Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.
NEWTOWN, Conn. (USA TODAY) - Emergency dispatchers at the Newtown Police
Department warned a panicked teacher to protect herself and her
students, urged another staffer to apply pressure to a gunshot wound to
her leg and told the school custodian to take cover as the Sandy Hook
Elementary massacre unfolded.
The advice came via 911 exchanges
between school staffers and 911 dispatchers minutes after gunman Adam
Lanza shot and killed 20 students and six staffers with a
semi-automatic assault rifle before taking his own life. Earlier that
day, Lanza, 20, shot his mother, Nancy, at their Newtown home.
of the 911 calls were released Wednesday afternoon, nearly a year after
the Dec. 14 massacre rocked this genteel community. Officials said they
would not release the names of the dispatchers, whose response to an
incoming flood of calls was calm, deliberate and reassuring even as
gunshots are audible in the background.
On the tapes, custodian
Rick Thorne tells dispatchers that he "keeps hearing popping noises''
before he's warned to take cover. On another call, an unidentified
teacher says "it sounds like there are gunshots in the hallway" before
she goes to locks the door to her classroom.
INTERACTIVE: Mass killings in the US
A dispatcher tells her to ''keep everyone calm, keep everyone down, keep everyone from the windows."
The unidentified wounded teacher, shot in a hallway, retreats to a classroom. A dispatcher asks "Are you okay right now?" and the teacher responds; "For now, hopefully."
The 911 calls underscore the chaos and confusion that occurred on the morning of the shootings. But
like the report released last week by the Connecticut State Attorney's
Office that chronicled the shooting spree and provided chilling details
about Lanza's troubled, isolated life, the tapes provide no motive for
his actions or why the Sandy Hook school was targeted.
and state officials had fought release of the tapes - which include a
10-minute call by school custodian Rick Thorne and six others - to
protect victims and families.
But a state judge ruled that the recordings should be made public.
"Delaying the release of the audio recordings, particularly where the
legal justification to keep them confidential is lacking, only serves to
fuel speculation about and undermine confidence in our law enforcement
officials, " said New Britain Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott.
Newtown school superintendent John Reed advised parents to limit media exposure to students.
of the tapes creates "a new layer of pain for many in the Newtown
community," says Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra, the town's chief
executive. "Hearing those calls takes us back to a day of horror and
Richard Harwood of the Harwood Institute for
Public Innovation assisted Newtown residents following the shootings.
Today's release of the 911 calls won't help a community that continues
to grapple with closure, he says.
"I think it's going to be
tormenting,'' Harwood says. "At each turn, the people of Newtown have
been asked to relive this tragedy. Last week's state report, now this -
it's a lot to handle."
The state's report said the first police
officer arrived at the school within four minutes of the first 911 call -
about one minute before Lanza shot himself.
"The calls are
going to be gut-wrenching. My hope is that the folks in Newtown will be
able work through yet another challenge,'' he says. "The healing process
The Associated Press had fought for release of the tapes.
all understand why some people have strong feelings about the release
of these tapes. This was a horrible crime," says AP executive editor
Kathleen Carroll. "It's important to remember, though, that 911 tapes,
like other police documents, are public records. Reviewing them is a
part of normal newsgathering in a responsible news organization."
Contributing: Associated Press
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