Connecticut state police have released the names of 26 people — including 18 small children — shot dead Friday in a school massacre that sent shock waves across the United States and beyond.
A police spokesman released the names Saturday afternoon, pleading with journalists in the shattered community of Newtown to respect the privacy of the grieving families.
Moments earlier, Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver said he and his staff worked through the night to complete the forensic work. He said he believed all of the child victims were in the first grade — a grade level which is normally populated in American schools by six-year-olds.
Carver said all of the victims were killed by multiple gunshots from what he called “the long weapon,” which was identified in earlier reports as a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle. Earlier reports placed two semi-automatic handguns near the shooter's body with the assault rifle in the shooter's car. Officials say the gunman died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Carver also said the medical examinations of the shooter, identified in multiple reports as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, and his mother — killed earlier by her son at a separate location — will take place Sunday.
Earlier Saturday, police said the shooter was not voluntarily let into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, as earlier reported. He did not elaborate on how the gunman gained entry, saying the investigation is ongoing.
U.S. authorities have yet to identify a motive for the massacre, which took place 130 kilometers northeast of New York City.
A VOA reporter at the scene said news outlets from Japan, China, Sweden and other countries have sent reporters to cover the event. The killings — the second worst such slaughter in U.S. history — was Saturday's headline story in newspapers across Europe and much of Asia.
In his weekly radio address, U.S. President Barack Obama said every parent in America has “a heart heavy with hurt.” He called for “meaningful action” to prevent more tragedies. The usual Republican Party address was not delivered Saturday. Republican leaders said this was a time for the president to speak for the nation.