Why we're still in the dark about killer Adam Lanza

 

NEW YORK

More than a week on from the Newtown massacre, America remains shaken – and still in the dark about Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman who killed 26 people, including 20 defenceless first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, with a military-style rifle.

Testimony from those acquainted with the killer has painted a picture of a reserved young man with what appears to have been a knack for computers, who spent much of his time alone in his mother's basement in Yogananda Street. It was in that basement that Nancy Lanza is said to have stored her collection of arms.

But beyond a rough picture of his personality, drawn mostly by people who encountered him briefly, exchanging few words, little is known, as many of the "facts" that emerged in the immediate wake of the killings were proved false.

Lanza's mother was not a kindergarten teacher at the school, a fact clarified by police who, days after the killings, said the gunman had no known connection with Sandy Hook. Meanwhile, the attempt to draw a link between Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism which, it was suggested, Lanza suffered from, and violence, has been quashed by experts. In any case, no evidence has been released to suggest that Lanza even had the condition. Suggestions that Lanza had an argument or a dispute with his mother also seems to have hollow foundations.

In this, the Sandy Hook killings follow a pattern of speculation and myth-making seen more than a decade ago when Dylan Kelbold and Eric Harris went on the rampage through Columbine High School. Soon after the 1999 killings, which to many inside and beyond the US brought home the problem of gun violence for the first time, accounts spread about how, for instance, the teenage gunman had targeted particular groups (high school jocks and African American students were said to have been among those singled out by Harris and Kelbold).

But the passage of time proved this "fact" – and others, including the story of the girl who was said to have been gunned down after avowing her faith in God – to be nothing more than a scrap of speculation summoned up to fill the void left by a lack of hard information in the early aftermath of the shooting.

David Cullen, who was among the pack of journalists who rushed to cover that massacre, wrote of the risks in such cases earlier this year, when a different Colorado town, Aurora, suffered its own mass shooting. Writing in the New York Times in the wake of the July killings at a screening of the new Batman film, he returned to the days just after Columbine: "I ran with the journalistic pack that created the myths we are still living with.

"We created those myths for one reason: we were trying to answer the burning question of why, and we were trying to answer it way too soon. I spent 10 years studying Columbine, and we all know what happened there, right? Two outcast loners exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying them. Not one bit of that turned out to be true."

In the Lanza case, we are still at the first stage, where early facts are being tested, and often discredited, as investigators attempt to work out why he killed his mother at home before heading out to massacre 26 people at the school. He was dressed in black, reportedly with a utility vest, during the killings, but why is unknown. He played violent video games, but whether there is a causal link remains to be seen.

Mr Cullen – who years after the 1999 massacre went on to write a book, Columbine, about the killings – wrote in the summer: "Resist the temptation to extrapolate details prematurely into a whole... The killer is rarely who he seems."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
Life and Style
food + drink
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Business Analyst - Banking - London - £585

£525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Engineer-(Support, ITIL, Software Vendor)

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Engineer-(Support, S...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home