An analysis of the Newtown Police Department’s (NPD) response to the 12/14 shootings at Sandy Hook School has found that Newtown police responded rapidly, positioned themselves appropriately, and followed police department policies concerning such a situation.
A four-member committee of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) prepared the report which was requested by Police Chief Michael Kehoe to clarify the sequence of events on that day. The CPCA is a professional association of 104 municipal police chiefs in the state which seeks to improve the quality of law enforcement.
The committee also produced a graphic timeline depicting the events which occurred on 12/14 from 9:35 to 10 am. The committee is comprised of four police chiefs in the state, including those from Manchester, Groton, Torrington, and South Windsor.
“The officers of the Newtown Police Department navigated the inevitable chaos created in the first few minutes of such a call, managed to piece together what was occurring, but were unable to intervene before the shooter took his own life. While we cannot prove that the shooter killed himself due to the police arrival, the history of like incidents suggests this may be the case,” according to the CPCA report.
On December 14, Adam Lanza, 20, of Sandy Hook shot and killed his mother at their home, after which he drove to Sandy Hook School. Lanza shot his way into the school and then methodically killed 20 first-graders and six adults.
The CPCA panel which prepared the report had access to pertinent police audio and video recordings, records of eyewitness accounts, and statements from first responders.
The goal of the study was to determine whether the Newtown police response was timely and was in keeping with current law enforcement best practices.
The first 911 call to police alerting them of the incident was received at 9:35:39 am. The first police officer to arrive at the scene got there two minutes and 41 seconds after the first police two-way radio broadcast of a shooting incident. Police entry to the school from at least two points was confirmed a 9:44:50 am.
The elapsed time between the first police officer’s arrival at the school and police entry to the school was just under six minutes, according to the report.
During that period, police found a person running along the exterior of the building, whom they apprehended and handcuffed. Police later learned that the person was a parent.
Overall, the elapsed time between police being dispatched to the school and police entering the school was eight minutes and 38 seconds, according to the CPCA.
“History teaches us that the typical active shooter only stops when confronted. As a result, the quicker the confrontation by police, the better…Newtown officers were on the scene a total of one minute and 10 seconds before the shooter committed suicide. Unfortunately, this was not enough time to assess the situation, confront the exterior threats, and tactically enter the locked building, and engage the shooter,” according to the report.
In a statement on the CPCA report which he issued to town police officers, Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico said, “I would like to also commend all of you — from the chief on down — for your professionalism, commitment, dedication to duty and understanding in these many months since that terrible day.
“The comprehensive report by the Connecticut Police Chief's Association, in addition to other recently released reports, give all of us the undeniable knowledge that all of you have conducted yourselves and responded to that most horrific incident with exemplary courage and valor. We, the citizens of Newtown and the greater public community, support and thank you for your service then, now and in the future,” he said.
Police Chief Michael Kehoe has said that town police will conduct a formal review of their response to the 12/14 incident after town police receive the complete state police report on the shooting incident. State police served as the lead agency in the crime investigation.