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'There's Somebody Shooting': Newtown Tapes Released

Chilling recordings of the Newtown massacre were released Wednesday afternoon, ending a nearly year-long legal fight over victims' rights and access to public records.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    One of the first calls to police from the scene of the 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. came from a panicked woman inside.

    "Sandy Hook School," she told the dispatcher in a shaky voice, according to tapes of the 911 calls released by authorities Wednesday. "I think there's somebody shooting in here."

    "OK," the dispatcher replied calmly. "What makes you think that?"

    "There's Somebody Shooting": Newtown Tapes Released

    [NY] "There's Somebody Shooting": Newtown Tapes Released
    One of the first calls to police from the scene of the 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. came from a panicked woman inside. Erika Tarantal reports.

    "Because somebody's got a gun," the woman said. "I caught a glimpse of somebody running down the hallway."

    And then: "They're still running. They're still shooting. Sandy Hook School, please."

    For several more minutes, the woman and other callers flooded the lines of Newtown police and the State Police, pleading for help.

    A custodian, Rick Thorne, told a dispatcher that gunshots were coming from the front of the building, down a corridor from where he stood. 

    With Thorne still on the line, the dispatcher told a colleague: "Get the sergeant. Alright, get everyone you can going down there."

    Thorne remained on the phone, providing updates as shots rang out.

    "There's still shooting going on," he said, pops audible in the background. "Please."

    The dispatchers assured the callers that help was on the way and urged them to take cover, and lock classroom doors. They repeatedly asked about the welfare of the students, not knowing the carnage unfolding.

    A teacher hiding with her students in her classroom said she'd heard shots in the hallway.

    "OK, lock the door, keep everybody calm, keep everybody down," the dispatcher told her. "Get everybody away from the windows, OK?"

    A teacher said she'd been shot in the foot.

    "Just keep pressure on it," the dispatcher told her. "We have people heading out there."

    Within five minutes from the first call, police were at the school. But by then the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, had killed 20 children and six educators, and turned a gun on himself. Officers, concerned about the possibility of an additional shooter on school grounds, did not immediately enter the school, but it is not clear that the delay made any difference.

    The chilling recordings were released Wednesday afternoon, ending a nearly year-long legal fight by the Associated Press, which sought to review them as a way to assess the response of emergency workers.

    The tapes covered seven calls made from landlines within Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not included were calls made from cell phones, including those made from victims or witnesses inside the building. Those calls are subject to a separate, pending freedom of information request by the A.P.

    Prosecutors opposed making the recordings public, as did many families of the victims, who said they would cause more grief and emotional trauma.

    “We know that if graphic images and audio recordings of the events of December 14 are released to the public, they will be used to harass and further victimize the surviving children and teachers who witnessed their friends being killed, and the families of those who lost their lives,” Dean Pinto, whose 6-year-old son, Jack, was killed in the school, told the Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public's Right to Know earlier this year.

    Shari Burton, a teaching assistant who called 911 that day, told the task force that "there is nothing to be gained, no arrest to be made" through the tapes' release. She predicted "a lot more hurt and relived heartache."

    But Cristina Hassinger, whose mother, Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, was shot to death, spoke in support of the release. "The more information I have, the easier it is to wrap my brain around," she said.

    Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra wrote on her blog a plea "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."

    Among the last of the tapes is a recording of Thorne identifying himself as a custodian to officers who have just entered the school.

    Finally, a man called to say his wife had just texted him that there was a shooting in the school.

    "OK, we have officers on scene at this time," the dispatcher told him. "They're clearing the school."

    With reporting by the Associated Press