Police and ambulance at the scene from the aftermath of a school shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that brought police swarming into the leafy neighborhood, while other area schools were put under lock-down, police and local media said. (Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
As the details about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy continue to emerge, a question that is among the top is how the 20-something-year-old gunman carried between two to four guns into the school where he shot 26 people, 18 of whom were children.
A local Connecticut news station has published a letter sent from the school to parents earlier this year, detailing its security policy.
"Our district will be implementing a security system in all elementary schools as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure student safety," the letter began, as included on WTNH's website.
The procedure for the 2012-2013 school year included the exterior doors of the school lock each day at 9:30 a.m. and every visitor to the school rings a doorbell at the front where office staff would use a camera to verify the visitor's identity and allow entry. Visitors sign in upon entrance and "if our staff does not recognize you," photo ID is required.
Here's more from the letter that was sent from Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was allegedly killed in the shooting as well:
Our office staff is handling multiple tasks. Though they will work diligently to help you into the building as quickly as possible, there may be a short delay until someone can view you on the handset and allow you to come in electronically. There are times during the day when office personnel are on the telephone, addressing student concerns, or in the copy room; there are other times when only one person is in the front office. Please help our staff by identifying yourself and provide your child’s name. Keep in mind we will be following our district guidelines which may need revision once we test the system.
The letter expresses that with 700 students, the school hopes the parents will understand the policy that "continues to be critical to our school’s effectiveness and your child’s success." Read the full letter here.
At a press conference, a state police official said at the time there is only one shooter, who was deceased at the scene. The police have not officially identified the deceased, which included 20 children, six adults and the shooter in the school and another deceased adult at a secondary crime scene.
Initial reports had an anonymous official stating that the shooter dead on the scene was 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, but later in the afternoon Fox News reported some indicated it was his younger brother, Adam Lanza, 20.
A law enforcement officer who spoke under the condition of anonymity said Lanza's mother Nancy was a teacher at the school. Nancy Lanza was reported to have been found dead in a Newtown, Conn., home. The official also said Ryan Lanza's girlfriend and another friend are missing in New Jersey. Fox News also reported that Lanza's father in New Jersey was allegedly found dead as well.
Only hours after the Sandy Hook tragedy schools around the country have been taking their own security measures into consideration. According to NBC out of Los Angeles, security at areas schools has already been heightened. NBC reported that police were directed toward schools Friday to "provide a comfort level":
“Although we're 3,000 miles from there … there’s always the potential” for copycats or somebody to act out, Hiltner said. “In the event something were to happen, we’d be there to deal with an incident should it occur in our jurisdiction.”
Los Angeles schools police also added extra patrols to "reduce any fears or anxiety related to today’s incident," officials said in a statement.
Schools in northeast Ohio heightened security today as well.
Some have already also begun talking about the importance of being regimented at following existing school security procedures but also what schools might do in the future to prevent such catastrophes.
As for how schools have increased security since Columbine's shooting, NPR reported Paul Timm, president of RETA Security Inc, a school security company, saying that it has improved, even though tragedies have occurred since. As examples, Timm cited most schools now keep exterior doors locked and police response has been altered.
Before, Timm noted, police would set up a perimeter and wait for a SWAT team to arrive before entering. As the Connecticut state police official said to the press, police entered Sandy Hook immediately.
"Emergency planning has changed completely. Most schools are now required to have at least one lockdown drill per year to prepare for just the kind of active-shooter situation that seems to have occurred here," Timm said to NPR.
In addition to measures like this though, NPR reported Case Western Reserve University professor at the Center for Adolescent Health, Stephen Sroka, saying its time to start teaching children how to respond to shooting situations, as they would for a fire emergency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.