Adam Lanza walked through high school in Newtown, Conn., with his hands glued to his sides, the pens in the pocket of his short-sleeve, button-down shirts among the few things that his classmates recalled about him.
He carried a black briefcase to his 10th-grade honors English class and sat near the door, so he could readily slip in and out. When called upon, he was intelligent, but nervous and fidgety, spitting his words out, as if having to speak up were painful.
Pale, tall and scrawny, Adam Lanza walked through high school in Newtown, Conn., with his hands glued to his sides, the pens in the pocket of his short-sleeve, button-down shirts among the few things that his classmates recalled about him.
He did all he could to avoid attention, it seemed.
Until Friday morning, when, police say, he shot and killed his mother in their home. And then, wearing combat gear and carrying firearms and an abundance of ammunition, he drove to Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School and started shooting. By the time he turned one of the guns on himself, police say, he had killed at least 20 children, many of them kindergartners, and six more adults.
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In his brief adulthood, Lanza, 20, had left few footprints, electronic or otherwise. He apparently had no Facebook page, unlike his older brother, Ryan, a Hoboken, N.J., resident who for several hours Friday was misidentified in news reports as the perpetrator of the massacre.
Adam Lanza did not even appear in his high-school yearbook, that of the class of 2010. His spot on the page said “camera shy.” Others who graduated that year said they did not believe he had finished school.
Matt Baier, now a junior at the University of Connecticut, and other high-school classmates recalled how deeply uncomfortable Lanza was in social situations.
Several said in separate interviews it was their understanding that he had a developmental disorder. They said they had been told the disorder was Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.
“It’s not like people picked on him for it,” Baier said. “From what I saw, people just let him be and that was that.”
Law-enforcement officials said Friday that they were examining whether Lanza had such a disorder.
“You could tell that he felt so uncomfortable about being put on the spot,” said Olivia DeVivo, also now at the University of Connecticut. “I think that maybe he wasn’t given the right kind of attention or help.”
DeVivo remembered Lanza from sixth grade and earlier, talking about aliens and “blowing things up,” but chalked this up to the typical talk of prepubescent boys.
Still, after hearing of the news Friday, DeVivo reconnected with friends from Newtown, and there was a consensus. “They weren’t surprised,” she said.
Baier, who sat next to Lanza in the back of their sophomore-year honors math class, said Lanza barely said a word all year, but earned high marks. He said he knew this only from peeking at Lanza’s scores when their teacher handed back their tests.
Out of view of his classmates, Lanza’s adolescence seemed to have been turbulent. In 2006, his older brother graduated from high school and went to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Adam Lanza was then alone with their parents, whose marriage was crumbling.
In 2008, they divorced, after 17 years, court records show. His father, Peter Lanza, a tax executive for GE Energy Financial Services, moved to Stamford, and in January 2011 married a woman who is a librarian at the University of Connecticut.
When Peter Lanza arrived home Friday and was approached by a reporter, he appeared “surprised and horrified” and declined to comment, The Stamford Advocate reported.
Adam Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, kept the home in Newtown, in a prosperous, hilly enclave of spacious, newer homes about five miles from the elementary school where she taught kindergarten. Adam Lanza is thought to have been living in the house, too.
Friends remembered Nancy Lanza as very involved in her sons’ lives.
“Their mother was very protective, very hands-on,” said Gina McDade, whose son was a playmate of Ryan Lanza’s and spent much time at his home, which she described as a two-story Colonial with a pool.
“It was a beautiful home,” McDade said.
Beth Israel, who lived for a time on the same street as the Lanzas, recalled Adam Lanza as withdrawn, but not threatening.
“Overall, I would just call him a socially awkward kid, I don’t know, shy and quiet. Didn’t really look you in the eye,” Israel said. “Just kind of a weird kid, maybe.”
On Friday, police officers and agents from the FBI swarmed through the Lanzas’ neighborhood, blocking off streets and asking residents to leave their homes.
Throughout the afternoon, Nancy Lanza’s surviving son, Ryan, 24, was named by some news outlets as the killer.
Ryan Lanza’s identification had been found on the body of his brother, leading to the mistaken reports.
Brett Wilshe, a neighbor of Ryan Lanza’s in Hoboken, said he communicated with Ryan by instant message at 1:15 p.m.
“He said he thought his mom was dead, and he was heading back up to Connecticut,” Wilshe said. “He said, ‘It was my brother.’ “
The Wall Street Journal quoted another friend of Ryan Lanza’s as saying that he works for Ernst & Young. “He (is) a little shy, but very nice and sweet,” the friend, Katie Colaneri, 24, of Hoboken, told The Journal.
Material from The Washington Post is included in this report.