December 24, 2012

Rifle jam at Sandy Hook may have saved lives

Police say six children fled a classroom where others were killed, possibly as Adam Lanza stopped firing.

Hartford Courant

NEWTOWN, Conn. — As many as a half-dozen first-graders may have survived Adam Lanza's shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

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Sammie Chavez

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Kristina Shevchenko

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A Bartlesville, Okla., 18-year-old accused of plotting to attack his high school showed symptoms of possible mental illnesses and had been seeing a therapist, but did not seriously plan violence, his mother said.

Jessie Chavez told the Tulsa World that her son, Sammie Eaglebear Chavez, sent her a text message two days before his Dec. 14 arrest saying he wanted to "shoot up" Bartlesville High School because he thought students were talking about him behind his back.

She said she showed the message to their therapists but had not decided whether to take further action by the time of her son's arrest.

"Deep down, I don't think my son would have done this," she told the newspaper. "That's not my son. My son laughs and makes jokes. He's always pulling pranks."

Sammie Chavez was being held on $1 million bond Sunday in the Washington County Jail on a charge of conspiring to cause serious bodily harm or death to other students. An officer with the Washington County Sheriff's Office said he didn't know whether Sammie Chavez, who is due in court Jan. 11, has a lawyer.

Jessie Chavez told the Tulsa World that her son called her from the jail after hearing of the shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., and told her he was devastated that people thought he was capable of such an act.

A Portland, Ore., teen who survived the Dec. 11 shooting at a local mall says she didn't realize the gun that shot her was real until bullets started whizzing past.

KPTV shared 15-year-old Kristina Shevchenko's perspective on what happened that day, when two people died.

Walking home from school, she took a shortcut through the Clackamas Town Center.

When she heard the first shots, she hid behind a pillar, but when she looked down, she realized she had been shot in the chest.

"I did feel a huge amount of pressure and pain, but honestly it feels like -- you can't describe what it feels like," she said.

She said she initially thought that Jacob Roberts, who was dressed in black and wearing a mask, was pulling a prank.

-- From news service reports

A source said the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shooting is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it jammed.

The children escaped from the first grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six adults Lanza killed in the school after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.

On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza received, in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he had Asperger's syndrome, but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated that it had anything to do with the shootings.

Lanza killed 27 people -- 20 children, four teachers, the school principal, a school psychologist and his mother-- before shooting himself in the head as police began arriving at the school.

The arriving officers encountered a shocking scene in Soto's classroom. Lanza had shot her, as well as special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy and six of Soto's 6- and 7-year old students. Seven other children were found unharmed in a classroom closet, apparently hidden by Soto when she heard shooting. The other students fled the classroom.

Based on initial statements from surviving children and the fact that unfired bullets from Lanza's rifle were found on the ground, detectives suspect that some students were able to run to safety when Lanza stopped firing, probably for a short period of time, the officials said.

It is possible that Lanza, who reloaded the rifle frequently, mishandled or dropped a magazine and unfired bullets fell to the floor, they said.

But it also is possible, they said, that the mechanism that fed bullets into the rifle jammed, causing Lanza to remove the magazine and clear the weapon. Unfired bullets could have fallen to the classroom floor during that process as well, law enforcement officials said.

The six children who escaped Lanza's rampage ran to a private home a short distance from the school.

The authorities have learned generally from the children who ran away that something may have happened to Lanza's rifle that caused him to stop firing.

The substance of the statements, which are not entirely consistent, is that a piece of the weapon, probably a magazine holding live bullets, was dropped or fell to the classroom floor.

Given the chaotic nature of the scene, it is also possible that some children escaped while Lanza was shooting others in the room.

State police are expected to wrap up work at the school and release it as a crime scene in the next few days.

They still are trying to determine how many shots Lanza fired.

 

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