A newly released FBI profile of Adam Lanza concludes that he did not just “snap” when he shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, but instead had engaged in careful, methodical planning that started 21 months earlier.
When FBI profiler Andre Simon met in 2014 with families of some of the victims killed at the Newtown school, he provided a summary of his findings that included a reference to Lanza “contemplating the attack as early as March of 2011.” Documents released by the FBI Tuesday do not reveal how Simon came to that conclusion.
The summary of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit’s assessment of Lanza is among more than 1,500 pages of documents related to the shooting at the Newtown school that left 26 dead, including 20 first-graders. Lanza shot the students and six school employees at the school after shooting and killing his mother, Nancy, in their home.
The documents include FBI interviews with neighbors of Adam Lanza and friends of his family, and an hour-long interview with a woman who communicated online with Lanza for more than two years.
The unidentified woman recounted for two FBI special agents how Lanza wrote about his meticulous spreadsheet of mass killers, professed his love of Harry Potter books and told her about a nightmare of being in a mall during a mass shooting.
The woman told FBI agents that she first “met” Lanza online more than two years before the shooting after spotting his postings on a website related to the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. They communicated about once a month after that, but the woman said she did not know Lanza’s real name or where he lived.
She told agents that he referred to the spreadsheet he created “meticulously documenting the details of hundreds of spree killings and mass murders.” She said Lanza wrote about mass killers with respect and understanding, saying such attacks were merely the symptoms of a broken society.
She told the FBI Lanza rarely spoke about his family or personal life, but said he once wrote that he liked the Harry Potter stories, and in particular the “idea that at the age of eleven, the kids were taken away from their families.” She told the FBI he was “the most fixated and disturbed internet associate she had ever encountered.”
The newly released documents show that the FBI opened a grand jury within days of the shooting to collect information from internet sites that Adam Lanza frequented. There also are field notes from agents who canvassed the Yogananda Street neighborhood in Newtown where Lanza lived.
One neighbor told agents that the FBI had visited the Lanza home several years earlier because Adam had hacked into a government computer system when he was in ninth grade. The neighbor said that Lanza made it through the second level of the unnamed government computer system before federal agents showed up at the house.
The neighbor said that Nancy Lanza said the agents remarked that Adam was so smart “he could have a job with them someday.”
FBI agents assisted the state police in the aftermath of the shooting. The documents released Tuesday are mostly redacted grand jury subpoenas and interviews agents conducted, as well as records they obtained from schools and health providers.
The investigators’ hand-written field notes on the day of the massacre show how the agents, during their initial canvass of witnesses, gathered a wide range of information about Nancy and Adam Lanza’s relationship that would later shed light on his increasingly isolated existence in the weeks before the murders.
One unidentified person told agents that Nancy Lanza had confided that Adam Lanza had not left his bedroom in three months and that she only communicated with him via e-mail. Several mentioned that Adam Lanza had been upset when their home lost power for days after Superstorm Sandy.
“He had no real friends,” an investigator noted, “and would not go out of the house to a hotel when electricity [was] out during Hurricane Sandy.”
Another family friend told agents that while in school, Adam Lanza was “bullied, but not excessively, for his social awkwardness and his physical gait.” Lanza weighed only 111 pounds at the time of his death.
The FBI profiler, after reviewing Lanza’s journal writings and internet posts and interviewing the few relatives who knew him, concluded Lanza had an “extremely rigid and inflexible worldview.”
The profiler concluded:
- In the weeks and months preceding the attack, Lanza’s deteriorating relationship with his mother was a significant challenge and stressor in his life.
- There was no evidence to suggest that Lanza viewed the attack as a “video game” or as a game.
- Lanza was fascinated with past shootings and researched them thoroughly.
- There is evidence to suggest that Lanza had an interest in children that could be categorized as pedophilia. Although the profiler acknowledged there is no evidence Lanza ever acted on that interest.
The unidentified woman’s online conversations with Lanza expounded on his loneliness and social awkwardness. She told federal agents, according to their summary, “Lanza seemed to have no friends or people he could turn to for support or assistance and did not appear to have any enjoyment of life.”
In his postings, Lanza expressed displeasure over natural light, the taste and texture of food, and the feel of clothing.
The woman said Lanza at least once had “casually mentioned suicide” and saw death as an escape from his joyless existence. But she told the FBI Lanza never directly expressed an interest in killing himself. The woman also told agents it was clear Lanza was knowledgeable about guns, but never indicated that he owned weapons and never suggested he would hurt others
She said Lanza also wrote about his nightmares.
Lanza wrote that he dreamed he was in a mall during a mass shooting, and found himself alone in a shoe store with the shooter, trying to persuade him to commit suicide before the police could arrest him. In another, he described watching bullies emptying the backpack of a victim, who then pulled a gun and began shooting his tormentors.
Lanza stopped communicating with the woman in the summer of 2012, and he later wrote that he had “committed virtual suicide,” destroying his computer hard drive and losing his online virtual identities. He eventually reestablished his online identities, with the woman last hearing from him in early December 2012, days before the shooting.
After learning of Lanza’s attack, the woman told the FBI that Lanza was “more (expletive) up than I thought.”