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Monday, December 5, 2016

By Alaine Griffin, The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, Conn. — Peter Lanza, the father of Sandy Hook Elementary School killer Adam Lanza, said in an interview in The New Yorker that he wished his second-born son who shot 20 elementary school children and six educators “had never been born.”

In an article written following a series of six interviews with noted author Andrew Solomon, Lanza speaks publicly for the first time about his son, Adam, and discusses aspects of his life since the shooting. Solomon said Lanza contacted him in September to say that he “was ready to tell his story.” The interviews are expected to culminate with a book.

Lanza told Solomon that he believed Adam had no affection for him. Lanza moved out of the family home Adam shared with his mother Nancy and older brother Ryan when Adam was a boy and he had not seen his son in the two years before the Sandy Hook shootings.

“With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he’d had the chance,” Lanza said. “I don’t question that for a minute.”

Before the massacre at the school, Adam fatally shot his mother four times in the head.

“The reason he shot Nancy four times was one for each of us: one for Nancy; one for him; one for Ryan; one for me,” Lanza told Solomon.

Lanza, a vice president at a GE subsidiary, said he now thinks constantly about what he could have done differently and “wishes he had pushed harder to see Adam.”

The article goes over largely familiar ground about signs of trouble in Adam’s early days, his struggles in school, his increased isolation as he grew older and how Adam cut off contact with his father two years before the massacre.

Lanza confirms that Adam was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder as a young boy and had such compulsive behaviors as continuous hand washing and not touching doorknobs.

Back then, Lanza said, Adam was “just a normal little weird kid,” who struggled with basic emotions and making friends. Lanza said Adam “loved Sandy Hook school” but struggled in middle school when the structure of the day changed and sensory overload affected his ability to concentrate.

“It was crystal clear something was wrong,” Lanza said. “The social awkwardness, the uncomfortable anxiety, unable to sleep, stress, unable to concentrate, having a hard time learning, the awkward walk, reduced eye contact. You could see the changes occurring.”

Lanza said he and Adam’s mother, Nancy Lanza, whom Lanza separated from in 2001 and later divorced in 2009, initially worked together to get Adam help, taking him to psychiatrists including one who diagnosed Adam with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 13.

Lanza said though Adam did not accept the diagnosis, he and Nancy Lanza continued to try to get Adam help, enrolling him in a different school and eventually schooling him at home. Nancy Lanza taught him the humanities and Lanza instructed him twice a week in the sciences. He said Adam was “not open to therapy” and did not want to admit he had Asperger’s. Adam also would not take medication due to serious side effects he suffered after taking an antidepressant.

Lanza told Solomon “none of the doctors they saw detected troubling violence in Adam’s disposition.”

In an attempt, perhaps, to explain why Adam was allowed to shoot guns at a shooting range, Solomon wrote, “Everyone tried to encourage Adam and looked for ways to engage with him. Nancy would take him on trips to the shooting range. Nancy and Peter thought that their son was nonviolent; the best way to build a connection to someone with Asperger’s is often to participate in his fascinations.”

When police interviewed Lanza after the shooting, he told investigators that on “several occasions” prior to 2011, he took Adam to a shooting range in Monroe, and to a range in Danbury at least once. Lanza said he would buy the ammunition but would keep any unused ammunition “and did not permit Adam to keep any for himself,” according to the state’s attorney’s report.

Lanza told police he never gave Adam a firearm and was not aware of Nancy Lanza’s ever purchasing guns for their son though he believed Nancy had purchased guns.

Police found thousands of rounds of ammunition inside Lanza’s house. Records show that the four guns he carried to the Sandy Hook school that day were all legally purchased by Nancy Lanza between March 2010 and January 2012. The report redacts the locations where the guns were purchased. The Bushmaster used in the shootings was bought in March 2010.

The article does not address whether Lanza ever went shooting with Adam.

Lanza says he did not think his estrangement from his son was “ominous” and believed his son would eventually mature, though Lanza admits he did not introduce him to the new woman in his life who would eventually become his wife.

He said he last saw Adam in September 2010. Lanza told Solomon he was frustrated by the lack of contact but “felt that he couldn’t show up at the house in Newtown to force an encounter.” He said he considered hiring a private investigator to “try and figure out where he was going,” so Lanza could “bump into him.”

Lanza said he thinks Adam was trying to “hide his psychological decay” and that Nancy Lanza’s pride prevented her from asking for help.

“She wanted everyone to think everything was OK,” Lanza said.

Lanza said he last communicated with Nancy Lanza via email about a month before the massacre. Nancy Lanza wanted a new computer for Adam and Peter Lanza offered to give it to Adam personally. Nancy Lanza said she would discuss it with her son after Thanksgiving but he never heard anything about it again.

In the article, Lanza refuses to discuss Adam’s funeral and says he offered to meet with the victims’ families, though only two have taken him up on his offer. Lanza said he has dreamed of Adam every night since the killings.

While the article did not detail any backlash Lanza has received since the shootings, Solomon writes about “thousands of letters and other keepsakes: prayer shawls, Bibles, Teddy bears, homemade toys … crosses, including one made by prison inmates” that Lanza has received.

But Lanza admits he hasn’t eaten any food that was sent, including a bag of caramels sent to his home.

“There was no way to be sure it wasn’t poisoned,” Solomon wrote.

Solomon said on NBC’s Today Show that Peter Lanza decided to speak after being contacted by several victims’ families.

“He said he finally thought his story was an important part of the puzzle and that he had a moral obligation to tell it, that it might help the families or it might help prevent another Newtown,” said Solomon.

Solomon, who spent hours interviewing Lanza, described the gunman’s father as a “kind, decent man” who was “horrified his child could have caused this destruction.”

“He’s haunted, he wishes he could go back in time and fix what went wrong,” said Solomon, who said the gunman’s father described meeting with relatives of his son’s victims as “heartbreaking.”

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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