HARTFORD, Conn. – Lawyers for the parents of two children killed in the Newtown school shooting are demanding to see evidence that two teachers fatally shot in the massacre had access to keys that could have been used to lock the doors of their classrooms.
The attorneys filed motions in Danbury Superior Court this week asking a judge to allow them to examine two red emergency folders, now in state police custody, that were kept in the two classrooms to see if they contain door keys, as lawyers for Newtown say they do.
The request comes as part of a wrongful death lawsuit by the parents of victims Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner against Newtown on allegations that security measures at Sandy Hook Elementary School were not adequate when Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012. Lanza fatally shot his mother before going to the school, and he killed himself as police arrived at the school.
Among the numerous allegations in the lawsuit is that school officials failed to provide keys to either teacher Victoria Soto or substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau so they could follow school lockdown procedures and lock their doors. A lockdown, however, wasn't ordered at any time during the shooting, Newtown's lawyers say in court documents.
The lawsuit also says Newtown should be held liable for the fact that the classroom doors could only be locked from the outside in the hallway, which would have made it impossible for Soto and Rousseau to safely lock their doors as Lanza approached their rooms after shooting his way through the locked front glass entryway.
Fifteen students and Rousseau were killed in Room 8, and five students and Soto were slain in Room 10.
The motions to review the emergency folders were filed Tuesday, nearly two months after Newtown lawyers disclosed in court documents that the folders in every classroom contained keys. Newtown lawyers previously have said the teachers had keys, but they were not more specific.
"They're saying the keys were kept in the red folders," said Donald Papcsy, a lawyer for the parents suing the town. "We're saying, OK, let's go look."
Papcsy added that even if Soto and Rousseau did not have time to lock their doors before Lanza entered their classrooms, school officials set them up to fail to be able to follow lockdown procedures. He said the aim of the lawsuit is to make sure schools have adequate emergency plans.
John Cannavino Jr., an attorney representing the town, said he does not comment on pending litigation.
In court documents, lawyers for Newtown said there is no evidence security was inadequate, Lanza's actions caused the deaths and municipalities are immune from the liability of others. School officials had put new security measures in place at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, including locking doors during school hours.
Even if Rousseau and Soto had keys and the doors could be locked from the inside, it's not clear whether the teachers could have locked the doors in time or prevented any deaths, said Phil Santore, senior principal of the Hamden, Connecticut-based security consulting firm DVS.
"Anyone can argue if I had a key I could have locked the door. Maybe you could, maybe you couldn't," said Santore, whose firm consulted on the new World Trade Center buildings in New York and the new Sandy Hook Elementary School that was built after the old one was torn down. "I don't know that there's anything definitive you could say about it."