Often after a violent event that leads to a dramatic shift in public opinion or government policy, conspiracy theories abound. The Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, and the September 11 attacks all spawned numerous conspiracy theories. Now the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Ct. is becoming fodder for the purveyors of conspiracies.
Second shooters and the man in camouflage
One of the first conspiracies about Sandy Hook is that there was a second shooter. News coverage on the day of the murders showed a man in camouflage who had been arrested in the woods near the school. Bystanders reported that the man said, “I didn’t do it,” but no information on the man’s identity was forthcoming.
The mystery was quietly solved two weeks after the murders. On Dec. 27, the Newtown Bee reported, almost as an afterthought, that “a man with a gun who was spotted in the woods near the school on the day of the incident was an off-duty tactical squad police officer from another town.” The article does not explain what the officer was doing in the woods, but his identity was probably withheld because of his status as a SWAT officer. It is plausible to think that he might have been nearby and responded to the shootings. The Bee cites a “reliable law enforcement source.”
The SWAT officer was not the only person detained by police near Sandy Hook that day. Chris Manfredonia was running around the school trying to find his six-year-old daughter when he was handcuffed by police according to a Dec. 14 Los Angeles Times report. Manfredonia was released and found his daughter alive. Another unidentified man was detained according to Snopes, but was released when it became clear that he was not involved in the murders.
Chris Rodia was also accused of being the second shooter by some conspiracy theorists. In reality, the Connecticut Post reports that Rodia was being stopped for a traffic violation in Greenwich, Ct. at the time of the murders. Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance told the Post that Adam Lanza was the only gunman and that the car belonged to his relative (Nancy Lanza, his mother, according to other reports), not to Rodia, whom Vance had never heard of. Apparently, the officer who stopped Rodia was using the same police frequency as units responding to Sandy Hook, causing bloggers monitoring scanners to become confused.
The Post tracked the Rodia conspiracy to several websites including one called “USA Hitman.” The administrator of the site admitted that “"I have a full-time job and don't have time to research the stories.”
Did Lanza use an assault rifle?
The weapon used by Lanza has also been the source of confusion. Paul Vance of the State Police confirmed to CNN that Lanza carried three guns in the attack. The primary weapon was a Bushmaster AR-15, but he also carried Glock 10 mm and Sig Sauer 9 mm pistols. The Newtown Bee’s law enforcement source confirms this information.
Early reports that the AR-15 was found in the trunk of Lanza’s (not Rodia’s) car were not correct. The weapon recovered from the trunk was actually a shotgun. CNN noted that authorities had not released details of the shotgun. A Youtube video shows police removing the gun, which does not appear to be an AR-15, from the trunk of the car.
There are reports that the gun in the trunk was a Saiga 12 gauge shotgun, but these could not be verified. The Saiga 12 gauge is a combat shotgun that can accept a large capacity magazine and could easily be mistaken for an “assault rifle.”
Ryan Lanza’s ID
Ryan Lanza’s role in the massacre has also been the source of confusion. Initial reports were that Ryan, Adam Lanza’s brother, was the killer. In reality, Ryan Lanza was at work in New York City when he heard about the shooting according to the Daily Mail. Lanza was picked up by police for questioning and was later released.
The confusion stems from the fact that Adam Lanza was reported to have carried Ryan’s identification. Precisely what sort of identification cannot be determined from the information that has been released. It is possible that the identification was old and out-of-date since the Lanza brothers did not live together.
Peter Lanza and LIBOR
There were also reports that Lanza’s father was scheduled to testify before Congress in the LIBOR scandal. The conspiracy theory claims that the father of James Holmes, the “Dark Knight” killer from Aurora, Co., was also scheduled to testify on LIBOR. The problem was that no such hearing was scheduled to take place according to Talking Points Memo. Holmes worked for FICO and Lanza worked for GE. Neither is connected to LIBOR scandal, which is not even an American scandal.
Another myth involves Victoria Soto, one of the teachers murdered by Lanza. Early reports indicated that Soto had hidden her students in a classroom closet and then told Lanza that they were not in the classroom. In reality, one of Soto’s students said that Soto lined her students up and put herself between them and Lanza. The student, Aidan Licata, told CNN that he had been taught to run if they saw someone with a gun. Aidan and several of the other students ran past Lanza and escaped. Aidan was picked up by a woman who took him to a police station, but some of the students from Miss Soto’s class ended up in Gene Rosen’s driveway.
The closet tactic was used by another first grade teacher, Kaitlin Roig, according to ABC News. Roig hid her class in a bathroom and wheeled a storage unit in front of the door. She piled some of her six- and seven-year-olds on top of the toilet to fit everyone inside while telling those “who believed in the power of the prayer, we need to pray and those who don't believe in prayer" to remain positive. When the police came, Roig refused to open the door, thinking that it might the murderer trying to trick her. She told them that if they were really the police they could find a key to open the door themselves. Roig and her students all survived.