Medical Examiner: Newtown Shooting Victims Suffered 'Devastating Set of Injuries'

Officials during a press conference shared some harrowing details of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the nature of gunshot wounds.

NEWTOWN, CT —Minutes before releasing a heart-wrenching list of those who perished in Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, state officials reviewed some of the harrowing, gruesome details of what appears to have happened inside an elementary school where 20 children and six adults were shot dead by a lone gunman who then killed himself.

Responding to difficult questions posed by a national media corps that descended just one day earlier on this normally quiet town about 60 miles northeast of New York City, the Connecticut chief medical examiner described how and where the bullets entered the children, what the kids were wearing and how he felt about what he’d seen inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know any of my colleagues having seen,” said Dr. H. Wayne Carver II of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where he’s been working for 31 years including 26 as chief.

Carver said he saw no difference in the pattern of shooting deaths between children and adults inside the school.

The weapon used primarily in the shootings was a long rifle, Carver said, and victims young and old were shot “all over” with some at close range and some not.

“I only did seven of the autopsies, the victims I had ranged from three to 11 wounds apiece and I only saw two of them with close range shooting,” Carver said.

The shooter who wielded that gun—discovered dead inside the building Friday with a rifle and two smaller guns near his body, police have said—has been widely reported to be Adam Lanza, 20. His motives remain unclear; state police are investigating.

Carver said he would complete autopsies on the shooter and the shooter’s mother, widely reported to be Nancy Lanza of Sandy Hook, on Sunday morning.

All bodies were removed from the school before dawn Saturday and transported to the medical examiner's base in Farmington—about 40 miles away. The children’s autopsies were performed first so that their bodies could be made available to funeral directors “for obvious reasons,” Carver said.

Asked whether the shooting victims at the school suffered, Carver responded: “To best of my ability to answer that question, which is always less than perfect: If so, not for very long.”

The graphic, detailed information seemed to fly in the face of a more private tone that Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra was trying to set when she preceded Carver at the podium.

Calling Newtown a “close-knit community” whose heart is broken in the wake of a “horrendous tragedy,” Llodra called for media members to respect the privacy of residents, including those grieving for lost loved ones.

“Please treat our community with kindness,” Llodra said. “Please know that we have suffered a terrible loss and we need your respect on this healing journey.”

Carver called the injuries to shooting victims “a very devastating set.”

Relatives identified their loved ones not in person but by photos taken of the victims’ faces, Carver said.

“We did not bring the bodies and families into contact, we took pictures of them, of their facial features,” he said. “It’s easier on the families when you do that. There is a time and place for up close and personal in the grieving process but to accomplish this we felt it would be best to do it this way.”

At one point a reporter asked Carver what the children were wearing, to which he replied: “They were wearing cute kids’ stuff. I mean they’re first-graders.”

Carver also was asked whether he became emotional among the bodies of so many victims, mostly children, and told the corps “Not yet.”

“I think if you don’t’ have to do that, you shouldn’t be in this business,” he said. “For this one, not yet. Notice I said ‘yet.’ “

Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police echoed Llodra’s imploring for privacy, reminding people as he had at an earlier press conference that a state trooper has been assigned to each individual family of the victims. One new piece of information that Vance supplied in response to a reporter’s question was that investigators found no evidence of an altercation in the school involving the gunman.

John B December 17, 2012 at 09:46 AM
Karen, you're the reason this country is in such trouble. If Adam Lanza had crashed a car through the front doors of the school and started mowing down people with that car, would you be calling for a ban on cars? Why didn't the school take more action when he was younger, attending there and identified as troubled? Liberalism aids and abets these tragedies not the second amendment! I own one handgun, not several, and no assault weapons. Whether ( not weather ), whether I own one gun or several, they are locked up and there would be no way anyone in my house would have access to them unless I knew about it. Adam's mother was not very responsible and is therefore culpable and has paid a high price for that negligence. The whole incident is a tragedy of epic proportions. I cried nearly my entire drive home from work that day.
Harry December 17, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Miss H, very sorry for all you have been through. I highly recommend gun safety course if you have not taking one. Thank you for your posts. It seems that our political leaders are coming out in droves to make big changes on the backs of a extremely painful issue. Another fiscal cliff so to speak. MENTAL HEALTH is the issue here, if adam didn't have guns, it could of been anything. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all that have been involved with this.
wantfrieswiththat December 17, 2012 at 09:28 PM
First...my deepest sympathies to all the affected families. It will take a long time before some sense of normalcy seeps in. If that ever happens at all after this tragedy.
wantfrieswiththat December 17, 2012 at 09:40 PM
The second amendment should be treated like the first amendment. You can't yell fire in a theater, you cant yell hijack or bomb in an airport/airplane. Free speech doesnt prevent libel or slander cases from being filed. Maybe the second amendment needs a few new and up to date laws but not to infringe on someone's rights to bear arms. Maybe the type of weapons available can be regulated. There is no reasonable explaination to make, own, or operate something such as an AR15 along with high capacity cartridges. If one needs more than 5 shots to kill a deer or an intruder in one's house, you got issues. If you require more than 10 bullets to stay alive, then you are in a war zone. The medical profession must alert the government database of any patient being treated for any social/mental disorders. The government in turn must keep the database as current as possible. The loophole that you can forego the waiting period at gunshows must be closed up. Anyone purchasing any gun must adhere to the normal waiting period. Cars are regulated; they can only go so fast, seatbelt laws, younger drivers having to wait an extra year to get their license. Sales of fertilizer are recorded in a national database. The purchase of Claritin D is controlled because of the meth problem. Cigarettes, you have to be over 18 to buy a pack, 21 for alcohol. Just a form of control of when and who can get it. The same can be done for guns and ammo.
Karen Stevens December 18, 2012 at 03:06 PM
First I want to say clearly I understand how deeply all American people are hurting from this. I understand the fear in America at this time. The thing is listening to various politicians,citizens and NRA members and the like. Reading comments to various comments i have made. I have come to realize that the country I once saw as an amazingly strong,free,world power is heartrendingly an illusion. I don't say that in an attempt to be defensive or lightly. I just see a country brought to it's knees in fear...fear that occurred long before this incident. I can't understand how the citizens can't see that this fear is being instilled by powerful lobbyist like the NRA. I hear time and time again I need to protect myself, my home, my property. Good god many Canadians become victims of crime on some level in their life, myself included. We don't go out and buy handguns and assault rifles. We rightfully so can't do that. We instead get help and move forward. We don't kill people for stealing our wallet, our car...our things. If we become victims of crime we call the people with the guns...our police departments. If we all had guns to seek our own solution ...why have police at all? I still firmly believe if the shooter didn't have access to an assault weapon those children and educators would be alive today. That is very much the bottom line. If you become a nation that arms educators that is so sad to me,


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