NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Town and police officials and the family member of a victim are defending the Newtown police response to the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in response to a report that State Police are examining whether officers unnecessarily delayed entering the building.
They said any hesitation either was minimal or justified given the chaos at the scene, including a report, later proven unfounded, of a second shooter at the school as well as fears by the first officers on the scene that the gunman was firing at them.
The comments were a reaction to a story in the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers on Sunday, indicating a review by state police investigators of audio and video recordings from the cruisers of the first Newtown police officers to arrive at the school revealed that Adam Lanza fired up to 10 rounds before police went in.
Cristina Hassinger, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, said in the many investigation updates families have received from state police, no mention has ever been of a delayed response from local police entering the building.
"Of course, they have to do a thorough investigation, but I don't believe there was any unnecessary delay" she said. "But I'm sure there will be some families who will be very upset about this."
Scott Ruszczyk, president of the Newtown Police Union, said, "I would say I'm familiar with the investigation, and from everything I know, they did not delay going into the building. From everything I know, our guys acted professionally and aggressively."
Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs, one of the first out-of-town police officers on the scene, was even more vehement.
Fuchs, who was en route to a meeting in Hartford but diverted to Sandy Hook after hearing about the shooting on his police radio, said had Newtown officers gone in more quickly, they couldn't have saved any of the 20 first-graders and six adults killed by Lanza.
Although he has not viewed the recordings, Fuchs said he monitored the actions of the first responders through their radio transmissions.
"No video or audio tape is going to change it. Nothing they could have done would have changed the outcome," he said. "To say anything different is mortifying to me."
A report by Danbury State's Attorney Stephen A. Sedensky III, who is overseeing the state police investigation into the shootings, is expected to be completed by September. Sedensky has said Lanza shot 154 rounds from his semiautomatic rifle while in the school.
Mary Ann Jacob, a school librarian who helped usher 18 students to safety on Dec. 14, said any implication that police officers were delayed in entering the building isn't backed up with facts.
"Of course, every second the police were delayed probably cost another life," she said. "But to imply that they delayed longer than reasonable, I believe, is unfair and untrue."
Jacob said educators locked students into the library, which is in the rear of the building, when the shooting started shortly after 9:35 a.m. It wasn't until she saw one of the doors open and the barrel of a gun -- closely followed by the face of a police officer -- that she realized one of the doors wouldn't lock. At that point, the educators ushered the students into a nearby closet.
Because of the look on the officers' face, Jacob said, "we didn't feel like the danger was over."
"My feeling when I saw that officer is that the shooting was still going on," Jacob said. "There was every indication that he was running towards danger. I'm very proud of all the work the police officers did that day. It was more than any human should ever have to do."
Ruszczyk said Lanza had stopped shooting by the time police reached the entrance of the school.
The union leader also questioned whether the source who spoke to Hearst about the camera data had all the information that has so far been collected by investigators.
"Every aspect that can be recorded was recorded, "including encrypted conversations between police officers at the school, he said. "When that's released, it may be appropriate to draw some conclusions. Until then, it's premature."
He said that it was not out of the ordinary to reinterview the responding Newtown officers multiple times, as state police have done.
"That's absolutely normal," he said.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said Monday she believes any investigation that evaluates how police responded to a major crime is standard practice. She said she has the highest confidence in the town's police.
"We have an extraordinary police force that responded quickly, efficiently and effectively," Llodra said.
Copyright 2013 - The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service