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Newtown’s 911 calls reveal a nightmare

CDs of 911 calls from the Sandy Hook school shootings were made available Wednesday in Danbury, Conn.

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

CDs of 911 calls from the Sandy Hook school shootings were made available Wednesday in Danbury, Conn.

DANBURY, Conn. — “Sandy Hook School, I think there is someone shooting in here, Sandy Hook School.”

The female caller’s voice is shaking, the call lasts just 24 seconds and there are few details she can provide. Within moments the Newtown, Conn., Police Department was inundated with calls, all reporting some version of the same nightmare: A shooter was inside the elementary school.

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There was a teacher who remained remarkably calm as she described what was unfolding around her.

“It sounds like there are gunshots in the hallway,” she said, adding that she was with her students in a classroom. “The door isn’t locked,” she said. “I have to go lock the door.”

There was a custodian who stayed on the line with police for nearly the entire duration of the shooting while trying to ensure that the school was locked down.

“I keep hearing shooting,” he said. “I keep hearing popping.”

And there was the woman who was shot in the foot, telling 911 where in the school she was as the operator told her help was on the way.

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“We have people coming,” the operator told her.

Those are some of the 911 calls placed on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The recordings were scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. Wednesday, but several Connecticut newspapers uploaded the audio earlier.

The release of the recordings comes a little more than a week after the release of the findings of the Connecticut State Police investigation into the massacre.

That report offered a vivid and disturbing portrait of the shooter, Lanza, 20, who also killed his mother and himself.

It also gave the most detailed account of what happened inside the school that morning, starting with the moment that Lanza blasted his way through the plate-glass window to the right of the locked front lobby doors.

The custodian, who identifies himself in the recording as Rick Thorne, gave the 911 operator a real-time account of the shootings, even as he tried to ensure that the building was locked down.

“The front glass is all shot out,” he said.

“It kept going on,” he continued. “It’s still happening.”

As the anniversary of the shooting approaches, the report and the anticipation of the release of the 911 recordings have revived memories of the horror of that day.

Stephen J. Sedensky III, the state’s attorney in Danbury, fought to keep the recordings private after the Associated Press petitioned for their release. Sedensky argued that their release would intimidate potential witnesses, impede the investigation, and reveal “information relative to child abuse.”

Judge Eliot D. Prescott of the Superior Court in New Britain listened to the recordings and upheld a ruling by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, saying that there was no legal basis to withhold their content.

The first 911 call from the school to the Newtown Police Department came in at 9:35.39 a.m. It was the 24-second call made from the school’s administrative office, according to the report.

When the woman is asked why she believes a shooter is in the school, she replies: “Because somebody has got a gun. I saw the glimpse of somebody. They’re running down the hallway. They’re still running. They’re still shooting. Sandy Hook school please.”

Soon after Lanza entered the building, the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, left a meeting they were attending in Room 9 to investigate.

Another staff member, who was not named in the report, followed them into the hallway. Hochsprung and Sherlach were shot and killed. The staff member was shot in the leg but managed to crawl back to Room 9, hold the door shut, and call 911.

The telephone was inadvertently used to turn on the schoolwide intercom, which gave warning to others in the building.

The first officer arrived at the school less than four minutes after the first 911 call, according to police. The shooter killed himself one minute later.

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