Authorities in Connecticut released a final report Friday outlining the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, providing the most complete account to date for one of the nation’s most wrenching massacres.
It contained hundreds of photographs, hours of video, and voluminous crime scene reports, but took care to conceal the most graphic crime scene images.
Yet painfully detailed descriptions accompanied the often-redacted pages, relaying accounts of police officers dashing to locked classrooms and closets, at times straining to convince terrified teachers on the other side that they were law enforcement.
There were new details concerning the gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, and his mother, who told an acquaintance the day before the shooting that she had traveled to New Hampshire for a brief trip as “an experiment to allow Adam to stay at home alone for a few days,” according to the documents, and many photographs of the contents of their house, including one of a young child holding what appears to be a gun, with ammunition in his lap.
Then there were the families who, less than a month later, informed the police that they could not yet bear to receive their child’s belongings, recovered at the school.
For all its material, the report did not appear to alter the broader understanding of the shooting, for which the authorities have not established a clear motive.
The state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said the release of the full report, which included many redactions, was “indicative that this State Police criminal investigation is concluded.”
Questions of how and when to release sensitive investigative details from the shooting have been prevalent since shortly after the massacre, which left 20 first-graders and six adults from the school dead. Lanza also killed his mother and himself.
In a letter accompanying the report, Reuben F. Bradford, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the names and “contextually identifying information of involved children” had been withheld, including descriptions of the children, their clothing, and their belongings.
He added that “all visual images depicting the deceased have been withheld, as well as written descriptions whose disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and would violate the constitutional rights of the families.”
Bradford said balancing the “often competing interests of government transparency and individual privacy has been difficult.”
Stephen J. Sedensky III, the state’s attorney in Danbury, had fought to keep private the recordings of 911 calls made from the school. But Judge Eliot D. Prescott of the Superior Court in New Britain ruled last month that there was no legal basis to keep the recordings secret; they were released Dec. 4. He said their release might “serve to vindicate and support the professionalism and bravery of first responders.”
The records’ release Friday followed the issuance of a far shorter report last month by Sedensky’s office. At the time, the account provided the most detail yet about Lanza’s final months — his bedroom windows covered with black trash bags, as he was preoccupied with violent video games and spoke to his mother only through e-mail, even though they shared a floor in a house on Yogananda Street.
But the state’s attorney’s report did not offer a motive for the massacre. It also did not name the children who died, nor did it include graphic descriptions of the crime scene.
“There is no clear indication why Sandy Hook Elementary School was selected,” Sedensky wrote then, “other than perhaps its close proximity to the shooter’s home.”
Lanza had created a spreadsheet of some of the worst massacres in US history, according to the authorities, and he seemed to have planned his attack carefully.
According to information from a GPS device, he had driven to the area of the school one day earlier, while his mother was away.
Around 9:34 a.m. Dec. 14, Lanza blasted through the glass windows at the school’s locked entrance, the police said. At 9:40, he shot himself in a first-grade classroom.
Bradford said that while the investigation was closed “for administrative purposes,” additional supplemental reports might be released in the coming months.