Newtown 911 tapes: 'They're still running, they're still shooting'

Newtown 911 tapes: 'They're still running, they're still shooting'

"I think there's somebody shooting in here," says an unidentified woman calling from inside the school.

"What makes you think that?" a 911 dispatcher asks.

"Because somebody's got a gun, I saw a glimpse of somebody running down the hallway," she replies, her voice shaking. "They're still running, they're still shooting."

Harrowing 911 calls made from Sandy Hook Elementary School to police in Newtown, Conn., were released Wednesday, giving the public a small but chilling window into the mass shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 children, last December.

Authorities released seven audio-enhanced calls made as 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza shot his way into the school and began his killing spree.

Newtown police dispatchers can be heard urging school administrators to take shelter amid the massacre.

"Keep everyone down, keep everyone away from the windows," a female dispatcher calmly tells a teacher. "Try to lock down the school."

A male dispatcher stayed on the line for several minutes with Rick Thorne, the school's custodian.

"There's still shooting going on, please!" Thorne shouts. “I keep hearing shooting. I keep hearing popping.” The sound of gunshots can be heard in the background.

The dispatcher picks up several calls in a row while keeping the custodian on the line for updates on the shooting.

"Guys, we've got a shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown," the dispatcher says to his colleagues. "That's why 911 is ringing off the hook right now."

Stephen Sedensky III, a state's attorney, fought against the release of the calls, arguing that the tapes — which were "being made on the murder of children as it occurs" — were too gruesome for residents to bear.

"If the public never hears those cries for help during this process, they won't be harmed," Sedensky said last month.

Nathan C. Zezula, attorney for the Newtown Police Department, said the department wanted to keep the tapes away from "voyeuristic interests."

But Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott ruled that the 911 tapes be released under the Freedom of Information Act so the public could judge the police response to the killings.

On Tuesday, Newtown School Superintendent John Reed sent an email to Newtown parents, warning that the recordings could serve as an "emotional trigger."

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra, who supported making the calls public, released a statement Wednesday:

The release of the tapes will create a new layer of pain for many in the Newtown community. Hearing those calls takes us back to a day of horror and tragedy. My plea is for the media to treat us kindly ... to recognize that there is great personal pain in this event and little public good to be garnered through the general release. Imagine yourself as a parent of a child who was killed, or a family member of one of the six educators. Imagine yourself as a teacher or staff member in that building desperate to save the lives of children. Imagine you are the parent of a child who was able to escape. Then ask yourself, media person, what is the public good and how do I balance that against the hurt?

Last week, Sedensky released a summary of the state's nearly yearlong investigation into the massacre, shedding no new light on Lanza's motive. Lanza, who killed his mother at their Newtown home before his rampage at the school, killed himself as police arrived.

"The obvious question that remains is: 'Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?'" the report states. "Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively."

With additional reporting from Liz Goodwin and Jason Sickles.


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