It is three months since the killings in Newtown, since 20 children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School less than two weeks before Christmas. And as bad as the story was, and will always be, it is even worse than we originally knew because now we discover that this was slaughter by spreadsheet.
It has been reported previously that law enforcement found research about previous mass murderers at the Newtown, Conn., home the shooter, video gamer Adam Lanza, shared with his mother, the first victim of Dec. 14.
It was more than that, and worse than that.
What investigators found was a chilling spreadsheet 7 feet long and 4 feet wide that required a special printer, a document that contained Lanza’s obsessive, extensive research — in nine-point font — about mass murders of the past, and even attempted murders.
But it wasn’t just a spreadsheet. It was a score sheet.
“We were told (Lanza) had around 500 people on this sheet,” a law enforcement veteran told me Saturday night. “Names and the number of people killed and the weapons that were used, even the precise make and model of the weapons. It had to have taken years. It sounded like a doctoral thesis, that was the quality of the research.”
The law enforcement vet attended the International Association of Police Chiefs and Colonels mid-year meeting in New Orleans last week, a conference where state police colonels share information with each other, and learn from each other. One of the speakers this year was Danny Stebbins, a colonel from the Connecticut State Police.
Stebbins spoke for a long time about the morning of Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Those in the room were told of first responders in Newtown who have since quit their jobs, so shattered were they by what they found when they got to the school that morning, when they saw dead teachers with their arms wrapped around the children they had tried in vain to save.
The man to whom I spoke, a tough career cop who did not wish to see his name in the newspaper, was in the room when the state cop from Connecticut spoke, said the man was well into his presentation when he began to talk of the spreadsheets that had been found at “the shooter’s” home.
He didn’t use Lanza’s name, saying he did not want to give him even an hour more of fame, just because that is what Lanza wanted; what all these shooters want, from Tucson to Newtown to Virginia Tech.
“We keep calling them mass murderers,” the veteran cop to whom I spoke said. “But there should be a new way of referring to them: Glory killers.
“They don’t believe this was just a spreadsheet. They believe it was a score sheet,” he continued. “This was the work of a video gamer, and that it was his intent to put his own name at the very top of that list. They believe that he picked an elementary school because he felt it was a point of least resistance, where he could rack up the greatest number of kills. That’s what (the Connecticut police) believe.”
The man paused and said, “They believe that (Lanza) believed that it was the way to pick up the easiest points. It’s why he didn’t want to be killed by law enforcement. In the code of a gamer, even a deranged gamer like this little bastard, if somebody else kills you, they get your points. They believe that’s why he killed himself.
“They have pictures from two years before, with the guy all strapped with weapons, posing with a pistol to his head. That’s the thing you have to understand: He had this laid out for years before.”
“He didn’t snap that day, he wasn’t one of those guys who was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” the man said. “He had been planning this thing forever. In the end, it was just a perfect storm: These guns, one of them an AR-15, in the hands of a violent, insane gamer. It was like porn to a rapist. They feed on it until they go out and say, enough of the video screen. Now I’m actually going to be a hunter.”
Those who didn’t know about Lanza’s life on its way to the gates of hell were told in New Orleans about the plastic that covered his own windows in Newtown, the Connecticut town he would make famous as a way of making himself, the newest glory killer, famous. Were told about how in the last days of his life, not a single ray of light could get into his room.
He was finished with his spreadsheet by then, the old score sheet, one that did not yet have his name on it.
“The whole thing was chilling and riveting,” the law enforcement official said.
“The fascination (Lanza) had with this subject matter, the complete and total concentration. There really was no other subject matter inside his head. Just this: Kill, kill, kill.
“It really was like he was lost in one of his own sick games. That’s what we heard. That he learned something from his game that you learn in (police) school, about how if you’re moving from room to room — the way he was in that school — you have to reload before you get to the next room. Maybe he has a 30-round magazine clip, and he’s only used half of it. But he’s willing to dump 15 rounds and have a new clip before he arrives in the next room.”
The career law enforcement veteran paused again, and when he started speaking again his voice was shaking, like a wind had blown through it.
“They believe he learned the principles of this — the tactical reload — from his game. Reload before you’re completely out. Keep going. When the strap broke on his first weapon (the AR-15), he went to his handgun at the end. Classic police training. Or something you learn playing kill games.”
The police in Connecticut believe that Lanza’s mother, a gun lover herself, was an enabler of her son’s increasing obsession with guns, that she was making straw purchases of guns for him all along, and ignoring the fact that he was getting more and more fixated on them.
At this point I asked the man what we can possibly learn from what happened with Adam Lanza and his mother and what finally happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on that Friday morning in December.
He said, “The amazing thing is, as much of a tragedy as it was, it really could have been much worse. We heard that in New Orleans, too. Those teachers . . . the whole school . . . they did everything they could. There is nothing more they could have done. Despite the great loss of lives, they did save lives by acting the way they did.”
He said when the presentation was over that day, he walked out of the hotel and into the New Orleans morning, three months removed from Sandy Hook Elementary but unable now to shake what he called the “visual” of Adam Lanza’s spreadsheets, the seemingly endless list of names and numbers compiled for God knows how long; the list on which he wanted his name at the top, because of all the easy kills he thought he could get at an elementary school.
“Then I called my wife,” he said, “and told her about it, and started to cry about Newtown all over again.”
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