, NEW YORK, Dec 14 – A gunman slaughtered at least 27 people, including 18 young children, in a mass shooting ON Friday at a suburban US elementary school, US media reported citing law enforcement officials.
Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance could not confirm the death toll, but told reporters that there had been “several fatalities” among staff and students at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
He said the shooter had died within the building during a police operation to rescue the pupils, and that the scene was now secure and the public safe, but gave few details of the latest in a series of US gun massacres.
If confirmed, the toll would be the second highest death toll in a US school shooting, after the 2007 campus shootings at Virginia Tech, which left 32 dead.
The number would far exceed the 15 killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which triggered a fierce but inconclusive debate about the United States’ liberal gun control laws.
CBS News cited law enforcement sources as saying that 27 people were killed, including 18 children. A White House spokesman said President Barack Obama had been informed of the shooting and was following events.
But he said the president did not immediately plan to reopen the gun control debate, saying: “I don’t think today is that day.”
“One of the cops, you know, said it was the worse thing he’d seen in his entire career, but it was when they told all these parents waiting for children to come out,” a local nurse who rushed to the scene told WCBS news.
“They thought that they were, you know, still alive. There’s 20 parents that were just told that their children are dead. It was awful,” she said.
Witnesses described an intense fusillade, with perhaps 100 rounds fired, and seeing a corridor splashed with blood.
“I was in the gym at the time … we heard lots of bangs, and we thought that it was the custodian knocking stuff down. We heard screaming. And so went to the wall, and we sat down,” a young boy told WCBS television.
“Then the police came in. It’s like, is he in here? Then he ran out. Then somebody yelled get to a safe place, so we went to the closet in the gym and we sat there for a little while,” he said, as stunned parents arrived.
“Then the police like were knocking on the door, and they’re like, we’re evacuating people, we’re evacuating people. We ran out.
“They’re police at every door leading us down this way, this way. Quick, quick, come on. We ran down to the firehouse. There’s a man that pinned down to the ground with handcuffs on,” he said.
Police swarmed into the leafy neighborhood after the shooting, while other area schools were put under lock-down, police and local media said.
The Newtown Bee newspaper said that a child was carried out of the school with apparently serious injuries.
A photo on the Bee’s website showed officers leading more than a dozen frightened small children across a parking lot. Another image showed officers gathering in the quiet street nearby.
On the Newtown Public School District website an alert was posted warning that “afternoon kindergarten is canceled today” and that there would be no lunch-hour bus runs.
Deadly shootings are a frequent occurrence in US public places, often ending only when the gunman is shot or kills himself.
On Tuesday, a man with a semi-automatic rifle raked an Oregon shopping mall, killing two people, then taking his own life.
In the most notorious recent incident, in July this year, a 24-year-old, James Holmes, allegedly killed 12 people and wounded 58 others when he opened fire in a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.
Last month, gunman Jared Loughner was jailed for life for killing six people in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011 in an attack targeting congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at point-blank range but survived.
However, despite the tragedies, support for tougher gun ownership laws is mixed, with many Americans opposing restrictions on what they consider to be a constitutional right to keep powerful firearms at home.