In one of the worst mass shootings in US history, at least 18 schoolchildren and 9 adults were killed on Friday by a single gunman who rampaged through an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The attack comes after a series of shooting rampages in the United States this year that have killed multiple victims.
The alleged attacker, 24, was armed with four weapons and a bullet-proof vest, local channel WABC reported. He also allegedly killed his mother, a teacher at the school.
The principal and school psychologist were among the dead, according to CNN.
Police searching the home of the deceased gunman later found the body of his father, officials said.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. Each time I learn the news I react not as a president but as anybody else would as a parent,” said US President Barack Obama in a news conference on the massacre.
“May god bless the memory of the victims and in the words of scripture heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.”
There were unconfirmed reports of a second shooter after witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots fired. Another person was being held in police custody after he was detained in the woods near the school wearing camouflage pants, CBS reported.
Sandy Hook Elementary School teaches children from kindergarten through fourth grade - roughly ages 5 to 10.
“Everyone was in hysterics - parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don’t know if they were shot, but they were bloodied,” said parent Brenda Lebinski, who rushed to the school where her daughter is in the third grade.
Television images showed police and ambulances at the scene, and parents rushing toward the school. Parents were seen reuniting with their children and taking them home.
“This is going to be bad,” a state official told Reuters, requesting anonymity because the scope of the tragedy remained uncertain.
All Newtown schools were placed on lockdown after the shooting, the Newtown Public School District said.
Lebinski said a mother who was at the school during the shooting told her a “masked man” entered the principal’s office and may have shot the principal.
A girl interviewed by NBC Connecticut described hearing seven loud “booms” as she was in gym class.
Meanwhile, The Hartford Courant reported that an entire classroom of students is unaccounted for after the shooting, citing unnamed sources.
Connecticut State Police said its officers were at the scene with local police but provided no additional details.
Newtown, with a population of about 27,000, is about 130 km northeast of New York City. Sandy Hook is one of four elementary schools in the district.
President Obama has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff as a mark of respect for the victims “of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut,” according to a release from the White House.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2012.