December 4, 2013

Newtown 911 dispatcher urged callers to take cover

Seven recordings of landline calls from inside Sandy Hook Elementary School to Newtown police were released Wednesday.

By Michael Melia And Jack Gillum
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A bus drives past a sign reading Welcome to Sandy Hook, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Newtown, Conn. The 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings released Wednesday show town dispatchers urged panicked callers to take cover, mobilized help and asked about the welfare of the children as the boom of gunfire could be heard at times in the background. The recordings are released under court order after a legal challenge from The Associated Press.

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

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In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead a line of children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 after a shooting at the school. Recordings of 911 calls from the Newtown school shooting are being released Wednesday Dec. 4, 2013, days after a state prosecutor dropped his fight to continue withholding them despite an order to provide them to The Associated Press.

AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks, File

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“We all understand why some people have strong feelings about the release of these tapes. This was a horrible crime,” said Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president. “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.”

Teresa Rousseau, whose daughter Lauren was among the six educators killed, said she hadn’t listened to the tapes: “The way we keep our sanity is to start ignoring this stuff.”

Rousseau, an editor at the Danbury News-Times, said there was no need to play the tapes on the radio or television.

“I think there’s a big difference between secrecy and privacy,” Rousseau said. “We have these laws so government isn’t secret, not so we’re invading victims’ privacy.”

On the day of the shooting, the AP requested 911 calls and police reports, as it and other news organizations routinely do in their newsgathering.

The prosecutor in charge of the Newtown investigation, State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, argued that releasing the tapes could cause pain for the victims’ families, hurt the investigation, subject witnesses to harassment and violate the rights of survivors who deserve special protection as victims of child abuse.

A state judge dismissed those arguments last week.

“Release of the audio recordings will also allow the public to consider and weigh what improvements, if any, should be made to law enforcement’s response to such incidents,” Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said.

“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.”

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