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A woman holds a child as people line up to enter the Newtown Methodist Church near the the scene of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. (GETTY IMAGES PHOTO)

Tribune staff and wire reports  

NEWTOWN, Conn.—

A shooting at a Connecticut elementary school today left at least 20 dead, including children and adults, according to reports.

Twenty-seven people were killed, including 18 children, the Associated Press reported, citing an official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.

At a brief news conference this afternoon, a Connecticut State Police official said the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown was killed. “The shooter is deceased inside the building,” said police Lt. Paul Vance.

At least 27 people, including possibly 14 children, were killed, CBS News reported, citing unnamed officials.

Sources told The Hartford Courant that there were at least 20 shooting victims. Many of the shootings took place in a kindergarten classroom, sources said. One entire classroom is unaccounted for, sources said.

Vance said students and staff were killed, but he did not provide a death toll. He said further information would be released at a later news conference.

The shooting appeared to be the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.

There were unconfirmed reports of a second shooter after witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots fired.

Sandy Hook Elementary School teaches children from kindergarten through fourth grade, roughly ages 5 to 10.

“It was horrendous,” said parent Brenda Lebinski, who rushed to the school where her daughter is in the third grade. “Everyone was in hysterics – parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don’t know if they were shot, but they were bloodied.”

Television images showed police and ambulances at the scene, and parents rushing toward the school. Parents were seen reuniting with their children and taking them home.

“This is going to be bad,” a state official told Reuters, requesting anonymity because the scope of the tragedy remained uncertain.

All Newtown schools were placed in lockdown after the shooting, the Newtown Public School District said.

The shooter, an adult, was dead and two handguns were recovered from the scene, NBC News reported without citing a source.

Lebinski said a mother who was at the school during the shooting told her a “masked man” entered the principal’s office and may have shot the principal. Lebinski, who is friends with the mother who was at the school, said the principal was “severely injured.”

Lebinski’s daughter’s teacher “immediately locked the door to the classroom and put all the kids in the corner of the room.”

Danbury Hospital, about 11 miles (18 km) west of the school, had received three patients from the scene, a hospital spokeswoman told NBC Connecticut. The mayor of Danbury, Mark Boughton, told MSNBC: “They are very serious injuries.”

Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner. His daughter was fine.

“It’s alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America,” he said.

The superintendent’s office said the district had locked down schools in Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City. Schools in neighboring towns also were locked down as a precaution.

State police said Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m. A SWAT team was among the throngs of police to respond.

Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.

“Everyone was just traumatized,” he said.

The White House said President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting.

A girl interviewed by NBC Connecticut described hearing seven loud “booms” as she was in gym class. Other children began crying and teachers moved the students to a nearby office, she said.

“A police officer came in and told us to run outside and so we did,” the unidentified girl said on camera.

Connecticut State Police said its officers were at the scene with local police but provided no additional details. The emergency call to police occurred at 9:41 a.m., state police said.

Newtown, with a population about 27,000, is in northern Fairfield County, about 45 miles  southwest of Hartford and 80 miles northeast of New York City.

Sandy Hook is one of four elementary schools in the district.

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Maura Wall Hernandez is digital editor of The Mash.

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