Three teachers murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School all died heroes trying to save their students from gunman Adam Lanza who they recognized as the son of a kindergarten teacher there.
Authorities have identified principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, and 27-year-old Victoria Soto, a young first grade teacher, as three of the eight adults found dead on Friday.
Twenty-eight people died in the shooting rampage, including 20 young children between the ages of five and ten, alleged gunman Adam Lanza, who took his own life, and his mother Nancy, who was shot before the school massacre.
Victoria Soto sacrificed herself to save her students – throwing her body in front of the young children.
When Adam Lanza began started firing at the school in suburban Newtown, Connecticut, some teachers dived under tables – but Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach never hesitated.
They ran into the hallway to confront the danger – and were murdered execution-style as a result.
The New York Times reports that Dawn Hochsprung buzzed Adam Lanza into the school, bypassing the newly-installed security system – recognizing him as the son of Nancy Lanza, a teacher there.
Little did she know that Adam Lanza had already killed his mother at the home they shared nearby. He took three of her guns and used her car to drive to the school.
Diane Day, a school therapist, told the Wall Street Journal that she and several other teachers were in a meeting with Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach when the shooting began.
“We were there for about five minutes chatting and we heard, <<pop pop pop>>,” she said.
“I went under the table.”
The principal and the school psychologist had other ideas. They jumped out of their seat and ran toward the sound of the gunfire.
“They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,” Diane Day said.
Rabbi Shaul Praver told MSNBC that Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach were killed execution-style.
Tributes for all educators poured in on Friday night.
A deeply distraught 10-year-old boy is a former student of Victoria Soto, who had taught at the school five years, said she was “really nice and funny”.
The woman’s cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News that police said the 27-year-old was trying to shield her students and usher them into a closet when she came face to face with the gunman.
“She put herself between the gunman and the children and that’s when she was tragically shot and killed,” Jim Wiltsie said.
“I’m just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm,’ he continued.
“It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children and in our eyes she’s a hero,” he added.