Adam Lanza's father speaks out: He'd have killed me too

A makeshift memorial for those killed in the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in New Town, Conn., July 5, 2013.
A makeshift memorial for those killed in the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in New Town, Conn., July 5, 2013.

Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, spoke out for the first time since his son’s rampage and suicide in Newtown, Conn., more than a year ago.

In a lengthy interview with the New Yorker’s Andrew Solomon, Peter Lanza opened up on the upbringing, mental health struggles, and relationships that his son had in the years leading up to the murder of 27 students, educators, and Adam's mother. 

By speaking with the media, Lanza said he hopes to help other families avoid the horrible end his own son’s mental illnesses found.

“I need to get some good from this. And there’s no place else to find any good. If I could generate something to help them, it doesn’t replace, it doesn’t—” he tells Solomon, struggling for words.

He says he’s offered to meet with the victim's families; two have taken him up on it.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” he said. “A victim’s family member told me that they forgave Adam after we spent three hours talking. I didn’t even know how to respond. A person that lost their son, their only son.”

“But I would trade places with them in a heartbeat if that could help,” he adds.

The interview contrasts early reports that Lanza was an absentee father amidst a child’s mental health crisis, depicting a persistent and attentive father pushed away by his son. Lanza said he saw the estrangement as a natural part of adolescence.

“I had to give him space,” Lanza said. “He’ll get more mature; I’ll just keep doing what I can, staying involved.”

But now, with hindsight, he said he can see how far his son’s mental state—and their relationship—had deteriorated.

“With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he’d had the chance. I don’t question that for a minute. The reason he shot Nancy four times was one for each of us: one for Nancy; one for him; one for Ryan; one for me,” Lanza said of his son’s immediate family.

The interview also points to the regular help the family tried to get the son, how ineffective it was, and how few warning signs existed—just as the federal report found.

Above all, the piece depicts a haunted man—for whom the one-year anniversary of his son’s horrible act wasn’t significant, because “It’s not like I ever go an hour when it doesn’t cross my mind”—working to move forward from an event that has marked him for life.

“I get very defensive with my name. I do not like to even say it. I thought about changing it, but I feel like that would be distancing myself and I cannot distance myself. I don’t let it define me, but I felt like changing the name is sort of pretending it didn’t happen and that’s not right,” Lanza said.

While old friends have been a strong source of support, Lanza notes in the interview that he might never make a new friend.

“This defines who I am and I can’t stand that, but you have to accept it.”