I detailed in a previous post how we know that the unnamed interview subject who told the FBI that Adam Lanza owned the Sandy Hook murder weapon was, in fact, his brother Ryan. This is the second part of that analysis. (quick note for frequent visitors to the blog: I didn’t intend for a seven-month delay between parts. Attempts to write this post gradually turned into a draft of the book, before I came back around and edited it back to this smaller chunk.)
Nancy and Adam
Much has been made of Nancy Lanza’s responsibility for what happened at Sandy Hook. Depending on whom you ask, she is either a victim, a tragically negligent mother, or the person most responsible for what happened, having provided lethal weaponry to a sick maniac.
All of the weapons and ammunition used in the massacre were purchased by Nancy, after all. She was responsible for bringing the weapons into the home, and thus responsible for taking reasonable measures to keep them away from anyone dangerous.
I’ve read hundreds of commentaries examining Nancy’s potential culpability in what happened at Sandy Hook, and for the sake of argument I’ll boil them down to five proposed scenarios of gun safety in the Lanza home, representing five increasing degrees of guilt on Nancy’s part:
- The guns were Nancy’s property alone, and she took proper steps to ensure that only she would ever have access to them. Adam bypassed these measures, but no one could have foreseen the lengths he went to to do so.
- The guns were Nancy’s property alone, and she took steps to ensure that only she would have access, but these measures were so feeble and ineffective that she was negligent in securing her weapons.
- Nancy bought the guns for herself, but she took absolutely no practical measures to restrict access to them within the home. She expected that Adam would have access to them, and thus considered him a responsible adult.
- Nancy bought the guns for Adam. They were his property in everything but registration. He thus must have requested of Nancy their purchase, and Nancy (incorrectly) decided that this was a safe arrangement for herself and others.
- Nancy bought the guns for Adam, knowing that this was dangerous, and took the chance anyway.
(a sixth degree of responsibility would be if Nancy was aware of Adam’s specific intention to assault Sandy Hook and she thus participated in the plot, but I don’t think any reasonable person has suggested this state of affairs)
The most commonly held assumption, from what I have seen, seems to be #2, the corresponding narrative being that Nancy was a firearms enthusiast, had to keep her guns somewhere, and that her mistake was that “somewhere” happened to be the same home that she shared with her mentally ill son.
A basic familiarity with the case shows that this is not a defensible assumption. #3, at the very least, is indisputably true. Indeed, a closer investigation, I will here argue, reveals that any reasonable appraisal of the facts will place reality at least at #4, even leaning toward #5.
An argument can surely be made that Nancy tried her best to get help for Adam. The evidence is more than ample: shuffling him from school to school, to homeschool and then to college, from one therapist to another, and with her home library stuffed with tabbed-out books on the treatment of young adults with Aspergers, Anxiety, and OCD. Planning to move across the country with him, at great expense, knowing he wasn’t even willing to leave his room on most days. Whether or not you agree with Nancy Lanza’s methods, it’s apparent she took great effort to protect her son from the world.
She could have done more to protect the world from her son.
36 Yogananda, Second Floor
Going briefly back to the five-point spectrum for Nancy’s guns, we can immediately dismiss #2 (and, by necessity, #1) as a possible scenario simply by reviewing the location of the relevant items in the Lanza home.
We know Ryan told the FBI that the gun safe (which housed all the weapons Adam ultimately brought to Sandy Hook Elementary School) was located in Adam’s closet:
…but this isn’t quite true. The gun safe was actually in the closet of the computer room, which shared a wall with the Adam’s actual bedroom closet, best portrayed in this crime scene diagram from the official report:
note the safe in the closet attached to the room on the left, and the bedroom on the right
the gun safe in the computer-room closet, and the view from the opposite side of the wall, from the bedroom
There are a number of potential explanations for this discrepancy: first, given the black-out shades on the windows in the computer room (compared to the do-it-yourself versions that appear in Adam’s bedroom) it’s likely that this room also “belonged” to the shooter.
Also, given that Ryan had not lived at home for several years at this point, he may have simply forgotten, especially if (as I suspect was the case) Adam had already insisted that no one but himself ever enter these rooms during the time Ryan lived there, and so he didn’t actually know what was in each room. Or, the furniture arrangement may have changed in the intervening years (Peter Lanza recalls Nancy telling him via e-mail in late 2008 that “Adam had a rough night. He moved EVERYTHING out of his room last night. He only kept his bed and wardrobe cabinet.“)
Or finally, the distinction between “Adam’s bedroom” and “the computer room” could have been lost in the translation of the interview to the official record, especially given how their actual functions blurred in real life.
So at the very least, the gun safe was located in a room that was considered Adam’s domain. We can also conclude that his mother at least entrusted him with the contents of the safe on occasion, given statements by his father Peter:
But is it possible, even if unlikely, that the safe in “Adam’s room” was generally kept locked, without him able to access it?
The Lanza’s gun safe (left) appears to be a Homak 8 model in brown finish (example right)
The search warrants do not report any damage to the safe that would indicate it was forced open in any way.
We can confirm that the safe was opened legitimately by the location of its keys, resting atop the desk just a few feet away. This report describes an image where a visual indicator was placed next to the keys:
And this is that image:
It’s the metallic one, on the left.
So, Adam clearly opened the gun safe with the key. There was no bypassing the lock necessary.
Alright, then. Maybe he stole the key from his mother?
roughly what Adam saw when entering Nancy’s bedroom
what he left behind
Since Nancy was killed with a rifle that was – absent any indication otherwise – kept in the gun safe, we can conclude that Adam did not kill her in order to obtain the keys to the safe.
Firepower vs. Efficieny
I have one more bit of evidence to show that Adam had free access to the gun safe, and it will also show how the subject of access to the safe is in fact secondary to a more serious issue here. It is the contents of the two desk drawers, from the computer room of the Lanza home (the drawer just beneath the desktop where the safe keys were found.) This is the bottom drawer:
In the middle of this picture is a copy of the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. To the right are what remains when one cuts down the long side of five Winchester 12ga shotgun shells.
These shells were taken from the inside the safe:
Whatever his reason was for dismembering the shotgun shells like this (I suspect it was an attempt to extract the black powder from the base of the shells, as it is a common ingredient in improvised explosives, such as was used by the Columbine killers) it’s obvious that Adam Lanza didn’t do it in the short window of time between when he (ostensibly) broke into the gun safe on the morning of December 14th, and when he left the house for Sandy Hook. There wasn’t any time for it, and if there were, there’s no way Adam Lanza would have wasted it on such an activity that played no part in the shooting. Therefor, the contents of this drawer show that he had access to the gun safe prior to the shooting.
But that’s not even touching upon the contents of the drawer above it.
Those magazines duct-taped together are for the Saiga semi-automatic shotgun that the shooter brought to Sandy Hook, but didn’t fire (you can see the same olive-green shell poking out of the top.) Although Lanza did have magazines taped together like this when he arrived at Sandy Hook, they were the 5.56 cartridge magazines that the AR-15 was loaded with:
Two empty magazines, dropped on the floor of classroom 10
I suspect that Adam had been testing how fast he could cycle the 10-round clips through the Saiga, compared with with the higher 30-round capacity of the AR-15, and ultimately was unsatisfied with the output of the shotgun.
(I will here note that I do not have any actual firearms expertise, and thus may be using some terms loosely, but the basic scenario I present should be reasonably accurate.)
This would also explain the purchase of the (20-round) drum magazine for the Saiga, which Adam ultimately left on the computer-room closet shelf back at home:
Like all of the weapons and ammunition in the home, Nancy bought these. Specifically, she ordered them through the website Gunbroker.com in March of 2010. This is an email exchange between her and the seller of one of the two drum magazines (since it is an email thread, this is in reverse-chronological order):
This would actually have been in advance of receiving the weapon that the magazines fed into, since she did not complete the purchase of the Saiga shotgun until midway into April:
Thus, Adam had anticipated that the magazine capacity and output of the Saiga was going to be a deciding factor in determining how he armed himself at Sandy Hook, and he had the foresight to order these drum magazines, but ultimately they didn’t pass the test, and the taped magazines must have been another in a series of experiments to evaluate the suitability of the Saiga shotgun for his assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Note, also, how the AR-15 was purchased right around the same time. These guns found their way into the safe in the computer room closet in early April of 2010, and as of then Adam could go about experimenting with ammunition configurations, counting clicks of the trigger with an empty magazine loaded, and doing the arithmetic in his head before settling on the taped 5.56 magazines in the AR-15, and the standard ten-round magazines in the Saiga (I do not mean to establish here why he ultimately chose this configuration, only that he had ample opportunity to experiment with both weapons. I assume it was a decision based on the involved weight and bulk of the rounds, and the reload speed and magazine capacity for both weapons.)
However long Adam had been fantasizing about committing his crime, his testing phase began in earnest in April of 2010.
Recall, here, that Ryan said the AR-15 actually belonged to Adam; Adam’s 18th birthday was April 22nd. These were his birthday presents.
Indeed, all of the purchase dates for the four weapons brought to Sandy Hook correspond with either Adam’s birthday, or a Christmas: the Bushmaster and Saiga were his 18th birthday presents from his mom (purchase dates 3/29/2010 and 4/10/2010, respectively) and the Sig-Sauer P226 was for his 19th birthday (purchased 3/16/2011) while the Glock model 20SF, which he eventually committed suicide with, was his Christmas present for 2011.
(Note: I first became aware of this trend in gun purchase dates when it was pointed out by researcher CW Wade in his video series “The Deadliest Minute” on YouTube, which I highly recommend. In that video, he also explains why all of these weapons, simply by their design, would have more than likely been chosen by Adam rather than Nancy.)
The “purchase date” of 1/05/2012, for the Glock, is of course a couple weeks late for Christmas 2011. This is probably due to a combination of the non-status of Christmas in the Lanza home (since Adam didn’t like to celebrate it, Nancy probably didn’t expect he’d ask for anything, and had to play catch-up when Adam caught her off-guard and took advantage of the opportunity to increase his arsenal) as well as to the long purchase process for buying firearms online, since among the paperwork seized from Nancy’s home office was a printed e-mail showing that the order was initially placed no later than December 21st, 2011:
Apparently, Nancy seized upon Adam’s surprise request for Christmas Glock as a new tradition in which she could relate to her son, since we know that she went on to write the “CZ-83″ check for Adam the following year, with “Christmas” in the date field.
The sum of this information is that it all points to Adam shopping for weapons, and Nancy buying them for him. At best, the reality of the situation was #4, in the scale I introduced in the beginning of this post. She bought these weapons for Adam, at his specific request for each gun, and he had full access to them, on his side of the house. No guns were ever “stolen” from Nancy. This assertion is based on the dates of the purchases, the locations of the guns in the home, and Adam’s proven access to them.
Let’s further test this conclusion: given Adam’s nature and the planning that went into his crime, we can assume that he would have selected these specific guns only after some extensive pre-buying research. And indeed, we see that reflected in his online footprint in the months leading up to his 18th birthday. His “shopping research” was in fact the “Comprehensive list of mass killers and their attributes” that he was assembling during this same period.
The first appearance of Adam Lanza’s “Kaynbred” online identity was on April 1st, 2009, at the gun discussion forum Glocktalk (link is to my post about it last year.) So, roughly a year before the Bushmaster and Saiga arrive in the home, and over 2 years before the actual Glock was purchased. Adam was just about to turn 17 at the time, and was taking classes at Western Connecticut State University.
Kaynbred’s glocktalk posts — the ones that survive, at least — couldn’t really be more innocuous. He merely asks a few questions related to PC hardware, creating and contributing to threads like “Adding Ram?“, “What are the specs of your home desktop?” and “Which Mouse for Gaming?” …despite having joined a gun forum, his posts there have nothing to do with guns. It’s possible that the administrators at Glocktalk erased all of the gun-related threads he had contributed to, in advance of the leak of the Kaynbred account in July 2013. Or, maybe it was just a forum he already frequented for firearms research, and had come to trust it well enough for other topics as well. Regarding the topic of PC repairs, it’s worth noting that he was taking a course “A+ Computer Repair” at the time; perhaps he was multitasking his homework with his gun research. Whatever the reason, the last time he logs into glocktalk was on January 26th, 2010.
Less than a month after creating that account, on May 2nd 2009, Lanza sets up another Kaynbred profile. This one, at NortheastShooters.com (link is to my post on the subject,) is even more sparse in its posting history. Not a single Kaynbred post surived, if there ever were any to begin with.
Another month later, on June 7th 2009, Lanza registers the Kaynbred profile on wikipedia. As I have covered in detail already in this post, his activities there specifically concern the weapons used by several mass shooters. All of his edits and talk-page contributions occur between August 2009 and February 2010. He nitpicks over ammunition types, and generally tightens up the specifications of the weapons used in each case, and is obviously, in retrospect, weighing the effectiveness of each weapon.
Later in August 2009, Lanza registers another Kaynbred account, this one at firearms discussion forum TheHighRoad.org (link is to my post about it.) This time, he is posting exclusively about firearms: the legality of an CZ Vz. 58 under Connecticut’s assult rifles ban (“AK-47 type” legality and the CZ Vz. 58?), the feasibility and legality of “upgrading” a select-fire rifle to fully-automatic (Modifying Select-Fire to Fully-Automatic) and the legality of the Kel-Tec SU-16C given its barrel length, again in regards to CT assault-weapons laws (“Kel-Tec SU-16C Legality?). He is clearly researching which weapon will equate to the maximum firepower, for his purposes, that he can get away with under Connecticut law. All of these posts take place, once again, between August 2009 and February 2010.
Several months later, in September 2009, Adam registers the name Kaynbred as a player profile in the online game Combat Arms. He soon joins a “pistols only” clan, MG14c. In the clan’s forum, he expresses his (in-game) preference for the Glock 23, and his hopes to eventually unlock the Saiga shotgun (mere months before he would acquire one himself.) His fellow MG14c clan members, in a thread entitled simply “Kayn” from February 3rd 2010, record that Adam had mentioned that he hoped to one day be in the military:
Despite the thread title being his nickname, Kaynbred never replied to it. He had already deleted all of his posts to this forum, and by March 2nd 2010, members are discussing how he has recently quit the clan.
It’s possible that Combat Arms was itself part of Adam’s “gun shopping” phase; while the game is nowhere close to the level of realism needed to be useful in rating the real-life versions of the firearms it features, he may well have thought it would be. But just as likely, he was playing Combat Arms to indulge in his fantasy of Glock ownership (by far his weapon of choice in the game) before he could get his hands on some real firepower. And now that he knew that some was on the way, it was time to retire one identity, and adopt another.
Kaynbred Goes Dark
Adam’s internet footprint abruptly shifts just before his 18th birthday, right around the time of the AR-15 purchase. In late-February/early-March 2010, Kaynbred vanishes from the internet. Northeastshooters, Glocktalk, wikipedia… he logs off of all of them and never returns. No more questions about assault rifles in Connecticut, no more Wikipedia edits cementing which guns killers used. This is because he is done shopping. His spreadsheet/scoreboard of mass killers is completed, and based on that research, he has chosen his load-out, and submitted his request to Nancy.
The Bushmaster arrived in the Lanza home right in time for Adam’s 18th birthday. He had reached adulthood, as far the law is concerned.
It must have been a short window of optimism for Adam, after he received the AR-15, but before his parents woke him from his unrealistic dream that he would ever serve in the armed forces. “Wannabe-military” was the best weapon he would ever get, and all he would ever be. But Adam was going to carry out a mission anyway.
It’s right at this point, clinging to his vision of himself as a soldier, that Adam creates a new online persona and shifts into his next phase: “Kaynbred” was for researching every mass killer in history and their firearms; “Smiggles” would be for showing off that knowledge, while he trained for the event. He submits the sum of his concluded research to the Super Columbine Massacre RPG forum in March of 2010, among his first posts to that forum.
The filename for his spreadsheet, colgam01, is short for Columbine Game, and suggests that he had planned to present it to the community there all along. Adam Lanza found the SCMRPG forum in September 2006, after all. It was another three years before he felt comfortable registering there. When he finally does, he thus introduces himself as an expert and colleague, not the curious window-shopper Kaynbred acted as.
Adam had turned 18, and he had graduated.