Long-awaited review on Sandy Hook police response released

HARTFORD, Conn. — After the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, police officials not involved in the investigation and “dignitaries” were allowed into the building and potentially contaminated the crime scene by stepping on bullet casings and glass shards that had yet to be processed as evidence, according to a report state police released Friday on their response to the mass shooting.

The long-awaited report concludes state police handled the response effectively, but it recommends improvements to protecting crime scene integrity, dealing with victims’ families and other issues. A 2013 report on the response by Newtown police said that department responded rapidly and followed policy.

Gunman Adam Lanza killed his mother at their Newtown home before shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and killing 20 first-graders, six educators and himself. Investigators never found a clear motive but said Lanza suffered mental health problems and was obsessed with mass shootings.

“The unprecedented nature of this incident posed numerous challenges,” the state police report says. “The unique dynamics of this tragedy tasked the agency’s resources and tested the capacity and capabilities of individuals and units alike. … 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.”

The report does not specifically address why it took five years to complete. Other “after-action” reports, including those written after mass shootings at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, the Washington Navy Yard and a building in San Bernardino, California, were finished about a year after the killings.

The delay in the Sandy Hook case is unusual, John DeCarlo, a former police chief who is a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, told CBS News reporter Graham Kates last month.

“In any of the instances that I have ever heard of, when something like this happens, and there’s a major incident like this, there is an after-action,” DeCarlo said. “Now when you ask is five years a long time? Yeah, that’s a real long time.”

Former State Police Col. Danny Stebbins, who before his retirement in 2014 oversaw the investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting, told Kates in December that a draft of the after-action report was completed at least two and half years ago. A spokeswoman for the Connecticut State Police confirmed at the time that a draft was completed,…

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