A year after a shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school claimed 26 lives, stunning an entire nation, many are still searching for answers. A new report suggests answers may never come.
The long-awaited report released Monday by the state’s attorney’s office — results of an investigation into what happened inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012 — attempts to provide a picture of what may have led to the violence. The comprehensive 44-page document details a search for a motive for Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter who turned the gun on himself after the rampage.
The report lists the crimes the state’s attorney says Lanza committed: murder with special circumstances (the killing of two or more, of someone younger than 16), attempted murder, first-degree assault and burglary, possession of a weapon on school grounds, carrying a pistol without a permit.
The report concludes that the shooter’s motive remains unknown. But Lanza’s mental health, from a legal perspective, was not the driving force.
“The crimes listed above all require some type of mental state whether it is a specific intent, knowledge or a general intent to do the prohibited act,” the report says. “In this case the shooter’s mental status is no defense to his conduct.”
When he entered the school on that winter day, the report concludes, Lanza knew he was breaking the law. “He had the ability to control his behavior to obtain the results he wanted, including his own death. This evidence includes his possession of materials related to mass murders, his removal of the GPS from his car, his utilization of ear plugs, the damaging of the hard drive and waiting for his mother’s return from New Hampshire.”
On these grounds, a mental-illness defense would likely not have held up in court if Lanza were tried alive. Neither would a case of extreme emotional disturbance. “It is clear that the shooter planned his crimes in advance and was under no extreme emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse,” the report goes on.
The state’s attorney’s office does not ignore Lanza’s mental-health history. It recognizes that Lanza had several mental-health issues, such as anxiety, characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome, and obsessive compulsive disorder, for which he refused to take suggested medication or seek behaviorial therapy. “What contribution this made to the shootings, if any, is unknown as those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.”
Although it’s impossible to say whether Lanza’s mental-health issues weighed on his actions on that winter day, they do not, according to the investigation, constitute a motive for the shooting.