Newtown shooter report falls short, Connecticut panel says

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2013 5:22 PM
Newtown shooter report falls short, Connecticut panel says

By Richard Weizel

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - Members of a Connecticut panel charged with recommending ways to prevent gun violence in schools after last year's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday said a state attorney's report failed to address the role of the shooter's mental health in the attack.

The 16-member commission complained that the report released last month, which concluded that questions about 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza's motive for killing 26 children and school staff "may never be answered conclusively," limited their ability to advise Governor Dannel Malloy on how to improve school safety.

"Unlike the reports that came out of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, we can garner very little about Adam Lanza and his family from the state report," said Dr. Adrienne Bentman, director of the adult psychiatry residency program at Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living and a member of the commission.

"We need to know Adam Lanza's story," Bentman said. "There's no human being here that emerges. We need to know him and his family, which would be a major help in putting together our recommendations."

The report, released November 25, showed that Lanza had been living an isolated existence before the shooting, communicating with his mother only by email, even though they lived in the same house.

It provided details of the legally purchased guns in their Newtown, Connecticut, home and noted that Lanza had been obsessed with mass murders, particularly the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Thirteen people in addition to the two teenage gunmen died in the Columbine attack, while 32 people plus the gunman died in a 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.

Lanza began his December 14, 2012, rampage by murdering his mother before driving to Sandy Hook, and ended it by turning the gun on himself as police arrived.

Dr. Harold Schwartz, psychiatrist-in-chief at Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living, noted that the report mentions a fifth-grade essay written by Lanza titled "Tale of Granny" - about a grandmother who engaged in graphic violence with her grandson - but fails to explore his mental health.

"I have a number of questions about the report and all the unanswered questions concerning his Asperger's autism spectrum diagnosis," said Schwartz.

Schwartz added that services for autism-related conditions are often "the most difficult to find."

(Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)