While much remains unknown about the Sandy Hook school shooting, we're learning more about one of the victims – gunman Adam Lanza's mother, who owned all of the weapons recovered at the scene. NBC's Mike Isikoff reports, and four of her friends join TODAY's Savannah Guthrie to talk about her life and her relationship with her son.
Friends of Nancy Lanza, the slain mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza, remembered her as a woman devoted to her two boys.
She educated them, they said, about proper safety when handling her gun collection.
Nancy Lanza was found dead in her home on Friday of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, according to the State of Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Police said Adam Lanza killed his mother before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday and killing 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.
Savannah Guthrie spoke with John Bergquist, Russell Hanoman, Sebastian Morrell and Ellen Adriani, four friends of Nancy Lanza on TODAY Monday. The friends painted a picture of a woman who loved her son, Adam, despite his difficulties.
“She never feared (Adam),’’ Adriani said. “She was a very devoted mom to both her boys. She always made herself available to Adam and his needs. He came first, clearly, with her.’’
“She was a parent just like all of us, and she was a strong, kind, caring and loving person,’’ John Tambascio, the owner of a local bar Lanza frequented, told NBC News. “There was nothing odd and weird about her. She was completely normal and tried to help her kids just like all of us would.’’
Adam Lanza, 20, was described as a “recluse’’ by his mother to friends. Nancy Lanza divorced her husband, General Electric executive Peter Lanza, in 2009, and he left her their spacious 3,100-square foot home in Newtown where Adam spent the majority of his time.
“He was clearly a troubled child,’’ said Hanoman, who was the only one of the four friends to have met Adam. “We know that he had Asperger’s. Nancy mentioned that to me several times. He was very calm, very withdrawn, much like most kids with Asperger’s are. He was typical in that regard.’’
“Sometimes he would isolate himself, things like that,’’ Adriani said. “She was very conscious of how she would react to him. For an example, one time he was ill, and he just didn’t want her in the room, so she stayed outside of his bedroom all night on the carpet, and he periodically would say, ‘Are you there? Are you there?’ And she’d always say, ‘Yes I’m here.’ So he wanted her there to some degree, but not in his exact, immediate space.’’
She was also there for others in need, according to her friends.
“Nancy was a very caring friend,’’ Adriani said. “She was extremely kind and very generous, not only with her time, but with her finances. If she was ever feeling that I was in need of a friend, she definitely was on the phone with me.’’
Nancy Lanza was a gun enthusiast, and took her children target shooting. The four weapons recovered at the crime scene, including a Glock 10-mm handgun, a Sig Sauer 9-mm handgun and a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle, all belonged to her. However, her friends said the guns were more a hobby than an obsession.
“She was definitely not a survivalist,” Bergquist said. “Shooting was one of her hobbies. It wasn’t her main hobby. She loved the arts, culture. She loved the finer things in life. She loved to go to Red Sox games, and that’s the Nancy I knew.’’
“She took up target shooting a few years ago,’’ Tambascio told NBC News. “She was a single mom raising two boys living alone in a house that’s close to the woods. I don’t see anything odd.’’
Her friends confirmed that she occasionally took her sons to a target range for shooting practice, but that it was for safety purposes and to educate them about the proper use of firearms.
“She told us that she had wanted to introduce them to the guns to teach them, especially Adam, a sense of responsibility,’’ Hanoman told Guthrie. “Guns require a lot of respect, and she really tried to instill that responsibility within him, and he took to it. He loved being careful with them. He made it a source of pride.’’
Andrew Solomon, the author of "Far from the Tree,'' a book about parents dealing with children with exceptional conditions ranging from disabilities to mental illness to prodigal talents, told Guthrie that people often look to the parents for answers in situations like the Connecticut shooting. In the research for his book, Solomon spoke with the parents of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold.
"The first thing is that I think that we always expect that the family will provide an explanation of why,'' Solomon said. "We think that if we understand the family, we'll know why it happened. But these illnesses strike people as randomly as cancer or any other illness. So I think the family can't be held responsible for it, at least not from the evidence so far.
"This was an act of rage and violence, but it was also an act of extreme depression. Murder-suicides, everyone always focuses on the murder piece, which is the more upsetting piece, but if you don't look at the suicide, you'll never figure out what it is that drives people this way. Sometimes the parents know and they can't do anything, and sometimes the kids are very secretive, and we don't know yet which this is (in the Connecticut case)."
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