By: Michael Winter
A Connecticut judge Tuesday ordered Newtown police to release the 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
The recordings must be made public by Dec. 4, Superior Judge Eliot Prescott said in a 33-pagedecision rejecting arguments by Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky that the calls contain “information relative to child abuse” and may cause emotional harm to survivors and victims’ families.
The calls from inside the school include two gunshots but no graphic sounds from victims during the Dec. 14 carnage, which killed 20 first-graders and six educators, sources have told the Danbury News Times.
Sedensky said he will review Prescott’s decision to determine whether to appeal.
In September, the state’s Freedom of Information Commission unanimously ruled that Newtown police must give the audio to the Associated Press.
Prescott wrote that he “reluctantly” listened to the recordings in which callers described the events “in a harrowing and disturbing manner.” But no children were identified by name and no caller reported seeing any child injured. The only wound described involved an educator shot in a foot, he noted.
Nonetheless, he said he was “deeply sensitive” to desires that the calls never be released.
“The public airing by media of some or all of the recordings that will undoubtedly follow their release will likely be a searing reminder of the horror and pain of that awful day,” Prescott wrote.
But he acknowledged the “reality” that the recordings would eventually be made public.
“Further delaying their release will not ultimately serve to ameliorate the pain the recordings will likely cause those directly impacted by the shootings,” he said.
Releasing the recordings “will assist the public in gauging the appropriateness of law enforcement’s response to calls for help from the public,” he wrote. “In fact, public analysis of the recordings may serve to vindicate and support the professionalism and bravery of first responders … who themselves have undoubtedly been subject to emotional turmoil and pain in witnessing the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
The judge added that airing the recordings would let the public decide whether any procedural changes might be necessary.
Delaying their release “only serves to fuel speculation about and undermine confidence in our law enforcement officials,” Prescott wrote.