The gunman in the Connecticut shooting blasted his way into the elementary school and then sprayed the children with bullets, first from a distance and then at close range, hitting some of them as many as 11 times, as he fired a semiautomatic rifle loaded with ammunition designed for maximum damage, officials said Saturday.
The state’s chief medical examiner, H. Wayne Carver II, said all of the 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., had been struck more than once in the fusillade.
"This is a very devastating set of injuries," he said at a briefing in Newtown. When he was asked if they had suffered after they were hit, he said, "Not for very long."
The disclosures came as the police released the victims’ names. They ranged in age from 6 to 56.
The children — 12 girls and eight boys — were all first-graders. All of the adults were women.
The White House announced that President Barack Obama would visit Newtown tonight to meet with victims’ families and speak at an interfaith vigil.
On Saturday, as families began to claim the bodies of lost loved ones, some sought privacy. Others spoke out.
Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, was among the dead, choked back tears as he described her as "bright, creative and very loving."
But, he added, "as we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not let it turn into something that defines us."
On a day of anguish and mourning, other details emerged about how but not why the devastating attack had happened, turning a place where children were supposed to be safe into a national symbol of heartbreak and horror.
The Newtown school superintendent said the principal and the school psychologist had been shot as they tried to tackle the gunman to protect their students.
That was just one act of bravery during the maelstrom. There were others, said the superintendent, Janet Robinson. She said one teacher had helped children escape through a window. Another shoved students into a room with a kiln and held them there until the danger had passed.
It was not enough: First responders described a scene of carnage in the two classrooms where the children were killed.
The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, had grown up in Newtown and had an uncle who had been a police officer in New Hampshire. The uncle, James M. Champion, issued a statement expressing "heartfelt sorrow," adding that the family was struggling "to comprehend the tremendous loss we all share."
A spokesman for the Connecticut State Police, Lt. J. Paul Vance, said investigators continued to press for information about Lanza, and had collected "some very good evidence." He also said that the one survivor of the killings, a woman who was shot and wounded at the school, would be "instrumental" in piecing together what had happened.
But it was unclear why Lanza had gone on the attack. A law enforcement official said investigators had not found a suicide note or messages that spoke to the planning of such a deadly attack. And Robinson said they had found no connection between Lanza’s mother and the school, in contrast to accounts from authorities on Friday that said she had worked there.
Authorities said Adam Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job. Lanza was believed to have suffered from a personality disorder, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger’s, a mild form of autism often characterized by social awkwardness.
Carver said it appeared that all of the children had been killed by a "long rifle" that Lanza was carrying; a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle was one of the several weapons police found in the school. The other guns were semiautomatic pistols.
Carver said that parents had identified their children from photographs to spare them from seeing the gruesome results of the rampage.
"This is probably the worst I have seen," said Carver, 60, who has been Connecticut’s chief medical examiner since 1989.
He said that only Lanza and his first victim — his mother, Nancy Lanza — remained to be autopsied. He said he would do those postmortems today.
Officials said the killing spree began early Friday at the house where the Lanzas lived. There, Adam Lanza shot his mother in the face, making her his first victim, the authorities said. Then, after taking three guns that belonged to her, they said, he climbed into her car for the short drive to the school.
Outfitted in combat gear, Lanza shot his way in, defeating a security system requiring visitors to be buzzed in. This contradicted earlier reports that he had been recognized and allowed to enter the one-story building. "He was not voluntarily let into the school at all," Vance said. "He forced his way in."
Inside the school, teachers and school staff members scrambled to move children to safety as the massacre began.
It was eerily silent in the school when police officers rushed in with their rifles drawn. There were the dead or dying in one section of the building, while elsewhere, those who had eluded the bullets were under orders from their teachers to remain quiet in their hiding places.
The officers discovered still more carnage: After gunning down the children and the school employees, the authorities said, Lanza had killed himself.
The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and the psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, were among the dead, as were teachers Rachel Davino, 29, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Vicki Soto, 27, and Lauren Rousseau, 30.
School officials have said that there are no plans to reopen Sandy Hook; its students will be assigned to other schools and return on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.