Saturday, December 15, 2012
One was a first-grade teacher who reportedly threw herself in front of the gunman to shield her students. Another was a well-liked principal.
Both were among those killed when Adam Lanza, 20, stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with guns blazing Friday, killing six adults and 20 children before killing himself.
Lanza also killed a seventh adult in the rampage -- his mother, Nancy Lanza. She was killed in her home, shot in the face before her son's assault on the school, sources told ABC News.
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said the victims have been formally identified by the state medical examiner. He said a list of the victims' names and birthdates would be released later today.
Vance asked that the privacy of the victims' families be respected.
"I am pleading with you. As you know, this is an extremely heartbreaking, difficult thing to endure," he said.
The names of a few victims emerged late Friday, including a hero teacher and a devoted principal.
Vicki Soto, 27, one of the adult victims, loved being a teacher, her cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News' Chris Cuomo Friday. In fact, her first-grade students' safety was such a high priority that Soto reportedly lost her life protecting them.
"The family was informed that she was trying to shield, get her children into a closet and protect them from harm, and by doing that put herself between the gunman and the children," Wiltsie said. "And that's when she was tragically shot and killed.
"I'm very proud to have known Vicki," Wiltsie added. "Her life dream was to be a teacher. And her instincts kicked in when she saw there was harm coming to her students.
"It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children," he said. "And in our eyes, she is a hero."
Town officials in Connecticut say the principal who died in the rampage was killed while lunging at the gunman as she tried to overtake him.
Dawn Hochsprung was gunned down in Friday's massacre in Newtown. Board of Education chairwoman Debbie Liedlien says administrators were coming out of a meeting when the gunman forced his way into the school and ran toward him.
Jeff Capeci is chairman of the town's Legislative Council. Asked whether Hochsprung is a hero, he says, "From what we know, it's hard to classify her as anything else."
Hochsprung had worked at the school for two years. Both Liedlien and Capeci say she immediately became a beloved figure. Liedlien says "it's so sad to lose somebody like her" and that residents are feeling "a deep sense of loss" over her death.
"When we had our orientation, you could tell she loved her job," Brenda Lediski, a parent, told ABC News by phone.
Hochsprung, 47, only became principal of Sandy Hook in recent years, according to a local news report.
"She was always enthusiastic, always smiling, always game to do anything," Kristin Larson, a former PTA secretary, told the Boston Globe. "When I saw her at the beginning of the school year, she was hugging everyone."
Investigators also hope the one surviving victim, an unidentified school employee who was wounded by the gun man, will be able to help them piece together the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"She is doing fine," Vance said. "[And] she will be instrumental in this investigation."