New York: Two days after the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults, US authorities today identified the younger victims as 6-7 year-old first graders who were shot multiple times by a long rifle in the "devastating" attack.
Autopsies were conducted on the 26 victims, including 12 young girls and eight boys.
47-year-old Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown; school psychologist Mary Sherlach (56) and three teachers Rachel Davino (29); Anne Marie Murphy (52) and Lauren Rousseau (30) were among the six adults killed when 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza stormed into building armed with assault weapons and opened fire in two classrooms.
"They (the 20 children killed in the attack) were first-graders," Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Wayne Carver told reporters, before the police department released the names of all the victims.
"This is a very devastating set of injuries," he said, adding that all of the children had been shot multiple times by a long rifle, which was one of the three weapons that Lanza was carrying.
The attack was "the worst I have seen," Carver said.
He added that in the seven autopsies he had performed, the victims had from 3 to 11 wounds. Sixteen of the 20 children were six-year-old while the rest were 7.
A little girl had celebrated her seventh birthday earlier in the week.
Lanza had killed his mother Nancy in her apartment in the Connecticut town on Friday and then driven to the school where he gunned down another 26 people before turning the weapon on himself in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the US history.
Carver said parents were shown photographs of their deceased children for purpose of identification and were not immediately taken to the crime scene to minimise their shock.
Connecticut State Police's Paul Vance said the gunman had "forced his way" into the school.
In new details that emerged about the shooting, the principal and the school psychologist were shot as they tried to tackle the gunman "in order to protect" the students.
One young boy who was in a classroom when Lanza opened fire said the students "ran past" the gunman as he stood in the hallway outside one of the classrooms.
School superintendent Janet Robinson said teachers and staff members turned into heroes for the children saving their lives with "incredible acts of heroism."
While one teacher had helped children escape through a window, the librarian hid with students in a closet and handed them papers to draw on to distract them from the mayhem and violence that was unfolding not far from them.