MIDDLETOWN — On Friday afternoon, Connecticut State Police released a report on the agency’s response to the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 26 children and educators dead. A 20-year-old gunman killed 20 first-grade children and six educators inside the school before killing himself.
Police said in the new report that unnecessary personnel potentially contaminated the crime scene by stepping on bullet casings and glass shards before they were collected for evidence.
The report concludes state police handled the response effectively, but it makes numerous recommendations about crime scene integrity, how to deal with victims' families and other issues.
One recommendation is limiting access to the crime scene to authorized personnel. The report said uninvolved police officials and "dignitaries" were allowed in and disrupted the crime scene.
The report does not specifically address why it took more than five years to complete.
."It's etched in our mind for those of us who were there, those of us who worked there, we'll never forget, but you try to take something positive away from this," said retired State Police Lieutenant, J. Paul Vance, after the report was released
Vance also said he's not surprised by the delay.
"The staffing issues I understand, the change of command issues,” he said, “I was still there and experienced it and I'm not surprised. It had to be put aside at certain times to accomplish things."
Officers from the Newtown Police Department were the first to respond to the scene. A prosecutor’s report in 2013 said that nearly six minutes passed between the arrival of the first Newtown police officer and the time officers entered the school. Officers were not able to intervene before the gunman turned the gun on himself.
The 74-page report is broken down into six sections, and ends with a Summary of Recommendations. The six sections are:
- Initial Response
- Tactical Operations
- Criminal Investigation
- Command Post/Public Information
- Support Services
- Survivors’ and Victims’ Families
Vance said the goal of the report was to inform and educate law enforcement around the country when it comes to responding to mass shooting incidents.
"What we can take away from this is trying to ensure that not only in the response that it's organized and orchestrated, but that the training reflects what's learned in this report," he said.