Shattered Connecticut Town Faces Day of Vigils; President Obama to Take Part in Local Ceremonies

Federal agents fanned out to dozens of gun stores and shooting ranges across Connecticut, hoping to cast light on the incident; authorities say shooter committed suicide as first responders closed in.

Churches and town halls in the region surrounding Newtown, Connecticut were preparing vigils Sunday for the 27 victims of the murderous rampage in a local elementary school, reported the Hartford Courant newspaper.

U.S. President Barack Obama was also expected to participate in the ceremonies, at an interfaith vigil in the town, scheduled for 7 P.M. He was later to meet with the parents of some of the 20 children killed in the attack, according to the White House.

Other events expected Sunday include a prayer at the Connecticut state capital, in Hartford, multiple vigils throughout the region and a special ceremony staged by organizers who have gathered aid for victims of this autumn's Superstorm Sandy.

Friday's incident continued to draw global outrage and sympathy. "I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the god of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain," said Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to Catholic pilgrims in Rome.

Meanwhile, authorities said on Sunday that the gunman committed suicide as first responders closed in, raising the specter that Adam Lanza had planned an even more gruesome massacre and was stopped short.

Lanza blasted his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and used a high-power rifle to kill 20 children and 6 adults, including the principal and school psychologist who tried to stop him, authorities said.

As Obama prepared a visit and churches opened their doors to comfort a grieving town Sunday, federal agents fanned out to dozens of gun stores and shooting ranges across Connecticut, chasing leads they hoped would cast light on Lanza's life.

Among the questions: Why did his mother, a well-to-do suburban divorcee, keep a cache of high-power weapons in the house? What experience did Lanza have with those guns? And, above all, what set him on a path to shoot and kill 20 children, along with the adults who tried to stop him?

Speaking on ABC television's "This Week," Gov. Dannel Malloy said Lanza shot himself as police entered the building. "We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy said.

Malloy offered no possible motive for the shooting and a law enforcement official has said police have found no letters or diaries left behind that could shed light on it.

Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, to death at the home they shared Friday, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School in her car with at least three of her guns, forced his way in by breaking a window and opened fire, authorities said. Within minutes, he killed the children, six adults and himself.

All the victims at the school were shot with a rifle, at least some of them up close, and all were apparently shot more than once, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said. There were as many as 11 shots on the bodies he examined.

All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys and 12 were girls.

Asked whether the children suffered, Carver said, "If so, not for very long." Asked how many bullets were fired, Carver said, "I'm lucky if I can tell you how many I found."

The incident has once again brought the issue of gun control to the forefront in U.S. society. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a forceful advocate of gun control, was expected to speak on the matter later Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press talk show.