State police report: Civilians stepped on evidence at Sandy Hook

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 13, 2018 at 10:55 AM
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Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Civilians and police disturbed evidence, including bullet casings, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecfticut where 26 students and adults died, a new state police report determined.

The 74-page report was released Friday, five years after Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six adults before killing himself at the school in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.

The after-action report," a critique how a police agency's response to a mass casualty situation, is common practice among law enforcement agencies.

"Other individuals from uninvolved CSP command staff to members of outside agencies to dignitaries were allowed into the school at one time or another over the next several days, disrupting the processing of the scene by detectives, potentially risking scene integrity and unnecessarily exposing personnel to the disturbing scene," the report said.

The crime scene -- the two classrooms where the children and four teachers were killed -- and the hallway where Principal Dawn Hochsprung and School Psychologist Mary Sherlach were killed -- was not handled properly, the report said.

"Relevant evidence was stepped on, including bullet casings and glass shards, which had yet to be processed," the report said.

The report also said there may have been further, unnecessary panic because personnel did not have adequate identification.

"Personnel were observed walking around the school and parking lot with long guns and handguns displayed, and were not sufficiently identifiable as police officers as opposed to a possible suspect," the report said.

"This could cause further panic among civilians, a 'blue on blue' friendly fire situation, or a decrease in scene security."

The report also questioned law enforcement officers' interactions with the students' families.

"Some family members indicated the police did not appear to be in control in part because of the large groups of children and parents reuniting," it said. "It also appeared as though they were unsure how to manage the chaos."

And the time it took for families to receive news about the victims created "an overall sense of frustration, and at times anger," according to the report.

"Some felt it was unnecessary and 'tortuous' to have to wait for so long. During the delay, families were told that police were checking area hospitals and other locations to ensure accurate accountability. Other announcements made by police personnel were seen as unnecessary." Victims' families said "it seemed as though the world knew what was going on and they were the last to find out," according to the report.

State police officials first presented the report to the victims' families in a private meeting Friday morning and to department administrators at their headquarters before releasing it to the public Friday afternoon.

Despite the problems noted, the Connecticut State Police response was "handled effectively," according to the report.

"Had it not been for the heroic actions of the teachers, school staff and the response force, the number of victims could have been higher."

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