A gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked Friday, killing at least 26 people, including 20 children, by blasting his way through the building as young students cowered helplessly in classrooms while their teachers and classmates were shot.
The attack, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, appeared to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
Lt. Paul Vance with the Newtown police department told the media that 18 of the children died on the scene; two other died later in hospital. 6 adults also died, not including the shooter.
Panicked parents raced to Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, looking for their children in the wake of the shooting. Students were told to close their eyes by police as they were led from the building.
Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.
"That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."
He said the shooter didn't utter a word.
A law enforcement official says the suspect in the Connecticut school shootings is 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher at the school where the shootings occurred.
Authorities say the suspect killed his mother at home prior to the school rampage.
Initially, Adam Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was questioned by police.
It was later learned the brother had nothing to do with the massacre.
An earlier report from a law enforcement official mistakenly transposed the brothers' first names.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.
The first official said Adam Lanza is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter was in the school and heard two big bangs. Teachers told her to get in a corner, he said.
"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said. His daughter was fine.
Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman at the hospital, said it had three patients from the school but she did not have information on the extent or nature of their injuries.
Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and ran to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.
"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.
Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."
The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.
"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."
Photos: via AP