By DAVE ALTIMARI, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
6:51 PM EST, November 22, 2013
State police investigating the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have focused some of their efforts on the police response, interviewing local officers to iron out inconsistencies in their versions of events and examining decisions made in the minutes before they entered the school, sources with knowledge of the probe have told The Courant.
"We know that our response will be heavily scrutinized as it should be and I am confident that our officers acted aggressively and appropriately in response to a chaotic scene,'' police union President Scott Ruszczyk said. "I think it's pretty tough to second-guess the guys who were there responding to a chaotic scene."
Among the aspects of the response under scrutiny was a decision by the first responding Newtown officer to park nearly a quarter-mile away on the street to the school and wait for other officers to arrive, sources familiar with the investigation said. Those officers moved to the school on foot along the tree line.
Using dispatch calls, video from cruisers and recordings of body microphones worn by local and state police officers, detectives have put together a detailed time line that makes no conclusions about the response, the sources said.
Dispatch records show that the first 911 call came in just before 9:36 a.m. and that the first officer arrived at the school about 9:37:30. The dispatch tapes indicate that there were officers in the school at 9:44 a.m., but don't make clear exactly when the first officer entered.
Parts of the time line are expected to be included in Danbury State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky's report that is scheduled to be issued Monday. Sedensky met with families last week to allow them to review a draft of his final report.
One family member who requested anonymity said that the report did include a time line and that Sedensky told them during the meeting that state police and Newtown officers entered the building simultaneously.
On the morning of Dec. 14, Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six women before killing himself. He fired 154 rounds in about a five-minute period after shooting his way into the school through a window at the front entrance. He had shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home earlier that morning.
State police detectives re-interviewed several of the 14 Newtown officers who responded to the school to ask them about what they had written in their initial reports.
Ruszczyk said it was his understanding that those interviews were conducted to address small corrections to the officers' statements.
Portions of the dispatch tape describe some of the chaos that morning. Police detained a man running outside the school who, it turned out, was the father of a first-grader. There also was a report of teachers seeing shadows moving quickly past the gymnasium.
"There was a thought that there was a second shooter. They had a man running around the outside of the school,'' Ruszczyk said. "My guys don't believe they did anything wrong that day."
Many of the transmissions on the dispatch tape are garbled, making it difficult to decipher police movements. Communications are clearer on officers' body microphones that are activated when their cruiser video cameras are on.
State police have synchronized all of those recordings with dispatch tapes to create a time line that also tracks the movements of officers into the building. They have used sophisticated audio technology to try to track Lanza's movements.
Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe did not respond to questions about the department's response. Kehoe has downplayed his officers' being re-interviewed, saying that it was standard procedure when investigating an incident that had so many responders.
Kehoe has told The Courant that the department's active shooter policy, last updated in 2002, is clear that officers should enter a building in which there is a shooter and find the threat as quickly as possible. They are not to wait for command staff or SWAT officers to arrive.
Kehoe would not make the entire policy available.
In their only public comments, made in a January New York Times story, several officers said they heard gunshots when they were outside the school.
Dispatch records indicate that about three minutes after the initial 911 call, a dispatcher told the officers that the shooting had stopped and that the school was in lockdown. Within a minute of that report, the dispatcher alerted officers that teachers could hear shooting and states that the "shooter is apparently still shooting in the office area."
The first state troopers to arrive at the school came from Troop A in Southbury. Sources with knowledge of the investigation said that many of them went in the school through a door that was smashed open by members of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force on the corner of the building near the playground. Others went through the glass window that Lanza shot out. Newtown police entered through the rest of the school and the boiler room.
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