Students return to class amid tight security

Students returned to school in the shattered Connecticut town of Newtown for the first time since a gunman’s rampage killed 26 people in an elementary school, altering the gun control debate in Washington and forcing a retailer to pull guns from shelves.

Students return to class amid tight security

Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down a score of 6- and 7-year-olds and six adults last Friday, will remain closed. It is an active crime scene, with police coming and going past a line of 26 Christmas trees, one for each victim, decorated with ornaments, stuffed animals and balloons in the school colours of green and white.

When Sandy Hook students go back to school, it will be at the unused Chalk Hill School in nearby Monroe.

The rest of Newtown’s schools reopened with grief counsellors and police present, though it was unclear how many of the town’s 4,700 students were planning to attend.

“It’s going to be awful, doing the things we used to do,” said Miguel, 16, who stopped by a shop on his way to Newtown High School. “There’s going to be a lot of tears.”

The massacre shocked Americans who had grown accustomed to mass shootings, prompting some US lawmakers to call for tighter gun restrictions and pressuring one private equity firm to sell its investment in a gunmaker.

In addition, Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has more than 450 stores in the US, pulled all guns from its store closest to Newtown and suspended the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles in its stores nationwide.

Cabela, an outdoor products retailer, continued to sell the model used by Lanza — a Bushmaster AR-15 semi- automatic rifle — on its website.

President Barack Obama, who called for action at a Sunday night prayer vigil in Newtown, held talks with vice president Joe Biden and three cabinet members in what a White House official said was an effort to “begin looking at ways the country can respond to the tragedy in Newtown”.

Several Democratic lawmakers have sought a new push for gun restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons such as the rifle used by Lanza, who carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition in extra clips and shot all of his victims repeatedly, one of them 11 times.

Lanza also shot dead his mother before driving to the school, and then killed himself to end the massacre with a death toll of 28.

The nation’s powerful gun industry lobby, the National Rifle Association, has remained silent on the Newtown shooting.

US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it was selling its investment in gunmaker Freedom Group following pressure from a major investor, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which said on Monday that it was reviewing its investment with Cerberus.

CalSTRS, the second largest pension fund in the US, had invested $751.4m (€567.7m) with Cerberus by the end of Mar 2012, according to its website.

Cerberus bought firearms maker Bushmaster in 2006 and later merged it with other gun companies to create Freedom Group.

While politicians and investors grappled with the future of the US gun industry, police and educators in Newtown tried to ease their town back to normal.

A day after the first two children were buried, funerals were scheduled for victims including James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos. Both were 6-years-old.

At Newtown High School, a group of three girls hugged each other in the car park before starting for the doorway.

Arriving students were greeted at the main entrance by a clutch of school staff, one calling warmly: “Welcome back, guys.”

Uniformed police officers stood in the entrance and guarded the drive up from the street.

School began two hours later than normal and students were to attend all- school assembly.

Counselling was available in the gym for students and staff, principal Charles Dumais said in a blog posting titled, The Beginning.

“Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world,” he wrote. “Be strong, Newtown.”

Nanci Wallenta, taking her friend’s son to school, said she was not worried about security and wanted to get back to normal.

“It’s an isolated incident,” Ms Wallenta said. “You can’t go through life being afraid. You can’t live in fear... We’re a strong town.”

Defence plea

* A US primary school boy caught with a gun at school yesterday told staff he brought the weapon to defend himself in case of an attack similar to the Connecticut shooting.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that two classmates at West Kearns Elementary School in Utah reported the gun to a teacher toward the end of the day.

Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley says the teacher “immediately apprehended the student,” and police responded shortly after.

Horsley told KSL-TV that an unloaded gun and ammunition were found in the 11-year-old’s backpack.

Authorities say nobody was injured.

Killer smashed hard drive

* Police have warned it could take months for them to finish their investigation because Adam Lanza smashed his computer’s hard drive, preventing police from retrieving any data.

The computer was found in a windowless bunker in the family home that had walls plastered with posters of guns and tanks.

Lanza, 20, spent hours playing violent computer games such as Call Of Duty and studied weapons there, according to plumber Peter Wlasuk who went into the basement many times while working at the plush four-bedroom house.

The gunman reportedly broke the hard drive, which would make retrieving data arduous depending on how it was destroyed, experts say. He could have also overrided the information on his computer.

Police say he wrecked the computer before going to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday in Newtown.

Data recovery experts say determining what was on the computer will depend on how savvy Lanza was in destroying the machine’s hard drive. Inside the drives are platters, or circular disks that look like CDs, that are used to store data.

Even if the case of the hard drive is wrecked, the data can still be recovered as long as the platters are transferred to another drive, said David Abrahimi, of Amnet Data Solutions in Manhattan.

“The hard drives are relatively durable, but if the platters are broken, it would be impossible to recover information,” Abrahimi said.

Lanza could have also known how to overwrite the data on the computer, essentially making it irretrievable.

Police were able to seize evidence from Lanza’s home, but going through it all will be a “painstaking process”, Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt Paul Vance said.

“We have begun processing the evidence, analysing the evidence ... and, just to use an example, the weaponry — every single facet of the weapons will be analysed, every single round of ammunition will be looked at and examined for any kind of physical evidence.”

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