Connecticut Shooting: Threat Forces Evacuation of Newtown Church

December 16, 2012 Updated Dec 16, 2012 at 3:06 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Connecticut Shooting: Threat Forces Evacuation of Newtown Church

December 16, 2012 Updated Dec 16, 2012 at 3:06 PM EDT

NEWTOWN, CT (ABC News) - Members of the shattered community of Newtown, Conn., struggling to come to grips with the loss of 20 children and six adults massacred by Adam Lanza, faced a new shock today when a threat was made against a church that many of the victims and their families attend.

The St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church was evacuated during a noon service as armed police officers swarmed around the area, after a church official became aware of a credible threat and alerted parishioners mid-service to exit the building.

About 1,000 people were gathered inside the church at the time observing one of four memorial services being held there.

Witnesses said police entered the church and told parishioners that a threat had been made against the church and the surrounding area and that everyone had to leave immediately.

More than a dozen state troopers armed with assault rifles entered the church's education center next to the church, but after a short time it was determined that threat was over.

Meanwhile, police are working to understand what set Lanza off on his rampage.

ABC News has learned that investigators have seized computers belonging to the 20-year-old from the home he shared with his mother Nancy, the same place he killed her before going to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he slaughtered students in two first-grade classes and teachers and staff.

Authorities are forensically investigating those computers and are also examining devices owned by Ryan Lanza, the gunman's older brother, to see if they can learn anything more about Adam and what caused him to snap.

Members of the community gathered today at churches across the small town, seeking comfort, clarity or just a cry.

With intermittent freezing rain falling, the bells tolled at St. Rose of Lima as parishioners came for the morning service.

Little more than a week before Christmas when congregants celebrate the birth of the savior, they instead were mourning the deaths of people they knew.

Many of the victims attended the church and the clergy is preparing for the funerals of eight of the children.

As parishioners arrived at the church, many stopped at a makeshift memorial with flowers, teddy bears and candles. On large white boards, people wrote notes that express condolences, hope, and even forgiveness.

One says "Rest in Peace Sweet Angels."

After a man and woman knelt down at the memorial -- the woman overcome by grief crying into her husband's arms -- two police officers opened their cars with a delivery: bouquets of flowers and teddy bears stacked in the back of their vehicles. They delicately placed each one down and then both knelt down at the vigil.

The female officer began crying and her male partner put his arm around her to comfort her. She quickly got up, walking to her car while wiping away tears, and then they pulled away.

A mother and two young daughters came next. She gripped one while she also wiped away tears. A father and his young daughter also came up, the father kneeling and talking to the girl before they slowly walked into the church.

A state police trooper was also among those dropping flowers at the memorial comprised of candles, stuffed toys and a sign that says "Sleep in heavenly peace."

Police Tracing Guns Used in Shooting

Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said there are many pieces missing in the investigation and investigators continue to work inside Sandy Hook Elementary School to collect evidence.

Key to the investigation will also be the four firearms found at or near the crime scene, he said.

"We are tracing them historically, all the way back to when they were on the workbench being assembled," Vance said.

Authorities are wrapping up their processing of the exterior crime scene, which included vehicles parked in the school's lot at the time of the shooting, Vance said, and have began to release the cars back to their owners.

Vance declined to say what evidence has or has not been collected.

"We can't take segments of an investigation and discuss that publicly because something taken out of context could be misinterpreted," he said, adding that in the end, the "goal is to answer every single question.

President Obama will visit Newtown today to meet with the grieving families and thank the first responders from Friday's school shooting, as the community begins the long process of healing.

With the world watching Newtown, and many searching for answers, Vance warned of misinformation being spread on social media by people posing as law enforcement or the shooter.

"It is important to know, we have discussed with federal authorities these issues are crimes. They will be investigated. ... Prosecution will take place," Vance said at a press conference, adding that all information has been and will continue to come through him.

Story of Survival

The lone survivor of her class tricked the gunman by playing dead, the girl's pastor told ABC News, before running out of the school covered in the blood of her classmates.

"She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, 'Mommy, I'm OK but all my friends are dead,'" said Pastor Jim Solomon. "Somehow in that moment, by God's grace, [she] was able to act as she was already deceased."

Five first graders in another class were also killed, along with six staff members.

"The mom told me, and I thought this was very insightful, that she was suffering from what she felt was survivor's guilt because so many of her friends no longer have their children but she has hers," the pastor said.

This morning on "This Week," Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy told George Stephanopoulos that Adam Lanza "shot his way into the school."

"The school was locked. He used a weapon to open up the glass, and then walked in," Malloy said. "He discharged to make an opening and then went through it, went to the first classroom, as you know, went to the second classroom."

"We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming, and apparently at that, decided to take his own life," Malloy added.

As the community mourns and families bear the pain of planning 26 funerals before Christmas, school board members hope to get students back to a familiar routine.

"Well, all the mental health experts we've talked to...tell us that the best thing we can do is to get back to normal operations as soon as possible," said Bill Hart, a member of the Newtown Board of Education.

"We know some teachers won't be prepared to come back, he said. "We are going to be prepared with substitutes. We've got counseling for all. We're prepared to do whatever we have to do to help all of our community."

The town of Monroe has offered to open Chalk Hill School, which is not currently being used, to Sandy Hill students and staff, the Newton Board of Education said in a statement.

It is expected to be ready to accommodate students in the next few few days, however an exact schedule as not yet been published.

Hart said officials did not yet know what would become of the building that was turned into a slaughterhouse on Friday.

"I think trying to understand what we are going to do with that is a long process and we're not in any way prepared to make those decisions now," he said.