By DEAN PINTO | OP-ED
The Hartford Courant
12:00 PM EDT, June 2, 2013
I'm the father of Jack Pinto, a six-year-old boy who was murdered in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As you can imagine, I deal with unimaginable grief every day. What you might not know is that the families of the victims of that terrible tragedy deal not only with grief, but continual victimization. From the conspiracy theorists who claim we are all actors and our children and loved ones aren't really dead, to the person in Florida who calls one family, says their murdered daughter's name, laughs, then hangs up … the list goes on and on.
Little did we know the worst was yet to come. We recently learned that crime scene photos of our loved one's bullet-riddled bodies and audio recordings of the gunshots that ended their lives may soon become available to the general public. How can that possibly be?
It turns out that Connecticut's freedom of information laws are outdated. Historically, crime scene photos have not been released and, when they were, the newspapers and other mainstream media that requested them exercised common sense and didn't print them. We now live in the Internet age where anyone can request copies of these photos, misuse them for their own political agenda and spread them across the globe for all to see, including the families of those who were killed. In fact, requests have already been made. After learning of this, I and many other Newtown families, asked the Connecticut General Assembly to close this glaring loophole.
Some legislators hesitated to act because they believe the law should apply more broadly than simply to Newtown. I couldn't agree more. My son Jack was exceptional, but I'm his father and all children are exceptional in the eyes of their parents. I miss him terribly, but I know that Jack's life is no more or less important than the lives of victims of violence in Hartford, Bridgeport or anywhere else in our state. If our legislators are willing to pass a law that protects all victims of crime during this legislative session, I am behind them 100 percent. If not, we need a law specifically addressing the Newtown tragedy before its too late. There are only a few days remaining during this session and once those photos and audio records are posted to the Internet, they are there forever.
So why is the Newtown tragedy different?
If you think back to how you felt on Dec. 14 you know why. Twenty six young children and teachers were brutally murdered in their elementary school, resulting in worldwide media coverage. The scene was so horrific, veteran police officers and other first responders couldn't return to work for months and are still haunted by what they saw. Imagine the impact these images and sounds will have not only on our families, but on the other young children, teachers and first responders who were there that day and relive the tragedy through horrible nightmares each night. Imagine the impact on all of Newtown.
What kind of person would want to view and hear such things? One person who probably would have requested them is Adam Lanza. Information released by the police suggests he was obsessed with other tragedies such as Columbine and the killings in Norway and even had images of dead bodies in his home. If we experience another school shooting and graphic photos of the Newtown victims are found hidden away in the bedroom of the next Adam Lanza, will we be to blame?
My family has received thousands of letters from people all over the country asking what they can do for us. We finally have a reply. Please contact a Connecticut state legislator and tell him or her that we need to protect victims of violence from further exploitation and stop the release of graphic crime scene photos and audio recordings.
Dean Pinto lives in Newtown.
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