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Conn. state police to release report on response to Sandy Hook shooting

There’s been some mystery surrounding the reason the state police have taken more than five years to release an after-action report for the Sandy Hook shooting


In this Dec. 14, 2012, file photo, officials stand outside of Sandy Hook Elementary School after a shooting in Newtown, Conn.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File

By Dave Altimari
The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, Conn. — State police are planning to release a report Friday on the agency’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting more than five years ago.

The document, known as an after-action report, usually critiques a police agency’s response to a mass casualty situation such as the Sandy Hook shooting, where lone gunman Adam Lanza fatally shot 26 people at the Newtown school, including 20 first-graders, and then killed himself.

Sources said state police officials will present the report to the victims’ families in a private meeting Friday morning. A presentation is then planned for state police administrators at their headquarters in Middletown before the report will be released to the public.

Sources familiar with the report said it is about 60-80 pages and was completed recently. It was reassigned to someone other than Lt. Erik Murray, who was originally assigned to do the after-action report within days of the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting.

After-action reports are used by law enforcement agencies across the country to learn best practices following a mass casualty event. There has been some mystery surrounding the reason the state police have taken more than five years to do one for the Sandy Hook shooting.

The Courant, which wrote in November about the delay in finishing the report, has requested a copy several times and has been told it is still pending.

Sources said Murray’s original report was about 160 pages long and raised questions about how the crime scene was secured, how the families were notified their children had died and how police missed two school employees hiding in a closet in the principal’s office for several hours.

Murray was assigned to do the after-action report within days of the massacre. Multiple sources said Murray created a form for all of the authorities who responded to the shootings to fill out, detailing their actions that day. Those authorities included the state police officers who first entered the classrooms where the 20 first-graders were murdered, the SWAT team members and the command personnel.

In 2015, when The Courant first requested the report, Murray was transferred to headquarters and ordered to complete it. State police sources said Murray finished a preliminary report that was shared with members of the Western District Crime Squad and other state police brass, who asked for revisions.

It is unclear what has happened to the report since those revisions were made. State police Col. Alaric Fox said part of the problem was a staff shortage.

“Feedback was solicited from dozens of individuals, including responding troopers, support personnel, outside agencies, and family members of victims. What resulted from this solicitation was a large volume of feedback that required comprehensive analysis, " Fox said. “The process has been time-consuming and delayed due to several factors, including limited resources and the attrition of several of the personnel working on this project. “

Meanwhile, state police detectives involved in the investigation have traveled across the country speaking at law enforcement conferences about the investigation. The practice was briefly stopped after The Courant wrote about it a few years ago, but has since been revived.

The State Police Administrative and Operations Manual contains a section on when after-action reports are supposed to be done, what they should include and who should get copies.

The report is supposed to be done “after a public safety emergency has occurred and troopers have been committed to resolve it.” A commanding officer should be assigned to do the report and is supposed to have a copy to the state police commissioner “no later than a week” after the incident.

The state police report does not include any interviews with Newtown police officers who were the first responders on the scene. Newtown did not do an after-action report, instead relying on the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association to review its response.

Newtown officers arrived at the school while the gunman was still shooting but did not enter the building for more than five minutes, according to a prosecutor’s report.

The police chiefs association’s nine-page report concluded that Newtown officers responded quickly to the school and that 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.”

Since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado on April 20, 1999, which changed the way law enforcement responds to mass shootings, after-action reports have been issued on mass shootings at a Navy shipyard in Washington, D.C., a movie theater in Aurora, Col., and in a one-room school house in Pennsylvania Amish country.

©2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)