A judge has ordered Newtown police to release the 911 calls from the Sandy Hook school shooting.
State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, the lead investigator of the Sandy Hook case, has been trying to block the release of the calls, citing concerns about possible harassment of the families and respect for their privacy. In September, the state’s Freedom of Information Commission ordered him to release the recordings. Sedensky appealed.
Now Superior Judge Eliot Prescott has ruled that the recordings must be made public by Dec. 4 at 2 p.m:
At that time, unless otherwise ordered by a higher court having jurisdiction over this matter, this decision will become effective. At the same time, this court will also order that the audio recordings that were reviewed by the court in camera be unsealed.
Sources say the calls include the sounds of two gunshots but no graphic sounds from victims.
In his 33-page decision, 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.
Prescott acknowledged that some do not want the calls released, but stated that the recordings would eventually become public anyway:
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. Further delaying their release will not ultimately serve to ameliorate the pain the recordings will likely cause those directly impacted by the shootings.
Prescott wrote that airing the recordings would let the public decide whether any procedural changes might be necessary:
Releasing the recordings will assist the public in gauging the appropriateness of law enforcement’s response to calls for help from the public. 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 withholding the calls “only serves to fuel speculation about and undermine confidence in our law enforcement officials.”
Sedensky said he is reviewing the judge’s decision and will determine what action he will take.
Victor R. Perpetua is an attorney for the state Freedom of Information Commission, which ordered Sednesky to release the calls back in September. He said he is pleased that the judge upheld their decision:
I am delighted to see the system work and that we have a thoughtful judge who wrote a careful, lawyerly decision. I hope that the result will be further disclosure of the actual and complete records of the investigation, not simply the ones picked and chosen by law enforcement officials. I think the judge sends a powerful and cogent message that it’s not solely for law enforcement officials to decide what should be represented to the public. People have a right to know how their law-enforcement officials are working for them.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”
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