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With tension and police presence, most Newtown schools reopen

Updated 10:19 pm, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
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John Pirro and

Linda Tuccio-Koonz

NEWTOWN -- A mysterious threat kept students from Head O'Meadow Elementary, but four other Newtown schools reopened without incident Tuesday, four days after a shocking mass murder traumatized and united this close-knit community.

Police were on high alert, and Sandy Hook Elementary School -- where 20 students and six staffers were gunned down by 20-year-old Adam Lanza Friday -- remained closed.

A lockdown was ordered at Head O'Meadow, on Boggs Hill Road, before students arrived for classes, which had been scheduled to start two hours late.

But police, school and town officials remained mum throughout the day on what provoked the action.

Parents were notified of the closing in a message from the school's principal, who said police predicted there would be "some threats" and advised them to keep their children home for the day.

Numerous calls to police, school and town officials and a special public information line established to handle the onslaught of media inquiries in the wake of the shootings were not returned.

It remains unclear when the Sandy Hook students will return to school, but it will likely not be until after Jan. 1, following the students' winter break.

"The officials in Newtown will make that call," said Monroe Superintendent James C. Agostine.

Monroe police Lt. Brian McCauley said officials in town are working to make sure the school is ready and safe for students.

While tension appeared high outside the Newtown schools, many students were glad to be back as teachers helped them adjust.

"I wasn't really looking forward to going back to school because I knew a lot of my friends weren't going, because a lot of people thought it was too soon," said Jaden Albrecht, who returned to Newtown Middle School on Tuesday.

But the 13-year-old said once she was there, she felt it was a good place to be.

Over the weekend she and friends had spoken with a grief counselor at Reed Intermediate School; they also placed a memorial sign in Sandy Hook in honor of a friend's sibling who was a victim in the school shooting.

"I guess it was good to try and get back to normal," Jaden said. "It was sort of sad still and no one really knew how to react. But the teachers made a point to say how glad they were to see everyone.

"It was good to know they care so much and that they care about our safety," she added. "I do feel safe in school. I know our teachers would do anything to protect us, they made a point of saying that."

Elsewhere, holiday shoppers in Danbury found one glaring lack of goods Tuesday: guns at Dick's Sporting Goods at the Danbury Fair mall.

The outdoors corner of the sports superstore still featured bullets, bows, camouflage suits, targets, knives, vests, scopes, gun cleaners, kickback reducers and one Nerf rifle for kids, but the three walls of gun racks were empty.

"What'd you put them on lockdown?" an elderly man asked.

"Out of respect for the community," a Dick's Sporting Goods employee replied. "We took them down this morning."

Dick's Sporting Goods said they will suspend the sales of certain semi-automatic rifles across the country.

Meanwhile, a gun show scheduled for January in Danbury was canceled Tuesday. The Danbury Gun & Knife Show's promoter, Big Al's Silver Bullet Productions, announced on its website that the event scheduled for Jan. 5-6 at the Crowne Plaza hotel would not take place.

A call to Big Al's was picked up Tuesday afternoon by a person who responded, "No comment," when asked why the gun show was canceled.

Video games have also become a focus of the investigation into shooter Adam Lanza. Sources told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers that video games and other electronics were found inside the shooter's Yogananda Street home.

Though the source did not specify what games Lanza enjoyed playing, a plumber who spent time working in the house told British newspaper The Sun that Lanza spent a lot of time playing the first-person war simulation game "Call of Duty." The plumber, 45-year-old Newtown resident Peter Wlasuk, said Tuesday that Lanza lived in the basement of the house. His walls were covered by gun and military posters, Wlasuk told the newspaper.

Gamers across the country plan a "online shooter cease fire" for Friday, the same day the state will observe a moment of silence to remember the shooting victims. The "day of cease fire," was proposed by GamerFitNation Inc's CEO Antwand Pearman, and calls for players to stop playing online shooting games like Call of Duty on Friday.

On the Facebook page for the event, the organizers say clearly, "we are not blaming video games!

"We are simply making a statement that we as gamers are not going to sit back and ignore the lives that were lost. Instead we will embace (sic) the families with our love and support," Pearman said on Facebook.

Outgoing U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday saying violent video games can turn some gamers into killers.

"Very often these young men have an almost hypnotic involvement in some form of violence in our entertainment culture, particularly violent video games," Lieberman said. "And then they obtain guns and become not just troubled young men but mass murderers."

Back in Newtown, police were highly visible outside schools in Newtown on Tuesday.

At Hawleyville Elementary School, officers turned back a reporter as he approached the entrance, and parents arriving to pick up their children at the end of the day had to identify themselves to police.

At Middle Gate Elementary School, a reporter who attempted to interview school personnel about returning to work was also questioned by two police officers.

Such security is likely to remain in effect for some time.

At Newtown Middle School, eighth-grader Max Ames said he was glad to be back in class.

"I felt relieved to see everyone. I was looking forward to it," he said.

Teachers asked students how they were feeling and if their families were OK.

"That made me feel safe and comforted," said Max, 13.

Teachers eased the kids back into their lessons, but also asked them to draw posters to brighten the empty walls of the Chalk Hill School in Monroe, where Sandy Hook students will eventually attend school.

During first period, Max said teachers asked students to write questions and comments on note cards to be used for a discussion about the Sandy Hook tragedy.

"I drew a picture that said "Don't Worry, Be Happy," said Max.

Jaden said at first she thought it was too soon to go back.

"But after I went," she said Tuesday, "I thought it was good to be back and see other people."

As students returned to school and police continued to piece together its investigation, rumors continued to swirl about what led Lanza to kill 20 children and six school staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The son of a pastor at a Monroe church where some victims' families worship told Fox News that Nancy Lanza was seeking conservatorship because she could no longer control her son, and planned to have him committed. Joshua Flashman, 25, said Adam Lanza may have been upset by this, setting him off.

But Tuesday night, Flashman's father issued a statement to lohud.com denying the report and saying it was "hearsay," and "not confirmed."

The website also spoke to the pastor's secretary, who said two state police officers came to the church earlier in the day to interview someone.

Staff writer Tim Loh contributed to this report.

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