When news of the Connecticut elementary school shooting broke early Friday, few could comprehend the horror that unfolded there.
By the time the ordeal was over, shooter Adam Lanza had killed 27 people, including his mother and 20 children - some as young as 6 years old. He then killed himself.
How do you wrap your head around a tragedy like that? More importantly, where do you begin?
There are no easy answers to those questions. But Chief Kim Raney of the Covina Police Department can probably come as close as anyone to answering them. Raney was among the first to respond to a 2008 Christmas Eve massacre in Covina that left nine dead.
"When you hear about something like the Connecticut shooting it takes you back to what you experienced in the past," Raney said.
And what Raney experienced in 2008 was horrific indeed.
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, estranged husband of Sylvia Ortega, showed up at the Ortega home on east Knollcrest Drive at about 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve where a holiday gathering was under way. Dressed as Santa Claus, he pulled out a 9mm handgun and began firing.
When the rampage was over his ex-wife, her parents and six other family members were dead. Pardo later shot himself to death at his brother's Sylmar home.
"There are so many different complexities to an event like that," Raney said. "That night there were 25 people at the house and we had to find everyone who wasn't accounted for. It took two or three days to go through the burned out house, recover all the bodies and ID the victims.
And beyond the physical evidence, police were looking to explain why it happened.
"You look for motive and you look for co-conspirators," Raney said. "And there's lots of forensic evidence. You're trying to find a reason ... an explanation for the inexplicable."
Raney said he arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting took place.
"It's an experience I'll never forget," he said. "We set up a command post and we had firefighters there trying to put out the blaze. The house was fully engulfed and there were rounds going off inside because there were four guns involved and he had dropped some and left them behind."
In the aftermath of the Covina tragedy, police were also tasked with helping family members, friends and neighborhood residents come to grips with the situation.
"There is no script or guide on how to do that," Raney said. "In this situation the Ortega family had a tremendous amount of character, and the neighborhood was very supportive. We brought in mental health professionals to help them try to heal."
Raney said the mental health support was crucial.
"We had one meeting two days after the event for the affected neighborhood and another meeting two days after that for the general public," he said. "We wanted to put those out as fast as we could so there were no rumors running around."
Raney said his department has stepped up patrols of area schools in the wake of Friday's school shooting in Connecticut.
"I'm sure schools will be evaluating their security plans," he said. "This is traumatic for parents. Kids should be off limits. The challenge is that we live in a free society. And if someone has enough conviction and they don't mind dying in the commission of a crime, it's hard to stop them."