HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Recordings of calls to the emergency dispatcher from the Newtown, Conn., school shooting are being released, days after a state prosecutor dropped his fight to continue withholding them despite an order to provide them to the Associated Press.
For nearly a year, the AP has been asking for an opportunity to review the tapes, which will now be released Wednesday to the news cooperative in addition to other media organizations. The AP will review the tapes' content and determine what might meet its standards before releasing material to subscribers.
It's important to remember, though, that 911 tapes, like other police documents, are public records. Reviewing them is a part of normal newsgathering in a responsible news organization
"We all understand why some people have strong feelings about the release of these tapes. This was a horrible crime," said Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president. "It's important to remember, though, that 911 tapes, like other police documents, are public records. Reviewing them is a part of normal newsgathering in a responsible news organization."
A total of seven landline calls from inside the school to Newtown police are expected to be released.
Calls that were made from cellphones and routed to state police dispatchers are not among the tapes to be released. Those include calls from a woman who was injured in the foot and a parent who called from inside a conference room during the shooting, according to documents released last week by prosecutors. The calls are the subject of a separate, pending freedom of information request by the AP.
The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School the morning of Dec. 14 and gunned down 20 children and six educators with a semi-automatic rifle. He also killed his mother in their Newtown home before driving to the school, and he committed suicide as police arrived at the scene.
The day of the shooting, the AP requested documents, including copies of calls to the police emergency number 911, as it does routinely in newsgathering. The town's police department denied the AP's request. The AP appealed to the state's Freedom of Information Commission, which ruled in September the recordings should be released.
The prosecutor in charge of the Newtown investigation, State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, had argued that releasing the tapes could hurt the investigation, subject witnesses to harassment and violate survivors who deserve special protection as victims of child abuse. A state Superior Court judge dismissed those arguments last week as he declined to keep the tapes sealed while Sedensky pursued an appeal of the commission's order. Sedensky said Monday that he would not pursue the case further.
Newtown officials are making copies of the tapes available Wednesday in the Danbury offices of attorneys for the town.