State’s Attorney report: Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings

Posted by on December 2, 2013

The Connecticut State’s Attorney final summary report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings for many is an underwhelming, anticlimactic account of an overwhelming tragedy.

No earth-shattering new lessons, but repeated themes of past shootings

Rather than revealing a stream of earth-shattering new lessons learned, the report sadly reiterates themes heard over and over again from school shootings of the past:

  • A shooter with mental health issues and dysfunction at home;
  • A school with reasonable security and preparedness measures where educators and school support staff became heroes; and
  • A world left without answers to the question, “Why?”

My observations are not meant as criticism. In fact, the report’s findings are very much aligned with my expectation that its contents would be more repetitive of past issues and lessons learned than of new revelations.

Critics and special interests will likely generate fragmented discussions, less focus

Critics of the report have already expressed frustrations with the report’s perceived lack of depth and failure to state conclusions drawn from, or recommendations based upon, the investigative findings. But when we step back from our emotional desires of what we would like to see and refocus on the type of report that was produced and its source, we should largely expect what we got: A report of facts found from a criminal investigation, not a public policy document.

The report leads to some easily formulated conclusions: The shooter had serious mental health issues. There was dysfunction at the shooter’s home. The shooter was obsessed with mass murderers and had an intense interest in certain video games. The teachers and school support staff acted to protect children in a heroic manner. The police were on scene in minutes and the shooter took his own life within a minute of the first officer’s arrival.

The reported facts will also lead to, and in fact has already generated, debate on certain specific issues: Was the police response reasonable? Did the police delay entry into the school? Would any different police action have had any different outcome?

Special interest groups will also likely hijack the report to further their particular agendas in the same manner they politically hijacked the shooting itself to advocate for their causes. Gun control activists, gun rights advocates, security product vendors, and others will likely put their self-serving spin on the report.

More documents are forthcoming as the Connecticut State Police full report is expected to be released with redactions prior to the December 14th one-year-anniversary of the shootings.  Meanwhile, the final summary report can be viewed here  or it may be downloaded along with supplemental documents from the Connecticut Department of Criminal Justice’s web site.  I encourage you to read them for your own unfiltered processing.

Greatest lessons may come from outside of official reports

The greatest new lessons to be learned from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings may never appear in official investigation reports. These lessons may include how:

  • special interest hijackings of the tragic shootings contributed heavily toward a climate of unprecedented inaction on school safety by our federal government;
  • knee-jerk reactions by some state governments resulted in narrowly-focused, pithy responses of one-time grants for school security equipment; and
  • emotions of powerlessness and helplessness lead to ineffective and potentially dangerous ideas including bulletproof backpacks, arming teachers and school staff, and teaching young children to attack heavily armed gunmen.

Over the next two weeks our team will continuing sharing our observations and analysis of these reports, along with our vision for refocusing and moving the school security and emergency preparedness field forward.

We also invite your opinion on the final report by the State’s Attorney. What say you?

Ken Trump

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