Judge: 911 Calls from Sandy Hook Shooting Will Be Released Dec. 4

The release of the tapes comes after a legal battle challenging a state Freedom of Information Commission decision earlier this year.

By Davis Dunavin

On the heels of the state's attorney's final report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, another piece of information will soon become available — the 911 calls from that morning.

The calls have been the subject of a legal battle between State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky, the town of Newtown and a group of media outlets, playing out in the state's court system since a September Freedom of Information Commission decision to release them.

New Britain Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott, who said Monday he would listen to the tapes before making his decision, announced they would be released Dec. 4.

"There is no dispute in this case that the audio recordings of the 911 calls made from Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, are public records within the Freedom of Information Act," Prescott wrote in his decision.

The tapes cannot be withheld, Prescott said, because there is no ongoing criminal investigation into the shooting and because their release would not cause irreparable harm, threats or intimidation to those who placed them.

"Having listened to the audio recordings, the court is confident that the individuals who placed the 911 calls would not hesitate to do so again," he said.

Prescott added he sympathizes with those who wish to avoid the public scrutiny the tapes will doubtlessly receive.

"The public airing by the media of some or all of the recordings that will undoubtedly follow their release will likely be a searing reminder of the horror and pain of that awful day," he wrote.

But, he said, "[T]he reality (is) that these audio recordings will eventually be made public at some point. The question is not if, but when."

In a statement Monday, Sedensky said he is "reviewing the judge’s decision and once that review is complete will determine what action (he) will take. That review will be completed before the effective date of the decision as set by the court."

The state's attorney's final report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting describes in detail the response and the actions police took after the first 911 call was placed from the school at 9:35 a.m.

First Selectman Pat Llodra, who for months had hoped they stayed sealed, said she'd now rather have them in the public sphere than deal with constant leaks of information.

"If we are required by court action to release the tapes, let's release them," she told Patch last week. "It's harmful and hurtful to our community to have things in the paper every day. That creates a chronic state of anxiety for people."

Report Outlines Police Response Time

While some details of the 911 calls have leaked to media in past months, the state's report on the shooting offers the clearest sense yet of what police response was actually like on the morning of Dec. 14.

The first call was placed at 9:35 a.m., beginning the official law enforcement response to the shooting. About 40 seconds later, at 9:36 a.m., dispatchers broadcast the news of a shooting at the school over police communication lines.

Within another minute — almost exactly two minutes after the first call was placed — Connecticut State Police were dispatched to the school with the alert: "Active Shooter."

The first Newtown officer arrived at the scene at exactly 9:39 a.m., followed closely by two more officers. They reported hearing gunshots in the background. Police entered the building five minutes and 34 seconds later.

"It was fewer than four minutes from the time the first 911 call was received until the first police officer arrived at the school," the report says. "It was fewer than five minutes from the first 911 call, and one minute after the arrival of the first officer, that the shooter killed himself. It was fewer than six minutes from the time the first police officer arrived on SHES property to the time the first police officer entered the school building. In fewer than 11 minutes twenty first-grade pupils and six adults had lost their lives."

The report did not provide content of the 911 calls, consistent with the same Freedom of Information Act law passed this spring.

"It is ... clear that law enforcement arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School within minutes of the first shots being fired," Sedensky wrote in the conclusion to the report. "They went into the school to save those inside with the knowledge that somebody might be waiting to take their lives."

Meanwhile, media leaks have continued from unnamed sources who claim to have heard the tapes.

The calls will be released Dec. 4 at 2 p.m., Prescott said.


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