100-page report on Adam Lanza’s childhood years to be released soon

via The Courant:

The report, expected in early November, does not specifically point to any one individual or institution as failing Lanza, and does not link any lapse or gap in the records to the shootings. But it suggests more could have been done to meet Lanza’s special-education needs.

Note that the Child Advocate’s report is separate from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission report, though both are expected to be released before the end of the year.

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Bullet Time: a review (part 1 of 2)

This is part 2 of my analysis of Bullet Time. If you don’t know what that is, read “Bullet Time: what is it?

This is going to be a detailed analysis of every scene in the film, specifically as it relates to the events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

If you’d like to watch the film yourself, you can find it here (click “cc” to toggle the English subtitles.) Just be warned: it’s very much a foreign student film with zero budget.

Bullet Time

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The film opens with a brief shot of a makeshift memorial on the campus of a University. Close-ups on the dedications left behind show that this is actually the first anniversary after the shootings, with the flowers marking the day exactly one year later.

The film then proceeds with a series of documentary-style interviews, with students sharing what they remember about the event that took place one year ago. They speak directly into the camera. It’s reminiscent of the TruTV style of crime documentaries: students recall what class they were in, the initial confusion, and what they knew about the two students before they had committed their notorious crime.

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Most express bewilderment as to why two of their fellow students, people they thought they knew, would do such a thing. One mentions that “police let me see their recordings,” setting up the premise for the rest of the film, and then reflects on how they still don’t understand the shooting.

I can’t comprehend how students can shoot at other students. The police let me see their recordings. But… truth be told I still don’t understand why they did it, because well, because… I understand that they weren’t happy with their lives, but in all honesty – who among us is completely happy with it? Everyone has some problems. And truth be told I can’t understand why it was them of all people, what… what in their lives…was so different. I don’t know. I think that it could’ve been… anybody else.

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Snippets of memories form a narrative of the shooting: two male students – Micha Duczyk  and Jan Kossakowski – had placed bombs in auditorium, and then unleashed a barrage of gunfire on the campus of the university.

As they moved from one classroom or auditorium to the next, they encountered each of the students that recall the events that day.

One remembers a doorknob jiggling, sure that he was going to die when the shooter blew off the doorknob. But he didn’t. He just moved on.

Another remembers hearing gunfire and staying in a pose in yoga class, trying to not to draw attention to herself. Then, one of the shooters entered the classroom and opened fire, and she felt a round sever her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed.

Another remembers her partner who left that morning for class, and never came home.

These recollections then shift from the shooting itself, to the broader context of the event at the university, and the conflicting values it brings to light.

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The same student who pointed out how unremarkable the shooters were in their motives then observes the conflict between freedom of speech, and the risks that would be involved in releasing “the tapes” (which, again, we are about to watch).

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Despite everything, I think these recordings should not be made available. That is… I understand that people want to know the truth. But if it’s to inspire others to do something like this, then…I don’t know. Safety matters more, I think […] On one hand, like everyone else probably, I’m concerned that putting such recordings on the Internet will bring about people, who will treat something like this as…as fun. As an encouragement to take a rifle. Go and murder people.

This same student, who seems to have a particularly nuanced grasp on the significance of the event, wraps up this prelude by pondering how “when one begins going to university, one thinks that he’s got his whole life in front of him. That he’s got all the time in the world. And that [the shooting] was probably when I understood that… that it’s not like that.

With those words, We briefly cut back to the memorial outside, and finally to our title card.

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Introductions

The film proper begins; the shooting is now almost a year away, and  we are introduced to our two main characters (really, the only characters):

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Jan Kossakowski and Micha Duczyk, respectively.

They announce that, although this is their “first serious recording,” they have been planning their deed for “whoa, much longer.” The killers outright explain the purpose of the tape we are watching: they realize that their shooting will be a reveal of their “true selves” to society, but  they won’t have a chance to effectively explain their rationale for the massacre when they are in the course of committing it, so it will be much better to get it out of the way beforehand.

The killers predict that the tape we are watching will constitute “Various scenes from our lives, some helpful advice if you’d like to do something similar…We advise you to. Yes. Well… That’s why we’ll try to do well… So feast your eyes with the show, voyeurists.”

They then “cheers” a couple beers in a toast “to Colorado;” they don’t specify the  location of Columbine, or Littleton. They didn’t need to.

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(Kossakowski then chokes on his sip of Heinekin. Probably not part of the script.)

The characters/actors then exhibit the first proof that they actually speak quite passable English: Jan quotes Winston Churchill in announcing “This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. This is, however, the end of the beginning.”

Just before turning off the camera, Micha delivers an aphorism of his own: “It is not important how a man begins. It is important how he ends.”

Big Macs

The scene jumps ahead to a driving sequence; Jan is filming while Micha drives their Volvo to McDonalds. Along the way, they pontificate on the merits of Atheism vs. Monotheism while resembling the footage of the Columbine killers going on their own drive-thru venture.

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We learn that today is the 4th of July, and they are going to McDonalds; for these Polish students, mimicking the Columbine killers in America, today is a winking celebration of everything American.

Waiting for their order to arrive, Micah waves a small American flag and mockingly sings a snippet of the Star Spangled Banner, before briefly swapping it for a Californian flag.

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This scene, in particular, serves as a hint that the phenomenon of school shootings is seen as essentially an American product that can spread to other cultures, just like brands, or music, or films, or McDonalds. The phenomenon of cultural mimicry extends to mass violence, too.

Having been handed their bag of food, the lads pull into a parking spot and taste their big-macs. Again, the influence of American culture rears its head, and even frustrates them, as Kossakowski reviews his Big Mac in English, then curses himself in Polish: “Damn it! I need to stop speaking English!”

They laugh and joke for a while, and it’s becoming clear that Mikah (the skinny one) is the leader of the revelry; the stout Kossakowski participates, but he is following. He is not the dominant personality that Mikah is.

Likely, this is a nod to the dichotomy (or, at least, the commonly held perception) of the Columbine killers, with Eric Harris seen as the charismatic and remorseless psychopath, and Dylan Klebold the tortured depressive, unable to bring himself to commit suicide, now hitched to Harris’s wagon knowing it is headed straight to hell.

Jan’s lament

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Indeed, the scene ends, and then we are in Kossakowski’s room, where he is alone speaking to the camera for the first time, and the tone shifts dramatically. He observes happy children playing outside, and explains to us his motives, knowing that his audience will be viewing the tape only after he has committed a heinous crime.

Most of you, perceiving me through what I’m doing, probably see in me a frustrated, gun-toting maniac. I wonder how many of you wise-guys thought even for a moment what is required to put someone in such a state.

Take a look… It’s such a bright, sunny day outside…Children are playing, birds are singing…

Wouldn’t it be nice to go out and enjoy it? Of course it would be. I’d also like to do that. What are you thinking – that I’ve got nothing better to do? Damn it. Like, I…

*deep exhale*

I’m just not cut out for this. I would like to live peacefully. Not worrying about it all. Not worrying how I’ll do at the Psychology department… Not worrying where I’ll get cash from… Not worrying whether I’ll find a job… Not worrying where this country is heading. Where this world is heading. Not worrying about a lot of things.

I look back at my life, I always had to worry about something, fight with something… Had to be nervous over something. I…

I’ve had enough.

You’re probably thinking that I’m some pent-up, aggressive, hormonal. But no. I’m tired of all this fighting. It’s simply too much. Way too much and way too long. No, I don’t know… I don’t know what else meaningful to say. Perhaps… Just, well… That’s all I have left to say. So…

Well, I just don’t want to… pass away quietly. And that’s probably it. I won’t.

Adam Lanza associated school environment with anxiety; the sentiment that “I always had to worry about something, fight with something, had to be nervous, I’ve had enough” was in all likelihood harmonious with his own feelings.

We can’t know exactly how much Adam Lanza identified with these statements, but we can know for certain that he watched this scene, and ultimately recommended this film.

Morons from Long Island

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The next scene is one that Lanza referenced in another post; in the thread “Any of you know of any others that are not on this list?” in which another user is referring to a list of attempted school shootings, Lanza/Smiggles responds:

There have been many that aren’t on that list, although I’m not very familiar with them. [...] There were two teenagers who were arrested after one of them left their journal in a McDonald’s, as memorialized by Sabratha’s Bullet Time.

This reply was left on February 28th 2012; just a few hours before his final post, which also referenced “Bullet Time.” For whatever reason, during this last day in which we have any record of him interacting online, he was particularly focused on this film.

The scene itself shows the two future-killers reading a news story that, as Lanza noted, is about two kids who were foiled in their attempt at a school shooting after one of them left a notebook at a McDonald’s (the prior scene where these also-wannabe-shooters visit a McDonald’s, but only in drive-thru, also being a subtle clue that these two actually have their wits about them. There will not be any “leaks.”)

The guys sarcastically rip on the ill-thought-out plans of the shooters from Long Island.

Ah, here you go. Two… Two morons… In Long Island, fucking States… got the notion to do a school shooting. Yes, genius, wonderful…

And? First off – they planned the school shooting… For the 20th of April 2008. Yes. Totally on the anniversary of […] You know – Columbine. Eric Harris. Dylan Klebold. Yes.

Firstly…Who’d expect that the next shooting will be right on the anniversary, no? Great idea.

The fact that the killers wrote down their plans in a notebook, “Notebook signed. Name and surname” is particularly a subject of mockery. Then, the killers turn the tables, and argue how the planning for a school shooting should be done. First, they criticize the wannabe shooters’ choice of armaments:

You don’t do it like that. Aha! Furthermore, of course… The dude wanted to buy an Uzi as his weapon. An Uzi! You understand? An Uzi… I remind you – an Uzi has a 16 rounds per second rate-of-fire.

I remind you that the […] The most expanded version of an Uzi clip has 50 bullets. Not even… 5 seconds worth of shooting. In auto mode. Why the fuck would anyone need an Uzi during a school shooting?

Isn’t… Isn’t it easier to buy… I don’t know – a modified SKS with a grip… From a Kalashnikov [AK-47]. And with a 48 round clip.

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Micah is here using “Kalishnikov” to refer to the AK-47; the AK-47 is a rifle that fires 7.62×39mm rounds. The AK-47 replaced the SKS in the Soviet military in the 1950’s, which also fired 7.62×39mm rounds.

Adam Lanza used an AR-15 at Sandy Hook Elementary school, which fired 5.56×45 ammunition. But Micah’s overall argument, that a long military-style rifle with semiautomatic fire is more ideal for shooting a large number of targets, is consistent with Adam’s choice of an AR-15.

Furthermore, if we look at the weapons he mentioned online as Kaynbred — keeping in mind that this was during his “shopping phase” — we do see some threads that are similar to the advice that Micah offers in this scene. For instance, on the forum “The High Road,” Lanza posted to the thread “AK-47 type” legality and the CZ Vz. 58?”

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The CZ Vz. 58 is a rifle which is similar to the AK-47 only through their shared 7.62x39mm caliber and aesthetics. It functions entirely differently and has no interchangeable parts with the AK-47, including the magazine.

My state (Connecticut) has its own state-level assault weapons ban.  In it is the following:

Sec. 53-202a. Assault weapons: Definition. (a) . . . inclusive, “assault weapon” means:

(1) . . . any of the following specified semiautomatic firearms: . . . Avtomat Kalashnikov AK-47 type . . .

According to what I have read, to be an “AK-47 type”, the firearm must be aesthetically similar to an AK-47, operate similarly, and have interchangeable parts. From a perfunctory search of Google, I have seen multiple people claim that because the CZ Vz. 58 does not meet these three requirements, it is not an “AK-47 type” and it is thus legal for sale in Connecticut. Does anyone have any information on this?

Lanza, trying to find any elbow-room he can in Connecticut’s assault rifle ban, notes how he cannot legally acquire any “AK-47 type” which thus makes following Micah’s advice difficult. His shopping has instead led him to the CZ Vz. 58, which he notes is a comparable firearm.

Lanza posted this question on August 25th, 2009. The English-subtitled version of “Bullet Time” was first uploaded to Youtube just four months earlier, on April 6th, 2009.

I’d also like to point out a trend I’ve noticed in Lanza’s gun shopping, that being his apparent taste for Czech firearms:

  1. Nancy had written him the check for  a CZ 83, a Czech pistol
  2. He was above shopping for a CZ Vz. 58, a Czech rifle/carbine
  3. He started this thread inquiring about  “The legality of the CZ vz. 61 Skorpion in CT?” – the CZ vz. 61 is a Czech submachinegun

A night out

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There is voice-over from Jan, over a brief shot of rainbow (barely visible on this quality of video) seen outside of his window. His wandering thoughts suggest that, although he knows what he is plotting is evil, he believes in a relation of necessity between evil and beauty.

He quickly dismisses these thoughts, sounding embarrassed, and excuses himself by claiming “My buddy is for musings such as these.“

The scene changes. The boys are in a nightclub, and the audio is deafening, which they comment upon; it’s evident that they’ve gone out on the town to ostensibly “have a good time” even if they don’t seem to actually be enjoying themselves.

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This scene seems meant to humanize that shooters, and show that they existed in a real place. The danger to society came from within, in other words. Also it perhaps is meant to evoke the prom that Dylan Klebold attended just 3 days before the columbine massacre, which carries with it the same sort of unsettling aura in retrospect.

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In “the basement tapes”  Dylan Klebold at one point is digging in his closet for pipe-bombs to show off; he unexpectedly pulls out his prom tuxedo, and remarks to the camera “I didn’t really want to go to prom. But since I’m going to be dying, I thought I might do something cool.”

Cut to outside the club, and Micah is smoking a cigarette. He remarks that it will be “purposely the last cigarette of [his] damned life.”

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Here we can first see that “Natural Selection” shirt that he is wearing – openly in public, a fact that he will comment upon soon, in a scene that Adam Lanza referenced in his final post.

Campus Tour

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Jan and Micah arrive at their university’s campus one morning. They pass several students who notice them filming, but only they (and us) know that Micah is filming the future site – and perhaps future victims – of the massacre being plotted.

Entering the Psychology building, there are a number of student research displays. One purports to show “YOUTH’S SOCIAL COMPETENCE AND PLAYING COMPUTER GAMES.”

They also pass a “no smoking” sign, which Micah notes as “another sign for me to quit.”

They take an elevator up to a higher floor. A funny bit here, as they pass a beverage machine, and Jan stops to share an anecdote from the psychology department (probably transcending this film into real life):

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This is actually a famous thing. A certain woman here had a really exciting happening with a machine such as this. She inserted enough change for a coffee… The machine of course started to dispense the coffee nicely. It dispensed half a cup, after which it stopped, shook impossibly and….

…filled up the rest with orange juice. Good one, good one.

They encounter another flyer from the psychology students. This time they joke about their plans to commit murder in light of the  flyer, which supplies crime statistic estimates for the university’s student body.

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Micah: Both pages of what is hanging awry here comprise a very cool article.

Jan: What is this?

Micah: Crooks with student’s books. Every tenth student is a killer or a rapist. Nearly every third is a pedophile. Every fourth is an Internet thief. Every twentieth deals drugs. […] Actually I’m very surprised and shocked by this analysis. I’d never be able to believe that one of my acquaintances is… if one of the students is really a killer. I-I’m not going to meet any like that.

Jan: Yup.

Micah: Though we don’t know any killers yet.

Jan: Yes.

Micah: All in all, one becomes the killer after the deed is done.

Further down the corridor, Micah goofs off, quoting action movie clichés (“Asta la vista, baby.”) Actually this shot establishes the location for the final sequence, when a shooting occurs in this actual corridor. For now, Micah just points out one of the more interesting elements of the film, that of “kitsch.”

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“This is tomfoolery for tomfoolery’s sake, but it’s all really about the fact that…

Kitsch. Must. Be.

After all this is sublime art. Not fine art or some other bullshit.”

The implication here seems to be that although the killers do believe they are making an artistic statement of sorts, it is intentionally a gesture of (or perhaps just a knowing surrender to) kitsch; the school shooting is meant to appeal to a broad base that does not actually appreciate art.

There is a stylistic school that views kitsch as a desirable trait, which they could be expressing the philosophy of. Their school shooting is “dumbed down” in other words. That, or they are rejecting the very idea that art above a “kitsch” level is even an actual thing.

They will return to this theme of “kitsch,” when they return to this hallway.

Meanwhile, in Finland

An abrupt cut back to their apartment, where CNN is on the television, covering a then-breaking story about a mass shooting in Jokela, Finald.

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This scene is shot live, which places the filming of this scene on November 7th, 2007.

Adam Lanza made reference to this shooting at one point on the SCMRPG forum: on August 27th, 2011, in the thread “Full 911 call from the library.”

In that thread, forum members were discussing whether audio from the 911 call from the Columbine library (one where the murder of several students can presumably be overheard) is missing from Youtube because of their policies, or because the audio has never been released at all. Adam Lanza attributes Youtube’s censorship to the perpetrator (Pekka Auvinen) of this Finnish shooting (without really weighing in on whether the audio in question has ever been released):

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The context of this claim is that Pekka Erick Auvinen had uploaded a detailed manifesto online before committing the mass shooting that is being covered in real-time in Bullet Time, including a youtube video where he threatened the school.

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Auvinen’s school shooting mirror’s Adam Lanza’s activities in several respects:

  1. He obsessively studied other shooters, particularly on Columbine-focused web forums. From the official report on the Jokela school shooting:

in March 2007, he wrote that he would probably die himself in carrying out the operation. He wrote that it was his wish that his deed would be remembered forever and that it would make a lasting impact on the world. He also believed other people would follow in his footsteps. The perpetrator admired the school killings perpetrated in other parts of the world and, for instance, on 16 April 2007 expressed his joy over the killings at Virginia Tech that day. A few days later, on 20th April 2007, he celebrated the anniversary of the Columbine school killings in his diary but said he regretted that the killers’ propane bomb failed to explode. On that same day, he wrote what are believed to be his first comments in an Internet discussion forum dedicated to the Columbine school killers.

  1. He suffered from depression, and projected the cause of this condition outward to society as part of his motive. From Auvinen’s manifesto, a passage that is harmonious with Smiggles’s farewell post:

Some time ago, I used to believe in humanity and I wanted to live a long and happy life… but then I woke up. I started to think deeper and realized things. But it was not easy to become existential… knowing as much as I know has made me unhappy, frustrated and angry. I just can’t be happy in the society or the reality I live. Due to long process of existential thinking, observing the society I live and some other things happened in my life… I have come to the point where I feel nothing but hate against humanity and human race.

You might ask yourselves, why did I do this and what do I want. Well, most of you are too arrogant and closed-minded to understand… You will probably say me that I am “insane”, “crazy”, “psychopath”, “criminal” or crap like that. No, the truth is that I am just an animal, a human, an individual, a dissident.

I have had enough. I don’t want to be part of this f*cked up society.

  1. As an extension of this attribution of his own ills outward to society, he expressed support for extreme neo-primitivist philosophers. Adam had John Zerzan, whose radio show he infamously called into. Auvinen’s equivalent guru was Pennti Linkola.

We can’t know what inspiration, if any, that Adam Lanza drew from Pekka Auvinen’s mass shooting and accompanying manifesto. However, given his encyclopedic study of mass shooters and the confirmation via Bullet Time and the above post that he was indeed aware of Auvinen, the likelihood that he read Auvinen’s manifesto and the official report about the incident is right about one hundred percent. The only mystery is if Adam only sympathized with what Auvinen wrote, or actually drew inspiration from it. We’ll probably never know.

As far as our fictional shooters’ take on this event, they mostly just mock the slow police response, pointing out that it took nearly 40 minutes for the police to locate the shooter (who had already shot himself in the head.)  They wish for the same luck: “What we would do for 40 minutes…”

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Micah moves on to point out another shooting, one that had been foiled in Germany, complaining “we can see that fashion is slowly making its way to Europe. So much for originality.“

They mention the mistakes that the wannabe-shooter made (talking about “Klebold” to strangers) as well as the mistakes of the German media: “You keep writing that you know how to handle the school shooting problem… Really – hats off. I throw myself at your feet. Keep calming society down. It’s all the better for us.”

Segueing into the next scene, they address the viewer who may be plotting their own school shooting: “Maybe since we’re recording ourselves…then we’ll give you a few cool pieces of advice on how not to slip-up.”

 

Talking in code

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The first “advice” scene is likely irrelevant to the Sandy Hook shooting, since they explain the concept of talking in code. They use the example of pretending to discuss video game modifications when discussing their plot public:  “Instead of bullet, we say File. Instead of clip, that is magazine, we say folder. Instead of weapon, that is gun, we say texture.”

Perhaps practical for their purposes, but Adam worked alone.

They encourage shooters to have a cover story, for the guns and ammo they stockpile. “Come up with some sort of… Justification… For your fun. … Yes, especially if you’re buying something and have some products on your hands.”

They then emphasize not to write down one’s plans. They are obviously videotaping their own preparations, since we are watching the product of that, but they explain that this is the only medium in which they are discussing plans. Hey specifically discourage e-mail and text messaging; “The most important thing is to not let yourself get caught.”

It is at this point where the phrase “operational history” is used, making this the scene that Adam Lanza quoted and referred to in his farewell post. The shooters urge erring on the side of caution and not flaunting one’s plans:

Old rule. In case there’s any doubt – refrain from it. Cause… Well, I understand, sometimes it’s worthwhile to…how should I put this… add something interesting. Exceed, stand on that edge, come out with something.

Just remember that in each country that edge is placed somewhat differently. That means I, here in Poland, can walk around, you know, with a t-shirt saying “Natural Selection”. Quote Eric Harris from time to time and no one will really pick on me for this.

However, don’t do that in the States. Don’t do that in the States and in Canada, in countries in which some kind of operational history for this kind of entertainment does exist. There, just don’t do anything stupid.

They discuss the process of working the wardrobe a shooter will use into their wardrobe well before the fact, so that they do not draw suspicion when arriving at the school dressed for war. Then,“the first dress rehearsal of the whole operation should be undertaken 3 months prior.”

Backtracking from the December 14th, 2012 date of the Sandy Hook shooting, this “three month” window for the dress rehearsal corresponds to September, 2012. This is roughly when the shooter “stopped going out” according to his mother Nancy; I don’t mean to attribute too much significance there, but feel it’s worth pointing out.

Continuing on clothing: “Look around for some clothes that have a lot of pockets. I can’t stress enough how important a large number of pockets is.”

Secrecy is again brought up, this time in relation to the date of the attack one has chosen:

“Do not mention the date. We, accordingly, won’t divulge any information to you regarding the date of what we’re doing.”

“Alright… We’ll limit ourselves to the fact, that if you’re studying at Warsaw University, then don’t worry about the student loan.”

“Yes, the student loan, is… is not your greatest concern right now.”

We then cut to a very brief shot of Micah’s car, visible from the same window where Jan had earlier seen children playing.

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Their short dialogue places us in time, and confirms that the car will be needed soon.

” December. December. Yah…Car of mine. Will have to clear the snow off. December.”

Jan’s second address

We’re back in the apartment where the shooters live. Kossakowski is speaking directly the camera, relaxing with his elbow on his computer desk, holding up his head.

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This scene is reminiscent of his address while looking out the window at the children playing, but his monologue this time is noticeably nastier; he has shifted from addressing those who wish to emulate what he will do, to those who survive what he has since done:

Ladies. Gentlemen. Dear viewers.

And I was just thinking that for some of you this may not be enough of a show. You are expecting, well, simply a psychopath. A scary psychopath. Evil.

For some of you I may not meet these expectations. You know…

How to say this?

A few people will probably be sitting there, analyzing everything. Meticulously. That “ooooh… tiny wounds on his face, the boy’s not accepting his external appearance. His lugs are shaking perpetually…Neurosis. Aggressive. Not nice.”

Yes. Right then.

But the rest of you probably need something less subtle. Something more distinct.

That’s why as a small fan-service, right now, I’ll be exhibiting some psychopathic behavior. What would you like for starters?

Maybe I should… start speaking incomprehensibly? Fine then. Here you are:

<He speaks gibberish for a few “sentences.”>

What else… Well, I won’t be spinning my head around its axis. I won’t be drooling either, since it’s somewhat unaesthetic. What else could I pull on you lot? Well, I could twist some interesting quotes in a mental way for you.

For example…

What to say… unfortunately, it’s late, nothing comes to me. I don’t know, maybe you want to see a bloody daub? I should have it around here somewhere… Ah.  Here you go.

Yes. Stare in awe. Damn. Finally now… how should I break this to you?

If we shadows have offended, tough shit. I don’t know. What else can I do? Well, I can declare…

Alright. I’ll tell you what I think about this.

If you’ve made it to this part of the tape, then certainly you’re in no need of this. You know the what and the who, but… What the hell. If you’re expecting further declarations, be my guests.

I’ll fucking murder all in my path, when that beautiful day comes. I’ll be shooting at everyone indiscriminately. And quite frankly, I really don’t care who crosses my path then.

I can start spouting here about general hatred and equality through it and so on, and so on…

You know what? This is pointless. Really. It’s not worth it.

New Year’s Eve

Cut to a flat somewhere in Warsaw. It’s nighttime, music is playing, and fireworks are going off in the background; it’s New Year’s Eve, turning into 2008.

Some dark irony as a middle-aged woman, presumably Micha’s mother, gives him a kiss, and hope: “For great things this year. Give me… A kiss. Micha‚. To you I wish that your studies go well, and that your plans could come to fruition.”

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“No worries. My plans will succeed. This will be my year.”

“Your year?”

“Yea, this will be my year. […] The important thing is how I end.”

“Why? You’re ending this year?”

“As mister citizen Miller used to say, a true man is not recognized by how he began but by how he ended.”

Before the thought can be questioned, the fireworks display outside distracts everyone, and they head for the patio to take it in.

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(concluded soon in part 2)

 

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Update to Lanza’s educational history

Recently I was contacted by a source familiar with the FBI’s interviews with the Lanza family. Having reviewed my timeline of Adam Lanza’s educational history, they had one correction to offer: according to the interviews conducted, although Adam did go to after-hours sessions at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he was not home-schooled during this period. Adam attended all five years (1st thru 4th grade, and then a portion of 5th) at Sandy Hook Elementary School, attending normal classes with other students.

The “after-hours” arrangement with Nancy was in addition to normal class time at Sandy Hook Elementary, not a replacement for it.

The conflicting information reported about this period of time is due to a confusion of time periods being discussed in the original interview; upon being asked for information about Lanza’s educational history, family members would have answered that they knew Adam stayed after-hours at Sandy Hook, and was home-schooled at some point… this is accurate, but doesn’t describe the same time period. The “home school” stretch corresponds to Adam’s high school years.

I’ll be making the appropriate updates to the educational history post.

 

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Adam Lanza’s educational history

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(Updated 10/11/2014 per the info in this post)

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from people looking for the Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza’s educational history, due to the news that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is looking toward home-school reforms as one of their recommendations. Most discussions that have linked here are arguing whether or not the shooter was ever home-schooled, or what exactly his educational history is like.

I don’t have an opinion on home schooling either way, but many of the conversations linking to this blog contain confusion or deception regarding the facts.

So, here it is (as best as I can puzzle it out, and with sources cited):

Adam Lanza’s educational history

The primary source this timeline will be based on is the official report from the Connecticut State Attorney’s office, and the Connecticut State Police. Relevant sections will be shown in screenshots. I’ll also be using three other sources to clarify the information in the official report:

  1. Raising Adam Lanza: Who Was Nancy Lanza? (PBS Frontline/Hartford Courant)
  2. Adam Lanza’s Medical Records Reveal Growing Anxiety  (Hartford Courant)
  3. The Reckoning (Andrew Solomon’s interview with Peter Lanza from The New Yorker)

Adam Lanza’s elementary School educational history

Kindergarten (1997-1998) Adam Lanza attended kindergarten in the Kingston, New Hampshire school system. The exact school isn’t named in the official report, but the family did not move to Sandy Hook until the latter half of 1998, when Adam was in 1st grade.

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First Grade (1998-1999) Adam attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for first grade. He was not home-schooled. Source: Raising Adam Lanza (see excerpt under 2nd grade, below)

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Second grade (1999-2000) Adam attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for second grade. He also began an arrangement where his mother Nancy would come to the school after classes ended, to go over Adam’s work with him alone. Frontline interprets Adam’s involvement in this “after hours” program as meaning he was home-schooled otherise:

Adam never actually left the Newtown school district. He remained enrolled, entering a special program in which he did prepared lessons at home, according to a family member of Nancy Lanza who asked not to be identified.

…but this is inaccurate. Adam went to SHES during the day, and stayed after class as well.

Third Grade (2000-2001) Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for third grade, and stayed after normal school hours to complete his work alone, with his mother Nancy. He was not home-schooled. (Source: see notes from Second Grade section)

Fourth Grade (2001-2002) Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for fourth grade, and stayed after normal school hours to complete his work alone, with his mother Nancy. He was not home-schooled. (Source: see notes from Second Grade section)

Fifth Grade (2002-2003) Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for fifth grade, and stayed after normal school hours to complete his work alone, with his mother Nancy. He was not home-schooled.

He also attended Reed Intermediate School for the latter half of the year.

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Adam records his attendance at Sandy Hook this year by signing a shirt along with the rest of his classmates. This was the “last fifth grade” at Sandy Hook. The whole class was transferred, mid-year, to the newly-constructed Reed Intermediate School in Newtown (which teaches fifth and sixth grades only.)

The Courant’s “Medical Records” article confirms the timing of this move:

Three school officials who worked with children with special needs at Reed Intermediate School and Newtown Middle School said they don’t recall Lanza coming up on the radar screen for any pressing problems. Lanza and his classmates were the first fifth-graders to attend the intermediate school, moving from Sandy Hook Elementary School to Reed in mid-year in 2003.

Note that “mid-year 2003″ here refers to the 2002-2003 school year. A frequent source of confusion in articles about Lanza’s educational history is the confusion of academic and calendar years; at first glance, “mid-year 2003″ might be interpreted as academic year 2003-2004, and then the whole timeline is off by a year. Something to keep in mind.

Adam Lanza’s middle school educational history

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Sixth Grade (2003-2004) Adam Lanza attended Reed Intermediate School for 6th grade. I can find no indication that he was homeschooled this year.

Seventh Grade (2004-2005) Adam Lanza attended Newtown Middle School and St. Rose of Lima for 7th grade. I can find no indication that he was homeschooled this year.

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Likely, Adam was listed as “camera shy” in the Newtown Middle School yearbook because by the time the yearbook was being compiled, Nancy had transferred him to St. Rose of Lima (April 2005). From the “Medical Records” article:

Kateleen Foy, now a student at Hofstra University, recalled Lanza coming to seventh-grade late in the year to St. Rose, a silent, shy boy who was once photographed offering a tentative wave from his seat at the lunch table. Foy said she did not recall Lanza being bulled at the school.

June 2005 marked the end of Lanza’s short time at St. Rose.

Eighth Grade (2005-2006)

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Note: It is right around here, 2005-2006, when Adam’s mental state becomes noticeably unstable, and his educational history reflects that going forward. 

As far as I can tell, Adam Lanza was home-schooled for all except the first few weeks (or perhaps just days) of this school year. Very little solid information is available about his 8th grade year, but Nancy’s actions and Adam’s mental health records suggest he was not attending school for most of it.

Sometime in September 2005, Nancy took Adam to the emergency room at Danbury Hospital because of his extreme anxiety in groups – presumably, at school. (“Medical Records” article, page 2):

By the start of eighth grade, at Newtown Middle School, Lanza was overcome with anxiety and missing school. On a September day in 2005, Nancy Lanza drove her son to Danbury Hospital’s emergency room.

According to a hospital medical record, Adam Lanza had been experiencing anxiety for several days and on that particular day was “presenting as more anxious,” particularly in groups. The report also notes Lanza’s discomfort with being touched, a condition that had troubled him since early childhood. Nancy Lanza wondered whether her son was “outgrowing borderline autism,” the report said.

Doctors evaluated Lanza that day and determined he was not a danger to himself or others. They did not admit him or prescribe medication, but recommended that he follow up with his doctor.

Nancy Lanza, according to the medical record, was not entirely satisfied with what the emergency room doctors did. An investigator familiar with the report said Nancy Lanza unsuccessfully pushed the doctors for more answers. She wanted them to give her permission to keep her son out of school.

At this same juncture, the psychiatric records from Dr. Paul J Fox begin; it appears that Nancy sought out this doctor for a “second opinion” after the emergency room staff would not provide a recommendation that Adam be taken out of school. From the New Yorker Interview with Peter:

When Adam was thirteen, Peter and Nancy took him to Paul J. Fox, a psychiatrist, who gave a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome (a category that the American Psychiatric Association has since subsumed into the broader diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder). Peter and Nancy finally knew what they were up against. “It was communicated as ‘Adam, this is good news. This is why you feel this way, and now we can do something about it,’ ” Peter recalled. But Adam would not accept the diagnosis.

Peter and Nancy, who remained amicable in dealing with their children’s needs, looked into special schools, public and private. Peter went to a meeting of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) to talk to adults on the spectrum and to try to imagine a life for his son. He hoped that “eventually we could get him into GRASP and he would form relationships and maybe get married to somebody else with Asperger’s.” Nancy considered moving to a town fifty miles away, where the school system had strong programs for children with special needs, but concluded that the disruption involved would cancel out any benefits. She briefly enrolled Adam in a Catholic school that seemed to offer more structure, but that didn’t go well, either. Fox recommended homeschooling, arguing that the disadvantages of sending Adam to a regular school were worse than those of isolating him from his peers. From eighth grade on, Nancy taught Adam the humanities and Peter met with Adam twice a week to handle the sciences.

Nancy coordinated the home curriculum with Newtown High School to insure that Adam could graduate rather than simply get a G.E.D. She initiated all such major decisions. “I took the back seat,” Peter said. Even after beginning homeschooling, Adam continued to attend Newtown High’s Tech Club meetings.

The “Catholic school” that Nancy enrolled Adam in was of course St. Rose of Lima, which was actually the previous year (7th grade) but this is probably just the writer condensing information for brevity’s sake.

Adam Lanza’s High School educational history

Adam’s high school education records are roughly consistent with the description that Peter provided in his interview with Andrew Solomon: Adam took some classes at Newtown High and was homeschooled for others, and for the last two years Adam took classes at Western Connecticut State University, for high school credit at Newtown High School. He was still attending the Tech Club meetings until Summer of 2008, despite not actually going to the school otherwise (another frequent source of confusion.)

Freshman year (2006-2007): Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School. According to his father, he was also home-schooled during this school year.

Sophomore year (2007-2008): Report cards found in the home show that Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School from at least November 2007 to April 2008. A class schedule suggests he also attended the Fall quarter that year (Sept-Nov 2007):

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According to Adam’s father, he was also home-schooled during this school year.

Summer 2008: Adam Lanza attended WCSU, for credit at Newtown High School.

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(WCSU COURSES: Website Production, Visual Basic)

Senior Year (2008-2009)

Fall 2008: Attended WCSU and was home-schooled, for credit at Newtown High School

(WCSU COURSES: Data Modeling, introduction to Ethical Theory)

(note that WCSU is on a Semester schedule and thus there is no “Winter quarter” – Spring semester immediately follows Fall semester, and starts in January.

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Spring 2009: Attended WCSU and homeschooled, for credit at Newtown High School

(WCSU COURSES: Introductory German I, American History Since 1877)

Summer 2009: Attended WCSU and homeschooled, for credit at Newtown High School

(WCSU COURSE: Principles of Macroeconomics)

(note that WCSU summer sessions only last from mid-May to late June; this was probably the last credit that Adam needed to complete graduation requirements, hence only one class and why he graduates immediately after)

June 25, 2009: Adam Lanza’s earns his diploma from Newtown High School

Adam Lanza’s schooling after graduating High School

Adam Lanza attended Norwalk Community College after graduating high school.

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Adam registered for a computer repair class in late August of 2009, presumably for Fall quarter. (I suspect that this was actually some kind of work-study course, as numerous police interviews recall that he “worked briefly at a computer repair shop” in Newtown. A business card for a computer repair shop was also found in the home.)

Other reports state that he “attended Norwalk Community College in 2010 but dropped out.” I don’t know if that refers to this class with the wrong date, or if he registered for a second round of classes in 2010.

So, that’s it. You will find some reports out there that conflict with this timeline, but usually they are confusing academic years with calendar years, and the dates are thus wrong. Also, some interviews in the official report contain wrong information (such as Adam attending “St. Mary’s School” but that is because these are interview transcripts; the interview subjects are (understandably) mistaken about another child’s education history more than a decade after the fact.

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“Bullet Time” : What is it?

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Adam Lanza made direct reference to this obscure student film four times on the Super Columbine Massacre RPG Discussion forum, where he posted as “Smiggles.”

The first was on August 10th, 2011:

For anyone who doesn’t know, Sabratha (a member who used to post here) was part of a group which created an excellent school shooting movie.

The context of this conversation was the thread “Duck! The Carbine High Massacre” where users were critiquing the film with the same title. The general tone was that users were disappointed with the campy handling of the Columbine shooting they paid so much attention to, and Smiggles was recommending “Bullet Time” as a more realistic and satisfying alternative. (note: The forum’s Google cache is already gone now after going offline in July so it looks like the window for accessing this info has closed. This thread is one of the few I don’t have a full copy of. The text of the post is in the index.)

The second time was on October 26th, 2011:

This reminds me of Sabratha’s Bullet Time.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2zElaWlj0A&t=5m28s]

More of you really should see it. I think it’s a lot better than Zero Day.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynCD5hLbDLI]

The context of this conversation was the forum’s topic “The Official ‘Reveal Yourself’ Thread”; users were posting pictures of themselves, most of them being obviously false, and other users were remarking that it would be a bad idea to link their Columbine-related forum activity with their real-life identity. Knowing that Bullet Time has a scene where characters similarly advise against any such reckless behavior, Lanza supplied a link (the first URL) that leads to Part 5 of Bullet Time, and he included a timestamp so that it goes right to a scene where the characters discuss how to avoid detection when planning a school shooting in a post-Columbine era (the second link is just to part 1, so that readers can start from the beginning.)

The third and fourth references to Bullet Time both occur on February 28th, 2012; they were the last two postings that “Smiggles” left on the forum, and as such they are the last record of Adam Lanza communicating with the outside world before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting less than ten months later.

The first was in the thread “Any of you know of any others that are not on this list?” which contained a list of school shootings that were planned, but foiled in some way before that could actually occur. Adam’s contribution:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=De-tIflr4E0&t=7m50s]

There have been many that aren’t on that list, although I’m not very familiar with them. I think I remember this having a lot listed:

http://signofthetimes.yuku.com/topic/1291

There were two teenagers who were arrested after one of them left their journal in a McDonald’s, as memorialized by Sabratha’s Bullet Time.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlgDhcbJRoY&t=5m55s]

One of them was caught a second time a couple years later with another student.

The first link leads to a Youtube video of the lecture “Campus Safety in Focus: Advances and Ongoing Challenges One Year later – Pt 3″ and is time-stamped to a shot with a graph of, as was being discussed in the thread, attempted school shootings vs. actual school shootings.

This link, by itself, is suggestive of how obsessively Adam Lanza was studying mass shootings at this point; as of September 26th 2014, the video he linked to has only 49 views:

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In other words, he would have been one of only a handful of people to have ever watched this video. The second link goes to a thread on another Columbine forum (it doesn’t appear he ever posted there) entitled “Columbine–did it ever really end?” which documents school shooters since Columbine, and references they made to the Columbine shooting. The list includes a few failed shooting attempts, hence why he linked to it in the context of the conversation. The third link was to the scene in Bullet Time where the characters visit a McDonald’s, which “Smiggles” interprets as a reference to the failed McDonald’s plot (Bullet Time specifically critiques that failed school shooting later in the film.)

His next and final post referenced Bullet Time in this same context (the statistical “drop” in school shootings masking an actual uptick in the number of attempted shootings) and so perhaps Lanza posted the above reply while he was drafting this longer post:

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Columbine wasn’t an isolated incident: it was the apex of a string of school shootings which began increasing with Lu Gang and Wayne Lo in the early 1990s. Despite American students committing fewer school shootings in 2000-2009 than they did in 1990-1999, the rate of attempts actually increased beyond their pre-Columbine level. Columbine caused Americans to begin taking the potential for school shootings seriously, and thus many attempts which were expected to have been carried out have instead been prevented. And since 1999, there has been an increase in foreign school massacres committed in countries where, as Sabratha’s Bullet Time phrases it, there isn’t the “operational history” of Columbine.

The “operational history” Lanza again mentions from Bullet Time refers to the security environment after Columbine; in short, it’s much more difficult to “pull a Columbine” after Columbine.

Those are all the references the Sandy Hook shooter made to this film. That he referenced the film on the forum is not by itself significant, since he referenced dozens of different movies and pop culture products on the forum, and most of them clearly have nothing to do with that he was planning. However, the fact that he referenced the film in discussions of school shootings, rather than in discussions of films in general, indicate in retrospect that this film was special to him. Once one is aware of the actual content of the film, the significance is obvious and disturbing.

In trying to understand how Sandy Hook occurred, it is thus worth taking a closer look at this very obscure, niche film, with an eye especially cast toward how it may have influenced the perpetrator of such a vicious and bewildering crime.

So let’s begin, shall we?

The Premise: What is “Bullet Time” about?

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Bullet Time is the story of two students, Jan Kossakowski (left) and Micha Duczyk (right), who perpetrate a mass shooting at the campus of their university in Warsaw, Poland. The story is told through a sort of video diary that the two killers leave behind, documenting their planning for the massacre, their observations about other mass killers, and tips for how to commit your own school shooting as the date for theirs draws nearer.

This format is itself an evocation of the infamous “Basement Tapes” left behind by the Columbine killers. While a great deal of footage shot by the Columbine killers has leaked over the years, the Basement Tapes (so titled because they were shot in the basement of one of the killers’ houses, while their parents were sleeping upstairs) would be by far the most sensational. The tapes detail the killers’ philosophies and their growing excitement – and arsenal – in the weeks before the massacre.

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“Bullet Time” above, Dylan Klebold below

To be clear: Bullet Time is not supposed to literally be the Basement Tapes, but is attempting to show what they might be like if they were filmed 2007, and what impact they would have on the victims and society in general.

The basement tapes have never been released, or leaked. All that exists are some snippets of transcript, a few seconds of audio, and some second-hand summaries of what they contain. As such, they are essentially the “holy grail” for fans of the killers (the existence of these fans by itself answering the question of why the tapes remain sealed) and their contents were, and remain, a very frequent topic of discussion on Columbine discussion forums online.

For example, let’s briefly turn toward yet another “Columbine forum” that Adam Lanza visited, the guestbook at acolumbinesite.com. Although the link to the guestbook has since been removed, an archived version shows it looked at the time:

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https://web.archive.org/web/20100316065526/http://www.acolumbinesite.com/

We know that the Sandy Hook shooter read this forum, because he referenced it on the SCMRPG forum on August 29th, 2011 in the thread “A couple images of Dylan I’ve never seen before”:

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“Smiggles” was describing this post:

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Something of a holdover from what we’d now call “Web 1.0,” a “guestbook” format allows each user to leave their name, their comment, and what brought them there. Again, and again, and again, and again…. the answer to “Is there anything you’d like to see here?” is “the basement tapes.”

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Immediately it is evident the conundrum the the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department must be in: they do not want to release the Basement Tapes into such an environment of fandom, and yet their secret status further fuels the “forbidden fruit” quality the tapes have among these fans.

This is all despite the fact the general content of the tapes is already known. There would not be any surprises there, but apparently people want to actually see the killers talk to them, and to actually watch the killers’ preparation for Columbine in the waning weeks of their short and spiteful lives. But they can’t witness that. Not for real.

Enter, Bullet Time.

AK47

(continued soon in Part II: A Review of Bullet Time)

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Timeline updates 09/21/2014

Made some additions and tweaks to the main timeline yesterday:

  1. Added entry for Adam Lanza’s two Jan 2012 phone calls to OpticsPlanet.com
  2. Added link to Mar 2008 article covering Richard Novia’s firing from NHS
  3. Added entry for purchase of after-market part for the Saiga shotgun, and sling
  4. Added 2009 release date for student film Bullet Time
  5. Corrected times for 12/13/2014 GPS data per this post
  6. Removed some unremarkable “Combat Arms” forum activity and other miscellaneous forum postings, with aim to simplify forum activity references now that there are hundreds of posts to draw from.  
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Sabratha’s “Bullet Time”

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I’ll be posting a detailed analysis of this film soon, but I wanted to get this bit out first: the Polish student film “Bullet Time,” which Adam Lanza recommended on multiple occasions on the Super Columbine Massacre RPG discussion forum, actually itself recommends the same forum as a place for budding school shooters to do their research.

This posting, by the forum user Sabratha who was involved in the making of this film, is particularly chilling in retrospect:

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We can’t know exactly when Adam Lanza first saw “Bullet Time” – only that it was after August 2009, when this english-subtitled version was first posted, and before August 10th 2011, when he first mentions it as Smiggles. But, having seen the whole thing, there are some significant parallels between this film (which documents the preparation for a fictional school shooting) and what we know Adam Lanza was doing in preparation for his own.

More soon.

(The scene shown at the top is from Part 7, about 6 minutes in, and can be seen here. )

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