Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School 370.
(photo credit: Michelle McLoughlin / Reuters)
A heavily armed gunman opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, killing 26 people including 20 children in the latest in a series of shooting rampages across the United States this year, US media reported.
The gunman was dead inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, state police Lieutenant Paul Vance told a news conference.
Vance said there were 28 deaths in Connecticut - 20 children and seven adults from the school and another person connected to the suspect at a house in Newtown. The total included the shooter, who The New York Times
reported killed himself at the scene.
One of the dead was the shooter's mother, a teacher at the school, The New York Times
reported, citing a law enforcement official.
CNN reported that an official said there was an additional death - the brother of the suspected gunman in New Jersey - but this was not independently confirmed.
The suspected gunman entered the school as children were gathered in their classrooms for morning meeting. He was armed with four weapons and wore a bullet-proof vest, WABC reported.
President Barack Obama, wiping away tears and pausing to collect his emotions, mourned the "beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old" who were killed.
"As a country we have been through this too many times," Obama said, ticking off a list of recent shootings.
"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," Obama said in apparent reference to the influence of the National Rifle Association over members of Congress.
Obama remains committed to trying to renew a ban on assault weapons, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots with some saying as many as 100 were fired.
Another person was being held in police custody after he was detained in the woods near the school wearing camouflage pants, CBS reported.Witness describes scene as "horrendous"
Sandy Hook Elementary School teaches children from kindergarten through fourth grade - roughly ages 5 to 10.
"It was horrendous," said parent Brenda Lebinski, who rushed to the school where her daughter is in the third grade. "Everyone was in hysterics - parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don't know if they were shot, but they were bloodied."
Television images showed police and ambulances at the scene, and parents rushing toward the school. Parents were seen reuniting with their children and taking them home.
"This is going to be bad," a state official told Reuters, requesting anonymity because the scope of the tragedy remained uncertain.
Newtown, with a population about 27,000, is in northern Fairfield County, about 45 miles (70 km) southwest of Hartford and 80 miles (130 km) northeast of New York City.
The United States has experienced a number of mass shooting rampages this year, most recently in Oregon, where a gunman opened fire at a shopping mall on Tuesday, killing two people and then himself.
The deadliest came in July at a midnight screening of a Batman film in Colorado that killed 12 people and wounded 58.
The Sandy Hook tragedy would be the deadliest elementary school shooting in US history.
The worst US high school shooting happened in 1999 when two students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.
In 2007, 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech university in the deadliest act of gun violence in US history.