Lanza. And as we say, we won't be saying it much tonight. He was 20-years-old, his mother taught at the school. She was found dead at the family home, unclear when or how she died. We do know that she bought the weapons her son used today. She purchased them legally.
We also know that the police today in Hoboken, New Jersey took the killer's older brother in for questioning. They do not label him a suspect and no word of why he still in custody.
There is a lot to tell you about this hour. Right now thought, let's start at the beginning.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: The Connecticut school district on lockdown.
COOPER (voice-over): The first word was chilling and it got worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were reporting multiple fatalities involved in the shooting at the elementary school.
COOPER: With each new report the horror deepened.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The reports say the number of dead closer to 30 than to 20 and sadly most of them are children.
COOPER: Every detail and every fact brought more sadness. Each fresh piece of information a part of the picture. A school, kindergarten through fourth grade, a sanctuary that was supposed to be a place of safety torn apart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She heard the intercom come on the school and heard a scream and heard a gunshot. Two gunshots. And then the school went into lockdown.
COOPER: A student's teenage big brother describing the sounds of gunmen on the loose at Sandy Hook Elementary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE: On and off duty troopers responded and with Newtown police immediately upon arrival entered the school and began a complete shooter's search of the building.
COOPER: They arrived to carnage. The killer, says the law enforcement's source with detail knowledge was dressed for battle in black fatigues and armed for mass murder with two pistols and a military-style rifle. In parts of the school, students were told to hide in corners. Teachers risked their own lives to pull boys and girls to safety.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So grateful to the teacher who saved him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The teacher saved his life?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She definitely did. He had bullets going by him and she grabbed him and another child and pulled them into a classroom.
COOPER: Eventually, the kids were evacuated into a nearby firehouse where frantic parents descended.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still terrify. I think I'm still in shock about of it all. I still don't know everything that happened. I know that there are some people missing that have been taken to the hospital.
COOPER: His son was OK. His son's teacher was alive as well. Twenty other children and six adults were killed. The dead believed to include Sandy Hook's school psychologist and the principal. Police discovered another adult victim, the gunman's mother reportedly at home in Newtown. The gunman too is dead. Police say they fired no shots. A tight knit community including a nurse who lived nearby rushed to help, shock and distraught.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: That you, even cried.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Is it because of what you saw?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the cops said, you know, the worst thing he had ever seen in his entire career, but when they told the parents, all these parents were waiting for their children to come out. They thought they were, you know, still alive. There was 20 parents who were told their children are dead. It was awful.
COOPER: Awful. And late today speaking for the nation, but also as a father, an emotional President Obama fought back tears.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. And they need all of us right now.
COOPER: We will bring you all of President Obama's comments later on in this hour ahead. Soledad O'Brien joins me now. She is on the scene along with Lieutenant J. Paul Vance with the Connecticut state police -- Soledad?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And also joining him is Lieutenant George Sinko. He is with the Newtown police. Gentlemen, I appreciate your time. I know you spend a long time here for this full day on the scene. You just come back from being inside the scene. You said you are going to be processing the scene through Sunday. Layout for me, what does that mean exactly?
LIEUTENANT J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: There is a lot of work that goes into a criminal investigation like this. And surely, that (INAUDIBLE). The priority that we have right now is identifying the victims. We said 18 children in there and six adults and there's the shooter.
We need to positively be able to identify which is which. The medical examiner's office is with them now in that process. So, we are hopeful we can accomplish that by sometime in the early morning hours.
O'BRIEN: So, do you mean to tell me the bodies of the children and those killed are still where they fell?
VANCE: That's correct. Yes.
O'BRIEN: They will still be there until Sunday.
VANCE: Yes, they will.
O'BRIEN: Have you allowed the parents to see their children?
VANCE: No. This is a crime scene. What we need to do is we need to identify them. We have a tentative identification in all of them, but we need to positively identify them and we are doing it, for the parents, as quickly as we possibly can.
O'BRIEN: I know, you talked in other press conferences about the partners you have in this investigation. Can you fill me in on what they are telling me about what's happening in Hoboken, for example, where we know the shooter's brother, certainly, has been interviewed by officials there. We also know that the shooter's father has been talking to law enforcement as well.
VANCE: We, first of all, have not identified anyone. On that, we are perfectly clear. We will not identify anyone that we haven't positively identified. But, we are working with other law enforcement partners as needed. As our investigators cross the line and determine they need information from somewhere out of state regardless of what it might be. We will get them to accomplish that task for us. There had been issues in New Jersey and other states where our investigators have contacted the state police agencies and those states to assist us in this case.
O'BRIEN: Lieutenant Sinko, let me ask you a question if I can. We have been told that the person who is believed to be the shooter, now deceased, inside the building still, had no criminal record as far as we know. But, there often things that they call known to police. A family that had, you know, been contacting police, people that you, as a police officer in this town, Lieutenant, would know them. Can you tell me more about the family? LIEUTENANT GEORGE SINKO, NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT POLICE: At this time we are not going to comment on the family as the lieutenant Vance said. We are not confirming any identities at this time until we are sure positively who we have here. We are going to try to do that tomorrow.
O'BRIEN: Is there any narrative that you have been able to piece together about what exactly happened? We have information about the weaponry. We have information about the victims. We have information about people in different states now being questioned. Is there any story that answers the big question which is why?
VANCE: I don't think so. That's something that we will make every effort to do between Newtown state police detectives. We are working together. We will leave no stone unturned. We are going to go back as far as we need to go or uncover every bit of information and try to answer the question as to why. We consider an investigation like this, the one to be massive. And number two, it's like a big puzzle. We have to put all the pieces together to try and draw a picture as to how and why this occurred.
O'BRIEN: There have been report that is the shooter and you are not naming him, but he has been named in some reports had a personality disorder. Or in some descriptions a mental disorder. You can confirm that?
VANCE: We can't. Again, we can't discuss at this point in time anything to do with any of the victims or any of the deceased whatsoever until we are prepared to do so. We anticipate that will be tomorrow. But, we rather, for investigatory reasons, we will withhold that information this time.
O'BRIEN: When will you allow parents to go and get the bodies of their children?
SINKO: As soon as we can confirm. We are very early into the investigation. But you know, it's obviously very sensitive and we have to make sure we are right.
O'BRIEN: Absolutely, horrible and brutal for people who are still waiting to see this, those they lost.
Thank you for talking to us.
Those are Lieutenant Vance and Lieutenant Sinko, both of the state police and with the Newtown police as well.
As you can imagine, Anderson, the tone here is just terrible and so sad and just fraught with grief as well. We are going to continue to talk to some people who some who are just still grappling and trying to understand what exactly happened here today. I want to send it back to you, though.
COOPER: Yes. And I'm not sure it's something we can ever truly understand. We can get as many details as we can and we are trying to do that. And we are trying to do that with as much respect for those in mourning and for that community as possible.
It is impossible to fathom what the people of Newtown are going through and in particular the parents and the siblings and the family members of the children whose little lives were taken today. So many lives today lost and so many more lives forever changed. Friends and neighbors even complete strangers have gathered and continue to at this hour to hold one another to cry, to pray, to remember. This a vigil tonight at a local church.
Jason Carroll is there and joins us now.
Jason, you have been outside. What are people been saying to you? What has the mood been like?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here at St. Rose Lima church, Anderson, the people and the hundreds who are gathered outside simply because there wasn't enough room inside the church. They are stunned. I mean, there is no other word for it. They are stunned. They are hurt. They are here because they are leaning on each other for support. When you are hurt so badly like this, you turn to your loved, you turned to your family and in some cases you turn to your faith. And that's what's we are seeing. That's what is happening outside as this vigil continues through the night.
You know, in talking to the people here, even in trying to get to where we were, Anderson, we passed a Starbucks. A woman got out of a car next to me, she was in tears. And then, we went by a restaurant. A woman was outside there and her husband, a young boy, they were very upset. And then, as we came down the road here, where the church is, I saw a woman, she was just walking down the street. She looked like she was just stunned, just completely stunned. She was crying and wandering down the street.
So, even before we got to even close to the scene of where it happened, you knew how deeply hurt this community was by what happened. And that's what we are seeing happening outside here.
This is a very close community, so, it's no surprise, Anderson, that the number of the people that you see behind me knew some of these children, knew some of the faculty at the school. And in fact, we ran into one man who was here tonight, knew the principal of the school, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, talked about her saying, how much he loved the school, loved her children. I just want you to listen to what he had to say about her.
Well, let me just tell you that in terms of what he had to say, it was that this was a woman who cared very deeply not just about the school, but she worked there since June of 2010. But also, that she cared very deeply about the students, cared very deeply about her job. It was very tough for him to take and that's why he and so many others are here tonight - Anderson.
COOPER: And Jason, I know you got a chance to talk to the deacon in the community as well.
CARROLL: That's true. The deacon Sinto (ph). In fact, he is helping out individuals tonight and before things got under way, I said what have you been doing? He said, Jason, literally, nearly 100 people have come to the church doors so far looking for support, looking for comfort in any sort of way. And he talked about one little girl, a 6-year-old girl, who he knew who was killed in the shooting and he said how deeply that had affected him. So, not only is he hurt, Anderson, but he has to be the pillar of strength of their community and try to provide strength at the same time while he is trying to heal - Anderson.
COOPER: And what can you say? What can you say to a parent who lost a child?
As word spread throughout the state today, so did the shock and the horror and now of course the grieving.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DAN MALLOY, CONNECTICUT: You can never be prepared for this kind of incident. What has happened, what has transpired at the school building will leave a mark on this community and every family impacted. I only ask that our fellow citizens here in the United States and around the world who already offered their assistance remember all of the victims in their prayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's Connecticut, it's governor earlier today. His main responsibility now, of course, is the investigation along with local and federal authorities. And again, we are emphasizing, we do not want to give undue attention to the killer who committed the murders. We do not want to be part of helping history remember his name. We want the victims to be remembered.
That being said, we do believe it's important to understand whatever we can about this person, about this crime, and how we came to this point.
Susan Candiotti is handling coverage of the investigation.
What's the latest, Susan, you are hearing from law enforcement sources?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi Anderson.
We are trying to get down to the bottom of a bit more about this man, the shooter. Adam Lanza was 20-years-old. We know according to our sources that when he came to that school, he was armed with three guns. He was wearing what is described to me as black battle fatigues and a military vest.
Now, where did he get the three guns and what kind were they? The three hand guns were two-hand guns, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, as well as a .223 that is called the Bushmaster. Now, this is a semi automatic gun. We have photographs of the type of weapon it is. We understand from our sources that these guns were all registered and belonged to his mother. His mother who was also killed.
Now, the mother's body was found in the house where a family home here in this area. We don't know much more about Adam Lanza. We know that his brother Ryan, who was a bit older at 24-years-old. He was taken in to custody for questioning. He is not being called a suspect, but he was in Hoboken, New Jersey when they brought him in for questioning. That's where he lives to try to find out what if anything he knew about this, what he could tell them about his brother, what information he can give about his background.
And police also questioned their father. He still lives in this area. He is divorced from his wife who was one of the victims here and he has remarried. So, he too is being questioned by police to try to shed some light on Adam Lanza and why this tragedy happened - Anderson.
COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.
We are starting to hear inspiring reports about how the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School handled this unimaginable trauma.
Kaitlyn Roic (ph) is a first grade teacher and when she heard gunfire, she rushed 15 children, six and 7-year-olds into a small bathroom, barricaded it with a bookshelf. She told the kids that there were bad guys out side and they had to wait for the good guys. She said when the children started crying, she would told the faces in her hands and tell them, it was going to be OK, told them show me your smile. That's what she would say.
The kids told her just heart breaking things while they were hurdled in that bathroom. They said they wanted to go home for Christmas. They want to hug their moms. Kaitlyn Roic (ph) clearly an extraordinary teacher, and extraordinary human being told ABC news what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLYN ROIC (ph), TEACHER, SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I need you to know that I love you all very much. And that it's going to be OK because I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear. I thought we were all going to die. You know, I don't know if that's OK. You know, teachers. But, I wanted them to know someone loved them and I wanted that to be one of the last things they heard, not the gunfire in the hall way. It was so horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Kaitlyn Roic (ph) said she heard the gunfire stop and when the police came and started knocking, she wanted to make sure they really were the police and asked them to put their badges under the door. And the young teacher protecting her students with everything, everything she had.
Tweet me about this @andersoncooper. I will be tweeting tonight as well. When we come back, even though nothing can explain this, the search for motive. Also, remembering the fallen including Sandy Hook's principal who in addition her job was raising five children of her own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't seem like it's even possible. It's like you, you know, you read it in the paper or see it in the news and you are like oh, my God, that poor family and then, you have something happens so close to home. It's like I think I'm still in shock to be honest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot of people are truly feeling the same tonight, all- around the world. The massacre inside Sandy Hook Elementary school is the deadliest elementary school shooting in American history. And all the words that have been spoken, all the words I'm speaking tonight and will speak later tonight, they all sound so small in the face of this horror.
Twenty little children and six adults, last night they were alive getting ready for a day of school. Tonight, they are gone. President Obama spoke to the nation earlier and we played some of his comments before, but we think it's worth hearing all of what he said.
OBAMA: This afternoon I spoke to governor Malloy and FBI director Muller. 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 the heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel 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 as anybody else would, as a parent. And 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 little kids between the ages of five 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, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. So 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 that their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are 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 theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago. These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods. These children are our children. We will have to coming to and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like 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 will 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. And they need all of us right now. In our 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 are there for them and that we are praying for them and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.
May God bless the memory of the victims and in the words of scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.
COOPER: Well, authorities have not released the names of the victims yet. At least to us all that moments ago the grim process identification continues as this hour. These children's little bodies still inside that school and their parents have not been able to see them yet.
As we learn who they are, when it's appropriate we will focus on their lives and their memory. As the victims, we want history to remember and honor. According to witness, the school's principal and psychologists are among the dead. Here's what we learned about both women.
47-year-old Dawn Hochsprung, we talked about it before, Jason Carroll mentioned her. She became the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary school back in 2010. She arrived with 12 years of experience as a school administrator. She was also a mom raising two daughters and three stepdaughters, according to a local paper. Those who worked with Hochsprung said she was passionate about her job and expert on curriculum, and fun, but firm leader.
One friend put it this way. They said she was the kind of person you would want to be educating your kids and the kids loved her. Even little kids know when someone cares about them and that was her. She was active in twitter writing about her love of reading and posting messages and photos about events and developments at Sandy Hook.
On August 24, she tweeted welcoming our Kinders this morning, 74 new opportunities to inspire lifelong learning. She was apparently talking about the new kindergarten class. Hochsprung had recently installed a new security system at the school when the safeguards all visitors had to ring a door bell and wait to be buzzed in the front entrance after the doors locked at 9:30.
It is not known tonight how the gunman got in to the building. We don't have photographs of Mary Sherlock. Witnesses say, she died as well. She was a school psychologist. She was 56-years-old. We that. And she had been in Sandy Hook Elementary school for 18 years. She held an under grad degree in psychology, as well as a masters in six-year professional degree. Sherlock was also wife and a mom, married to a husband, Bill, for more than 30 years and they have two grown daughters. The oldest works as a high school chorus teacher in New Jersey. Mar Mary Sherlock, Dawn Hochsprung, we will remember them.
Let's go back now to Soledad who is with the mother of the Sandy Hook student - Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Anderson, I'm with Christine Wilford, her son is a second grader at the school and she, of course, had an absolutely terrifying day. How are you doing now?
CHRISTINE WILFORD, MOTHER OD SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: It's still processing. It's scary. No words.
O'BRIEN: Tell me about how is your son doing? Are you encouraging him to talk and share or trying to sort of take his mind off the terrible things he witnessed and experienced?
WILFORD: We have done a little bit of each. Trying to, you know, spoil him and take his mind off of it and let him play PS3 and stuff like that. And then, trying to talk and process with him. Benn letting them know when we found out about other children that he knows.
O'BRIEN: You got an electronic alert, is really how you got the message in robo call.
O'BRIEN: Describe for me how that came across, what was said and it must have just been the most terrifying thing.
WILFORD: My husband and I were sitting here and a neighbor was over. And we got a robo call that all Newtown schools were in lockdown due to a reported shooting. We immediately got online and my neighbor called her husband who said he heard it was Sandy Hook and we saw it online and just hopped in the car and headed to the school.
O'BRIEN: The school was on lockdown. What exactly does that mean?
WILFORD: I'm not sure completely what it means. When I got there all of the children that had been evacuated in the firehouse that is very close by.
O'BRIEN: How is your son doing and how are the kids who he was with, how are they holding up?
WILFORD: It varied. My son seemed to be OK. He said mom, I'm OK. I'm safe. You know, he gave me a big hug. There was a lot of children that were crying and scared.
O'BRIEN: What did he describe had happened?
WILFORD: He said he heard what sounded like large pans falling, just loud noises. He said his teacher had stepped outside the classroom, immediately came back in and locked the door and have them all get in to a corner and sit down and just have them start reading quietly.
O'BRIEN: How much time went by between when that happened and when he got to you?
WILFORD: I don't know. He is not able to piece how much time actually passed. He just said after a little while a police officer came and took them out of the building and brought them to the firehouse.
O'BRIEN: We know that the principal had installed a system where you have to be buzzed in.
WILFORD: Yes. It's been that way for the two years we have been here. You had to ring a door bell and be let in. The office is right in front of those doors. They can look out and see who is at the door.
O'BRIEN: Was there a reason for that? It's typical in big cities, but communities that are rural. It's a little bit of a rarity.
WILFORD: It's just the safety of our children is taken very seriously. It's a fairly large school between 500 and 600 students there. They want to keep control and know who is in the building with our children.
O'BRIEN: I was talking to the state police and they said that they were processing the scene and children were still inside. How do you explain to your son what had happened about his classmates?
WILFORD: We are a fairly religious family and we just talked about that they have gone to heaven to be with Jesus and that's about all we can say. We talk about you are not going to see them anymore and they are not going to be around. You really just struggle to find the words.
O'BRIEN: You should know that everyone is sending their well wishes not just to you, but your community as a whole. So many people asked me to pass that along.
WILFORD: We are a strong community. It is strong family community with a lot of love. I think we will get through it somehow, some way.
O'BRIEN: Christine, thanks so much. We appreciate it. Let's send it right back to Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, thank you very much. More now on Sandy Hook's principal. We just told you about her a short time ago. Janice White is an adjunct professor at Sage Graduate School. Dawn was one of her students. What can you tell us about Dawn? I mean, you knew her. What was she like?
JANICE WHITE, FRIEND OF PRINCIPAL (via telephone): I have known dawn for the past several months. This is the first course she took in the doctoral program. She was a person who loved the work she did. The course that we are doing is on leadership.
She loved leading children to their futures. She had great potential to make a difference. A lot of our course is about courage. We read that and this morning I read one of the papers that she submitted a few days ago. It was referencing overcoming fear. It has been an example of facing fear in the ultimate situation.
COOPER: When you read that paper this morning, did you know what happened?
WHITE: I was in the process of grading papers and took a break. I heard about it. Then went back to the papers and if this quote from her work just popped at me and she was actually in this paper speaking about overcoming fear. Facing one's fear and acting in spite of fear.
COOPER: Extraordinary. Janice, Janice White, I appreciate you being with us. We are trying to focus on the victims tonight as I said intentionally limiting the use of the killer's name. We don't want to repeat it over and over.
We don't want it to become a household name. I don't want to give encouragement to anyone else that they can be famous through murder. That being said, we are trying to learn what we can about what led this person to that school and Drew Griffin joins me now with that part of investigation. Drew, what are we learning?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, having covered so many of these, it is playing out almost in a sickening routine. A shooter with possible mental health issues and a family trying to deal with those issues, something snaps, powerful guns easily accessed and this outburst of violence.
The case of this 20-year-old shooter beginning to play out just exactly in that order, here's what we do know. The shooter had an older brother. That brother has reportedly told ABC News that the shooter had a personality disorder. He mentioned autism.
CNN heard that same information from a man who called himself a friend of the shooter in Newtown where the shooter lived and his mother taught school. We can now confirm the gun. Susan Candiotti told you about them, the two hand guns, a semi-automatic rifle were all legally owned by the shooter's mother now deceased.
As was standard in these cases, Anderson, you'll find people shocked that the particular shooter could have been involved in anything as is with the case of one of the shooter's former classmates and former school bus driver. Take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a kid.
GRIFFIN: Just a kid?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a kid.
GRIFFIN: Never antisocial?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
GRIFFIN: Trouble maker?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, definitely not.
GRIFFIN: Noticeable? Did he blend into the background?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, nothing that would warrant any of this.
GRIFFIN: He went after his mom and her class of kids. Can you wrap your mind about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I cannot. I don't know who would do anything like this.
GRIFFIN: So your general sense is what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unspeakable. I first heard about it -- I'm still in shock. Excuse me a moment. I want to go.
MARSHA MOSKOWITZ, LANZA BOYS' FORMER BUS DRIVER: He was a nice kid, very polite. She raised very nice boys to me. That's why I think it's a shock to even know them and realize who they are and what he did. You can't understand what happened. That he snapped. He took such innocent lives.
GRIFFIN: So Anderson, what can we expect as we learned in the case of the Virginia Tech shooting and shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and this year's mass killing at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
Expect to see in hindsight, multiple warning signs may be dangerous and ignored and practice session, obsessions that were not taken seriously or in many cases, the family just didn't know how to handle it.
In the end, they will never have an answer, I can tell you or an explanation that is good enough for the victim's families. It is just so senseless -- Anderson.
COOPER: Always mental health issues that we are starting to hear about as we have in so many of these other cases as you pointed out. So often it's hard for parents to get help even if they know their child has a problem because of laws on the books. One of the things we will be looking at. Gun laws, you were saying all the guns were legally acquired. Connecticut has some of the toughest gun laws there is, right?
GRIFFIN: There are already calls for we need to strengthen the gun laws, but I think people need to look at what the gun laws are. They are very, very strict, Anderson. It's what led them to know the registration of these guns. Connecticut has its own registry.
Those hand guns, you have to have a certificate to possess those guns on file that goes along with a class you have to take in safety hand gun. You have to be over 21 years. If that rifle was an assault rifle, many people can know that Connecticut actually bans assault rifles.
Now the ones that were legally possessed before 1993 were grandfathered in, but those two would need to be registered with the state. As we know, these guns were registered with the mother of the shooter.
COOPER: All right, Drew, appreciate the reporting as well. Thank you. With us now is Denise Correia. Her second grader was in school this morning. Denise, I cannot imagine what this day has been like for you and your child. How is your child and how are you doing?
DENISE CORREIA, SON ATTENDS SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I think everyone is coping as best as they possibly can. It's shocking when it happens anywhere. We are all trying to wrap our arms around the situation as best as we can.
COOPER: Does your daughter want to talk about it with you or are you encouraging her to or how are you handling this? A lot of parents around the world right now who are trying to figure out what to say to their child.
CORREIA: You know, the hard thing for me is I'm a New Yorker and I guess I'm accustomed to Manhattan and always telling my kids to be careful. I guess, you never expect it to happen in your school.
At the end of the day, you just let her talk. She mentioned quite a bit about the principal who many of us worked with. I worked with her personally with my business.
That is one person I know we lost on a personal level. I know they are going to have the counselors at the school today. They were all welcome to go there. If they need to speak to somebody, they will.
COOPER: Has your daughter said much about what she saw or what she heard?
CORREIA: She did mention that she did of course hear gunshots. They were on the same floor. Her teacher managed to take two children out of the hall way and pull them into the classroom. Lock the door and move everybody over to the other side of the room. It was very confusing as it would be in any of these cases to go and pick up your child once we figured out that everything was dispatched to Sandy Hook Elementary. I was one of the first parents there along with a friend of mine. We figured out what was going on and I ran over there.
They were very smart to get them out of the building and move them over to the firehouse. You can see that my daughter's teacher was visibly upset as well as many of the children there. She did a very heroic thing and pulled two kids out of the hall way and shoved them in the class and locked the door.
The kids are going to suffer from this like everything else. It's a psychological event that will take time for healing. As long as everyone gets the proper help, it's not something you shake off easily and not for little people. We lost a lot of babies today in this town.
There a lot of very sad families. As everyone can think, you never think it's going to happen, but basically it happens all over the world at this point. We have to be cognizant of mental health and cognizant of gun control in my eyes.
To take your children to school, you have to worry about someone blowing them all up. It's very, very unfortunate, but unfortunately, it's our reality these days.
COOPER: Denise, I'm sorry that that reality was visited upon your daughter today and everybody else. I wish you strength and peace in the difficult days ahead. Thank you for talking tonight.
CORREIA: Thank you so much, Anderson.
COOPER: Denise Correia. Obviously witnessing the massacre in the school has been -- how can you say obviously, deeply traumatic experience for those who survived and hearing about it in the United States and around the world. It can be difficult to understand. They have questions and parents have questions about what to say. We will talk with Sanjay Gupta ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in New York and my wife called me in hysterics. I rushed home and she heard some bangs and she was brought into a bathroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was frightening. My heart stopped beating and I can't even explain it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: One of the most horrific images after the shooting that occurred was parents awaiting in the firehouse for word of their children. Many waiting for hours and finally being told that if they hadn't had word by then, their little ones were lost. So many families tonight in deep mourning, unspeakable grief. Soledad is live on the scene -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Anderson, the gunman's mother is a kindergarten teacher at the school found dead at the family home, which is not far from where I am. Ali Velshi is covering that part of the story for us -- Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, we are on the street where the shooter lived with his mother. There is a lot of activity around here where that police car is. None has anything to do with the residents around here.
In fact, many of the residents were evacuated from here. They were asked to leave earlier today while the police made this a crime scene. You can see the yellow tape. So everybody you're seeing, the cars and there were a couple of reporters here a moment ago.
All media are trying to get to the house down there. The police have closed this off. These are large houses around here and all of them have Christmas decorations and it's a quiet neighborhood. There are no street lights here at all.
All the lights you see here are from the media. Not a lot of neighbors responding and the reporters are trying to get a sense of the family and who they were. We have seen people looking out their windows so there are some families that are back in here.
But this is a very quiet neighborhood. We're about 2 1/2 miles from the school and around here people who did speak to the media or did comment on this said they didn't know the family. This is an area where they are now coming together in their grief and trying to make sense of this.
This is just about the most uncommon thing you would see in a neighborhood like this. No real action here. The police said they won't have more comments until 8:00 in the morning Eastern Time, which is when they might be able to give a positive identification for the shooter.
As you know, they haven't done that yet. At least there is a sense that once they do that, they may be able to put more of those puzzle pieces together and get some sense of who this shooter was and why this -- what motivated this heinous act today.
But for now entirely quiet in this neighborhood, you can see no lights and just that police car making sure no one goes anywhere near that house.
O'BRIEN: All right, Ali, thank you for that update. There is another terrible piece of the puzzle to talk about tonight. It is the gunman's brother who was taken in for questioning in Hoboken, New Jersey.
John Berman is live for us in Hoboken tonight with more. John, what do we know about exactly why the brother was taken in?
JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": There has been a lot of confusion, Soledad, about the brother and why he was taken in. He is 24 years old and the brother lives in an apartment behind me. A five-story building made up of two and three-bedroom apartments.
Earlier in the day, police did take him into the custody, led him into a police car in handcuffs and the brother looking dazed and a little bit confused and very, very glum, which you can imagine is understandable given the situation. Not clear exactly why.
I did talk to a police officer as I was walking on the scene who said there was this notion that the shooting suspect had his brother's ID on him and holding his brother's ID for some reason and there may have been initial confusion.
Again, police took the brother into custody and CNN learned and we have been talking to two roommates of the brother who are not believed to have a connection to the suspect at all.
On the scene where I was earlier, it is teaming with law enforcement activity. You had Hoboken City Police, Jersey City police and a bomb squad that never really entered the building and the FBI. The FBI did go in and did remove some materials from this apartment apparently including a computer.
Again, we are not sure if he is still in custody or not. It has been a strange situation. Soledad, it is very, very quiet here and almost no law enforcement presence at all. That does give you a sense that this is no longer a huge story of interest in the investigation -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, John Berman, thanks, John for that update. Back to Anderson.
COOPER: Soledad, thanks. Everyone who lived through today's school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut saw and heard things that no one ever should, especially kids. As President Obama said, their innocence was torn away.
A lot of people are wondering how the kids can be affected by what they witnessed. A lot of people want to know as parent what is to say to their kids who were watching this or may have heard about it.
Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now. What do you think the biggest concerns are for children who witnessed the shootings or were in the school when this happened?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Children can suffer PTSD as well, post traumatic stress disorder, and we don't think about it as much. This is so unprecedented it's hard to have answers. For the next several days, there will be real concerns about these kids. Typically it's short-lived. That is the good news. Sometimes it can proceed to nightmares and anxiety and panic. It's important to get help early. If you get help early, it's much more predictive of how they do in the long run.
There a lot of studies and one thing I found interesting and it has to do with tonight. That is sleep. If a child is getting sleep tonight, it tends to be a powerful predictor of how they will cope this in the long run.
Kids that will be the most vulnerable are kids who are closer to the violence and had things going on in their own homes ahead of time makes them more at risk.
Don't forget something that you and I have talked about in the past, survivor's guilt, kids who are alive and wonder why they are given that all happened. So that's something that people will be mindful of -- Anderson.
COOPER: Well, I mean, it's not the immediate trauma of hearing or witnessing this, but the long-term loss of some of their friends and playmates and at that age, that's a hard thing to understand. One of the reasons that counselors will be available starting tomorrow, are kids more at risk of suffering PTSD than adults?
GUPTA: Both can suffer PTSD. The difference is that with children as young as this, they don't verbalize it the same way. You may have developmental delays that are unusual. You could have regression overall and temper tantrums.
There's the things that may not fit exactly with what you expect with PTSD, but it can be much more vague. Whereas with adults, as you know, Anderson, hyper vigilance and quick reactions to things and reliving the trauma and the horror over and over again.
Obviously of course, Anderson, the parents of the children who died are at the one that are most risk from all of this.
COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you very much. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like a nightmare. You never in a million years would think you drop your child off at school and hugs and kisses and see you at the end of the day. You never know. Are you still going to -- 20 minutes from now, you don't know what's going to happen. You count your blessings every day for what you have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm back with Soledad O'Brien who is live in Newtown, Connecticut. Soledad, I have been in that town. It's such a beautiful area. The last place you would expect something like this. I know you have been talking to a lot of families. Asking how they are doing sounds so hollow, but what are people saying?
O'BRIEN: They are just stunned. We've seen some parents have coming and bringing their kids with them. They are stunned that they are so blessed they survived and children survive and they were able to dodge a terrible thing and yet they know so many families in the community did not have children who survived.
Inside the scene of law enforcement that is being processed. The parents cannot be with their children and can never be. There is a terrible horror behind it all. Why and what drove the shooter to do this.
So many questions need to be answered and probably as law enforcement told us will be answered, it just takes time. It takes investigation. That's absolutely no relief to anybody here.
COOPER: The idea that the kids are still in there. It's such a horrible thing. I appreciate your sensitive reporting. We saw a bit of it at the top of the hour. The vigil tonight in Newtown, Connecticut, a community shattered, gathering in a church.
A church that simply cannot hold all the people who want to be there and say prayers and add their hopes and their remembrances for the family who is lost loved ones.
We add to that vigil our prayers and thoughts to the parents and the children and families and friends. So many hearts are with you tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to share a letter from his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. I was informed of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I convey my heartfelt grief and the assurance of my personal prayers to the victims and their families, to all of those in the community of Newtown and especially the parish of St. Rose of Lima.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no words that make the pain of what happened today easy to bear. I am heartbroken as I know all of you are. There is nothing more hurtful and tragic than the loss of innocence, but no more so when they are young children. I'm heartbroken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People's children, brothers and sisters were taken from them, people's spouses. The teachers and administrators were taken from us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to commend all of the first responders both state and local and certainly the staff of the school. They were there for those children, which is what teachers are all about. It was most obvious today. Most obvious today what they really are about as teachers. To all of them, I say thanks on behalf of all of us.
COOPER: We will be back one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern for another edition of 360. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.