Peter Lanza: 'Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat'

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News

The father of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza believes his son would've killed him, too.

“With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he’d had the chance," Peter Lanza told the New Yorker. "I don’t question that for a minute."

In interviews with the magazine's Andrew Solomon published Monday, Lanza broke his 15-month silence on the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, when the troubled 20-year-old gunman shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the Newtown, Conn., home they shared, then drove to the school, killing 20 children and 6 adults before killing himself.

"The reason he shot Nancy four times was one for each of us," Peter Lanza said. "One for Nancy; one for him; one for Ryan; one for me.”

Peter Lanza, who was separated from Nancy in 2001, divorced in 2009 and had not seen Adam in two years at the time of the massacre, says he's haunted by the killings.

“You can’t get any more evil," Peter Lanza said. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”

In fact, he can't stand to look at photos of Adam, and now wishes he had never been born.

“I’m not dealing with it,” he said. “You can’t mourn for the little boy he once was. You can’t fool yourself.”

He says he has dreamed about Adam every night since the killings ("dreams of pervasive sadness rather than fear") but recently had "the worst nightmare of his life":

He was walking past a door; a figure in the door began shaking it violently. Peter could sense hatred, anger, “the worst possible evilness,” and he could see upraised hands. He realized it was Adam. “What surprised me is that I was scared as s---,” he recounted. “I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. And then I realized that I was experiencing it from the perspective of his victims.”

Peter Lanza said he has met with two of the victims’ families. “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."

He said he considered changing his name. "I do not like to even say it," Peter Lanza said. "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.”

In the interviews, Peter Lanza offered some insight into Adam's troubled childhood.

Growing up, “Adam loved Sandy Hook school,” Peter said. “He stated, as he was growing older, how much he had liked being a little kid."

Adam was "always thinking differently,” Peter Lanza recalled. “Just a normal little weird kid."

But when Adam was in middle school, it was "crystal clear something was wrong," Peter Lanza said. "The social awkwardness, the uncomfortable anxiety, unable to sleep, stress, unable to concentrate, having a hard time learning, the awkward walk, reduced eye contact. You could see the changes occurring.”

Adam Lanza was later diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

"Adam was not open to therapy,” Peter Lanza said. “He did not want to talk about problems and didn’t even admit he had Asperger’s.”

But Peter Lanza said the Asperger’s diagnosis might have distracted the parents from other possible problems, including schizophrenia. “Asperger’s makes people unusual, but it doesn’t make people like this,” he said. “I was thinking it could mask schizophrenia.”

“If he had been a totally normal adolescent and he was well adjusted and then all of a sudden went into isolation, alarms would go off,” he said. “But let’s keep in mind that you expect Adam to be weird.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, scientists at the University of Connecticut were asked to study Lanza's DNA. Peter Lanza is still searching for answers.

“I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”