Newtown - The victims of the US school shooting were shot multiple times by semiautomatic rifle, the medical examiner said on Saturday, and he called the injuries "devastating".
Police began releasing the identities of the 26 dead to a grieving community that had come to dread the coming Christmas holiday. All of the 20 children killed were 6 or 7 years old.
"My daughter would be one of the first ones giving her support to the victims," said a tearful Robbie Parker, the father of victim Emilie Parker, age 6, as families started coming forward.
"She was the kind of person who could just light up a room." He expressed sympathy for other families, including that of the shooter: "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you."
Police said they had found "very good evidence" they hoped would answer questions about the motives of the 20-year-old gunman, described as brilliant but remote, who forced his way into the school in one of the world's worst mass shootings. Witnesses said the gunman, Adam Lanza, didn't say a word and later killed himself.
The Lanza family released a statement on Saturday night expressing "our heartfelt sorrow."
The medical examiner, Dr H Wayne Carver, said he examined seven of the children killed, and two had been shot at close range. When asked how many bullets were fired, he said, "I'm lucky if I can tell you how many I found."
Townspeople took down Christmas decorations and sang "Silent Night" at memorials. World reaction was swift and emotional, any many immediately thought of Dunblane — a 1996 shooting in that small Scottish town which killed 16 small children and prompted a campaign that ultimately led to tighter gun controls.
Pressure to take similar action built on President Barack Obama, whose comments on the tragedy were one of the most outwardly emotional moments of his presidency. He has promised "meaningful action" on the issue of mass shootings, "regardless of the politics," but national debates after past shootings have led to little change.
Stunned residents and exhausted officials continued on Saturday to fill in the details of the attack. Town education officials said the well-liked principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was killed while lunging at the gunman as she tried to overtake him.