The gunman in the Connecticut shooting blasted his way into the elementary school and then sprayed the children with bullets, first from a distance and then at close range, hitting some of them as many as 11 times, as he fired a semi-automatic rifle loaded with ammunition designed for maximum damage, officials said yesterday.
The state's chief medical examiner, H Wayne Carver II, said all of the 20 children and six adults gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown had been struck more than once.
He said their wounds were "all over, all over".
The disclosures came as the police released the victims' names. The children — 12 girls and eight boys — were all first-graders.
Robbie Parker, whose six-year-old daughter Emilie was among the dead, choked back tears as he described her as "bright, creative and very loving".
The Newtown school superintendent, Janet Robinson, said the principal and the school psychologist had been shot as they tried to tackle the gunman "in order to protect her students".
There were other acts of bravery, said Ms Robinson, as teachers scrambled to move children to safety after the massacre began.
The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, had grown up in Newtown. An uncle, James Champion, issued a statement expressing "heartfelt sorrow", adding that the family was struggling "to comprehend the tremendous loss we all share".
Connecticut State Police spokesman Lieutenant J Paul Vance said investigators continued to press for information, and had collected "some very good evidence".
But it was unclear why Lanza had gone on the attack. A law enforcement official said investigators had not found a suicide note nor messages that spoke to the planning of such a deadly attack. And Ms Robinson said they had found no connection between Lanza's mother and the school, in contrast to earlier accounts that said she had worked there.
Officials said the killing spree began early on Friday at the house where the Lanzas lived. There, Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the face. Then, after taking three guns that belonged to her, he climbed into her car for the short drive to the school.
Lanza shot his way in, defeating a security system requiring visitors to be buzzed in. This contradicted earlier reports that he had been recognised and allowed to enter. "He was not voluntarily let into the school at all," Lieutenant Vance said.
Dorothy Werden, 49, lives across the street from Christopher and Lynn McDonnell, who lost their daughter Grace, 6. Like the rest of the nation, she said, local residents were struggling with a single question: Why?
"Why did he have to go to the elementary school and kill all of those defenseless children?"