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Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting was a mass murder at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut carried out by 20-year-old Adam Lanza in December of 2012. 27 people were killed, including 20 children, 6 adults and Lanza who shot himself.
On December 14th, 2012, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old resident of Newtown, Connecticut, entered the premise of a local elementary school and fatally shot 20 children and six adult faculty members before killing himself. According to the police investigation, Lanza showed up at the school around 9:35 a.m. (ET) dressed in black fatigues and a military vest with two hand guns, two rifles and a semiautomatic rifle , all of which were purchased legally and registered under his mother’s card.
News Media Coverage
Shortly after the arrival of the police on the scene, the news of the tragedy quickly took over the media through round-the-clock coverage on TV and radio stations across the country, as well as real-time updates from major news sites, including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Gawker,CNN and CBS News. The same day, President Obama held a press conference to make a statement about the shooting, calling for “meaningful action” in response to the tragedy and becoming tearful during the address (shown below).
Meanwhile, the authorities initially identified Adam’s brother Ryan Lanza as the suspect (as his ID was retrieved at the location) and his name soon began appearing in the headlines of news articles.
Ryan Lanza’s Facebook Status Update
Shortly after the Ryan Lanza’s named was leaked to the press as the shooter, his Facebook profile began circulating online. Lanza began posting status updates informing the public that he was innocent and not involved with the massacre (shown below).
The same day, Gawker published an article about titled “The ‘Ryan Lanza Facebook Profile is the Connecticut Shooter’ Stuff is Fucking Up Everything,” which reported on Lanza’s status updates the online conversations surrounding the shooter’s identity. As the story continued to develop throughout the day, Ryan was eventually cleared of accusations after his alibi was corroborated by the security camera footage at his work place.
White House Gun Control Petitions
Within hours of the breaking news, at least six petitions pressing the Obama administration to address the issue of gun control were submitted to the White House website’s “We The People” petition system, including “Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress,” which has more than 186,500 signatures, and “Today IS the day: Sponsor strict gun control laws in the wake of the CT school massacre,” which has over 34,500 signatures as of December 18th. According to SFGate’s coverage, all six of the petitions had gained at least 200 signatures in the span of few hours on the day of the tragedy.
Westboro Baptist Church Response
On December 14th, 2012, Westboro Baptist Church leader Margie Phelps tweeted at United States President Barack Obama that gay marriage was to blame for the shooting.
President Beast @barackobama! Stop the phony tears!You brought this mayhem! STOP MARRYING FAGS! God is not joking! You’ve brought His wrath.
— MargiePhelps (@MargieJPhelps) December 14, 2012
The same day, church representative Shirley Phelps-Roper announced via Twitter that the church planned to picket the Sandy Hook Elementary School to praise God for the shooting. Also on December 14th, a petition was created on the White House “We the People” website calling for the Westboro Baptist Church to be recognized by the government as a hate group, amassing over 155,000 signatures within three days. On December 16th, Phelps-Roper’s Twitter was hacked by someone claiming to be Twitter user @CosmoTheGod.
— Cosmo (@DearShirley) December 17, 2012
The same day, a Pastebin was created containing the personally identifiable information of several church members. On December 17th, Gawker published an article reporting that Anonymous had launched #OpWestboro to attack the Westboro Baptist Church and its members. The article noted that several church members credit card numbers had been leaked and that Cosmo the God had violated his parole in order to take over Phelps-Roper’s Twitter account.
Liza Long Article
On December 14th, The Blue Review published an article by Boise, Idaho resident Liza Long titled “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” which recounted her experiences with her violent and mentally ill son to raise awareness about the state of mental health services in the United States. On December 16th, the article was reblogged on The Huffington Post, where it received over 308,000 Facebook shares, 16,700 tweets, 26,900 emails and 13,600 comments. On December 16th, the blog thegirlwhowasthursday published a post titled “You Are Not Adam Lanza’s Mother,” which chastised Long for perpetuating a stigma against the mentally ill. On December 17th, Time published an article titled “Backlash Against ‘I am Adam Lanza’s Mother’”, reporting that many were blaming Long for her song’s mental illness in response to the blog post.
Reactions and Commentaries
Also on December 14th, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox News, arguing that the shooting may have happened due to religion not being allowed in schools (shown below, left). Also on December 14th, conservative Christian Bryan Fischer spoke about the shooting during his radio program, arguing that God could have protected the victims of the massacre but does not “go where he is not wanted” (shown below, right).
On December 17th, CNN published an article titled “After Newtown, the NRA Goes Silent,” reporting that the National Rifle Association (NRA) had yet to post anything on its website since the shooting took place and had taken down the organization’s official Facebook page. On the following day, the NRA posted an announcement on their official website saying “were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news” and would be holding a “major news conference” on December 21st.
On December 15th, liberal politics blog the Daily Kos posted a short piece anticipating conspiracy theories that the shooting was staged by the government due to the way Fox News had been focusing on gun control topics. Surely enough, a handful of hoax rumors had spawned by December 17th, including many tying the Newtown incident to the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012. The next day, the Atlantic reported that they had received an email detailing additional theories including the shooting as a false flag operation intended to get Americans to relinquish their gun rights or that the shooter was a stand-in for a much larger organization like the banking industry or the Illuminati.
Additionally, several videos drawing ambiguous connections to the Aurora, Colorado shooting have surfaced on YouTube, including a scene from The Dark Knight Rises in which Sandy Hook is labeled on a map as “Strike Zone 1,” the area was the supposed location of Gotham Stadium which the villain, Bane, destroys in the film. Also during the last weeks of December, the rapper Gunplay, who was under house arrest for armed robbery at the time, tweeted that the “government killed dem [sic] kids to take our guns away,” though it was quickly deleted.
On December 20th, Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy began analyzing the tragedy on his personal blog Memory Hole. Cross-comparing YouTube video footage with reports from journalists and newspapers, Tracy argued that the shooting was a “meticulously crafted façade.” In a follow-up post four days later, he brought up many unanswered questions and missing pieces that the news media had left out of their coverage. Many of his theories and ideas, along with others, appeared on the website SandyHookHoax.com, which was created on December 21st, 2012. These ideas were also mirrored in a viral video, uploaded to YouTube by ThinkOutsideTheTV on January 7th, 2013. In less than two weeks, this video reached more than 8 million views.
On January 11th, 2013, Anderson Cooper spoke about these theories and Tracy specifically on AC 360, calling these ideas “sickening” and “ignorant.” Following the broadcast of the CNN segment, Tracy’s blog began to gain attention as well. On January 15th, Gene Rosen, the Newtown resident who took in six survivors after they escaped the school, came forward to Salon about the harassing phone calls and emails he had been receiving from conspiracy theories claiming he was an actor or involved in the hoax.
The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary School
On November 16th, 2013, Ryan Jake Lambourn, an American expat developer living in Australia, released The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary School, a flash-based simulation game in which the player assumes the role of Adam Lanza, via Newgrounds  and SWFchan, though the former upload has been since removed by the site moderators. Prior to this release, Lambourn had previously drawn controversy with a similar online game inspired by the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.
click through to play the game (warning: this site contains disturbing imagery)
Lambourn’s Sandy Hook project was immediately met with outrage from all corners of the social media, with many commentators on Twitter and in the news denouncing the game as sickening. On Newgrounds, several members sent personal complaints to Lambourn, asking him to take down the game from the site. (shown below) In defending his creation, Lambourn explained that the game was intended to promote stricter gun control measures.
Adam Lanza was born April 22nd, 1992 and was an honors student at Newton High School before being removed to be home-schooled by his mother. After earning his GED, Lanza attended the Western Connecticut State University. According to an article in NY Mag, Lanza’s mother was an avid gun collector who stockpiled weapons and food in preparation for a possible economic collapse. Following the shooting, Lanza’s brother Ryan told police he believed his brother may have been “somewhat autistic.” On December 18th, 2012, Fox News published an article titled “Fear of being committed may have caused Connecticut gunman to snap,” reporting that Newton area resident Joshua Flashman claimed Lanza may have discovered that his mother was petitioning a court to have her son committed to a mental institution.
The New York Times – Nation Reels After Gunman Massacres 20 Children at School in Connecticut
Washington Post – Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Shocks Nation
Talking Points Memo – Newtown Conspiracy Hoax Spreads Fast Across Fringe
BET – Gunplay Says Government Behind Sandy Hook Shooting (Autoplay)