SANDY HOOK SHOOTER RESEARCH
The article by Peter Langman and Langman Psychological Associates looks into Adam Lanza’s mind and his motivations for the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Langman categorizes school shooters into three categories: psychopathic, psychotic, or traumatized. Langman places Lanza in the psychotic category due to speculations of him having undiagnosed schizophrenia. This speculation made by Langman is based on observed behaviors and characteristics of Lanza that are associated with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia-related characteristics exhibited by Lanza were a lack of expression (also known as flat affect) and the inability to speak in situations where discussion would be expected and appropriate. These traits were confirmed by testimonials made by his former classmate and his hairdresser. Lanza also went through periods of withdrawal and a lack of responsiveness commonly known as catatonic episodes, experienced heightened sensitivity to light and sound and decreased sensitivity to pain, and rituals and compulsions that are associated with both obsessive compulsive disorder as well as delusions which are further associated with schizophrenia. Along with schizophrenia, according to his father, Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome which he questioned believing that it could “mask schizophrenia”. In this article, there are passages and excerpts of Lanza’s private messages that further highlight his mindset and the speculation of schizophrenia. Lanza writes of occurrences of both auditory and visual hallucinations, a common characteristic of schizophrenia. These hallucinations paired with his paranoia signal a gradual onset of psychosis.
Langman states that Lanza had a strong opinion and view of culture and civilization and how they relate to human nature. To understand who he was, it is important to understand how he views himself in relation to these concepts. From very early on, Lanza suffered from severe emotional distress with evidence starting from elementary school when he began to write “loser” and “ugly” on his hands. Langman states that, from Lanza’s point of view, “growing up in a culture and learning how to function socially is a process of raping innocent minds”. This concept is not only significant to understanding him, but it also sheds light on his view of mass murderers. He writes a short essay that highlighted this aspect, arguing that mass murderers are a symptom of the alienation that is caused by civilization, “a product of a flawed society”.
While it is still an elusive subject, sexuality appears to have been important to him. He had even posted a comment online stating that he had castrated himself at the age of 15 to rebel against society. Genital mutilation is associated with psychosis. While his castration was not confirmed as the autopsy report was not publicized, it remains unclear whether he really did do so. In addition, there is a great concern for pedophelia being a part of his sexuality. The police report regarding the Sandy Hook shooting noted various materials on Lanza’s computer that were related to pedophelia as well as a written statement defending pedophilia, all of which suggest that he may have been a pedophile. This could have served as a possible motivation for the school shooting perhaps through sexual frustration or as a rebellion against children who he believed may have caused him to experience unwanted feelings.
Despite all these speculations and these characteristics that may set him apart from other members of society, Adam Lanza exhibits some similar characteristics to other adult school shooters. For example, Lanza has educational failures, lack of employment, lack of familial support, the inability to establish any intimate relationships, and a lack of social connectedness.
Langman concludes his article with a very strong message to higher education personnel to obtain training in recognizing and intervening with students who exhibit psychotic symptoms.
Based on the evidence listed in this article by Langman, it is very probable that Adam Lanza was suffering from a mental illness, specifically schizophrenia. As for the motivations of Adam Lanza for the Sandy Hook shooting, it could be an “irrational rationale”, in the sense that Adam may have viewed his reasonings as rational even though to a large part of society it isn’t. One of the main reasons that he may have had is to protect and free the children from what he believed to be rape or the imposition of culture.
This article by Henry Grabar is about his interview with architect Jay Brotman of Svigals + Partners, who built the new Sandy Hook Elementary School. His intent when building the school was to increase protection for the students while also making sure that they did not feel like prisoners, stating “You’re not going to raise a good person in a prison”. The school itself is very open, providing a homely feel to the students. The main theme being nature, there is a tree-shaded terrace that is behind a wall of windows and, on the second floor, the hallways end with cozy nooks called “treehouses” with windows facing into the forest behind the school. For security purposes, there are black cameras on the ceilings and bulletproof glass in the double row of doors. To add more security with speed, the classroom doors are propped open with a wall magnet. This wall magnet is connected to a centralized lockdown button that shuts all the classroom doors at once. Furthermore, there is a moat that surrounds the school to limit entry-points to the school to three in addition to increasing the height of the windows above the ground. There are many adaptations to schools that are happening around the country with disagreement regarding whether those security measures should be explicitly placed or whether they should be hidden to protect the students and their education. Jay Brotman states that, while no school will ever be completely invulnerable to school shootings and attacks, school safety and security is a priority with education being the #1 priority.
Below is a list of changes Sandy Hook Elementary made to protect the students and increase security.
- Gate to the parking lot.
- Comfortable feel added by the following:
- Rain garden with milkweed and marsh grasses at the front
- The building rises and falls similar to the hills that are around the town
- Low stone wall marks the base
- The entryway leads to a courtyard with ducks that lived in the demolished courtyard of the old school
- A tree-shaded terrace that is behind the wall of windows
- On the second floor, the hallway ends with cozy nooks called treehouses that look out onto the forest behind the school
- Black globe cameras in the ceiling
- Bulletproof glass in the double row of doors
- Wall magnet propping open each door
- Connected to a centralized lockdown button that will send a signal to all doors to close at once
- The rain garden also acts as a moat
- Limits the school to 3 entry points
- The windows are higher above the ground because of the moat