Some readers may find the subject of this post, on suicide via shooting oneself with a gun, to be gruesome and distressing. You are forewarned!
In the State of Connecticut’s final report on the Sandy Hook mass shooting, it is claimed that 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 individuals (20 first-grade students and 6 staff members) at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the space of 11 minutes.
Then, at 9:40:03 a.m., police heard a final shot, believed to be Lanza committing suicide by shooting himself in the lower rear portion of his head with a Glock 20SF handgun, in classroom 10. (See also Wikipedia)
From the Final Report’s “TimeLineRedacted pdf” A88, p. 5:
09:40:03 is still on the telephone with CSP and a second single gunshot is heard in the background. This is believed to be the final suicide shot from the shooter, who is in room 10, Ms. Soto’s room. (CSP Centralized Dispatch 911)
This account is troubling for several reasons:
1. That Lanza killed himself with a single shot to his head:
A discussion on a science forum says:
“But shooting yourself in the brain is a risky method of suicide since many people don’t shoot accurately and just wind up severely injuring themselves. “
“the brain can certainly survive a huge amount of injury“
“The human brain can sustain a surprising amount of damage (e,g., Google search Phineas Gage) without causing death. Although not instantaneous, a gunshot to any area of the cortex can cause death through excessive intracranial pressure arising from either brain swelling or edema. Abraham Lincoln lingered for several days as a result of the brain injury cause by a low-caliber bullet that didn’t exit his skull after being shot at close range from the back. Instantaneous death may only be caused by gunshots to the brain that also damage the brainstem, which regulates heart and lung function.”
“There have been cases of people receiving 12 bullets in the brain without dying, and, as already mentioned, Phineas Gage, who had a tamping iron blasted into his head and through his brain without lethal effect.”
2. Why did Lanza choose the lower rear portion of his head to shoot?
A morbid website on suicide says “For those aiming at the head, the most popular site is the right temple (the left temple presumably being for left handers), second comes the mouth, followed by the forehead.”
And yet Lanza chose the lower back of his head.
Discussants on the science forum differ as to which is the most lethal part of the brain to shoot. One discussant claims it’s the T-area of the face: “My friend, who was a marine, says they are trained to ‘shoot the T’ as he called it. Sides of the T being the eyes, to the bridge of the nose, to the top of the mouth. Shooting these points straight on should cause instant death.”
Others says it’s the brain stem:
“The most lethal areas of the brain to shoot are the most evolutionarily primitive, since these are the areas which control the heart beat and respiration rather than thought. So to kill yourself most effectively, you need to shoot yourself at the base of the head in the back, rather than, as is traditional, into the side of the head.”
“The UK’s SAS aim to hit the Medulla Oblongata [the lowest part of the brain stem], which is the autonomic control centre…this consciously shuts down and physically immobilises the target as quickly as possible presumably bringing a speedy death.”
But the most troubling question is:
3. How does one shoot oneself in the lower rear portion of one’s head?
Here’s a pic of the Glock 20SF handgun that Adam Lanza allegedly used to kill himself with a single shot to the lower rear portion of his head:
The Glock 20SF is 8.03 inches long and 5.47 in. high.
I tried to simulate what Lanza allegedly did with a wooden 8″ long ruler, and can say that it sure ain’t easy pointing that to the lower rear portion of my head, then click to shoot.
But Lanza did that while in a state of great emotional agitation, after having killed 6 adults and 20 innocent and helpless 6-year-old little children, and knowing that the police are right outside the front door of the school.
I welcome thoughts and comments from readers with knowledge of handguns and shooting.
H/t FOTM reader Susan S.
See also our “Sandy Hook Massacre” page with links to all the posts we’ve done on this subject, especially:
- “SSDI says Adam Lanza died a day before Sandy Hook massacre,” Jan. 20, 2013.
- “Newtown clerk refuses to issue Sandy Hook victims’ death certificates,” Feb. 25, 2013.
- “Workers tearing down Sandy Hook school sworn to confidentiality,” Oct. 17, 2013.
Love and Peace of Christ to all,