HARTFORD — Twenty parents and spouses who lost loved ones at the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on 12/14 gathered together at the Capitol in Hartford on Friday, May 31, to call on legislators to pass House Bill 6424, “An Act Concerning Fees for Searches of Accident and Investigative Reports of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.” They were joined by sisters, a brother, a son, a teacher, and others directly affected by what happened 5½ months ago.
The bill, which is being considered by the Connecticut General Assembly, contains an amendment that would ensure the privacy of crime scene information depicting the gruesome circumstances of the tragic mass shooting that resulted in the murder of 20 first grade students and six educators.
“The release of these photos and graphic information on the deaths of our loved ones would be enormously damaging not only to our family, but also to the surviving children, wounded educators and the Sandy Hook community, which is still reeling from this tragedy,” said Jennifer Hensel, mother of 6 year-old Avielle, who was murdered at Sandy Hook. “We plead with our legislators to spare us from additional pain and suffering by keeping private all crime scene photos, including those of the adults and children, and other graphic information related to the crime scene at Sandy Hook Elementary.”
Proposed by Senator John McKinney, the amendment to House Bill 6424 would:
*Prevent the release of any photos, videotapes, digital recordings or other depictions of any victim, without the permission of the victim’s immediate family. The adult victims who survived the shooting would also be able to grant permission to release the records;
*Allow any public agency to redact the identity of a minor witness to the shooting; and
*Require public agencies to transcribe 911 recordings and provide written transcripts upon request for a 50-cent-per-page fee, but not require them to provide audio recordings.
Over the last six months, the Sandy Hook tragedy has received widespread national and international attention. Among the intense interest have been requests by several individuals for the release of the disturbing and gruesome crime scene photos of 12/14 victims. The family members believe that the release and distribution of these photos is unnecessary and should remain private.
The effort to keep crime scene photos private has precedent in both state legislative action and in court law. Crime and death photos were protected in the cases of Dale Earnhardt, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Vince Foster.
“As loved ones of the innocent victims who were taken from us in such a brutal way, we cannot allow their memories to be tarnished with the distribution of grisly photos from that terrible day,” said Gilles Rousseau, the father of Lauren Rousseau, one of the six educators murdered at Sandy Hook. “We fear that releasing these photos and information will only result in their dissemination and manipulation for political or ideological purposes. The nature of this horrific crime and the attention it has received, dictates a special response.”
As part of their efforts, family members released an open letter to members of the Connecticut legislature and Governor Daniel Malloy urging for the preservation of the crime scene photos and other graphic information from being made public. The letter is signed by 71 surviving victims and family members of victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. The full text of the letter can be found below.
Letter to Connecticut Legislators
The Honorable Daniel Malloy, Governor
The Honorable Joe Aresimowicz, House Majority Leader
The Honorable Larry Cafero, House Minority Leader
The Honorable Martin Looney, Senate Majority Leader
The Honorable John McKinney, Senate Minority Leader
The Honorable Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Don Williams, Senate President Pro Tempore
Legislative Office Building Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Governor, Senators, and Representatives:
We are writing today in strong support of the proposed privacy legislation that would preserve the Sandy Hook Elementary crime scene photos and other graphic information from being made publicly available.
We believe that the release of those photos would be enormously damaging to those who are grieving and continue to live with the trauma of December 14, especially those most impacted by this tragedy – families whose children and spouses were killed, wounded educators and their families, surviving children and their families, first responders and their families, teachers/staff and their families.
It has been a priority of ours to ensure photos and graphic information remains confidential. We thank all of your for your help and efforts to pass this legislation. Please get this done for us, for our families, and for our community.
Joel & JoAnn Bacon, parents of Charlotte
Mark & Jackie Barden, parents of Daniel
Brian & Shannon Engel, parents of Olivia
Bob & Michele Gay, parents of Josephine
Cristina Hassinger, daughter of Dawn
Ian & Nicole Hockley, parents of Dylan
Donna Arnold, mother of Madeline
Matthew & Jennifer Hubbard, parents of Catherine
Stephen & Rebecca Kowalski, parents of Chase
Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse
Neil Heslin, father of Jesse
Mark & Cindy Mattioli, parents of James
Jimmy Greene & Nelba Marquez-Greene, parents of Ana
Chris & Lynn McDonnell, parents of Grace
Michael Murphy, husband of Anne-Marie
Robbie & Alissa Parker, parents of Emilie
Dean & Tricia Pinto, parents of Jack
Lenny & Veronique Pozner, parents of Noah
Jeff & Sandy Previdi, parents of Caroline
Richard & Krista Rekos, parents of Jessica
Jeremy Richman & Jennifer Hensel, parents of Avielle
Gilles & Joyce Rousseau, parents of Lauren
William Sherlach, husband of Mary
David & Francine Wheeler, parents of Ben
Ben & Cheyanne Wyatt, parents of Allison
Donna Soto, mother of Victoria
Carlos M Soto, father of Victoria
Carlos Soto, brother of Victoria
Carlee Soto, sister of Victoria
Jillian Soto, sister of Victoria
Natalie Hammond, wounded teacher
Justin Craparo, son of wounded teacher
Hugo & Elizabeth Rojas
Dan & Barb Tarpey
Robert & Diane Licata
Peter & Carolina Salamy
Tony & Susie Ehrens
Dave & Carly Posey
Christopher & Michele Olam
Christy & Rob Hatcher
Stacey & Scott Lavelle
Steve & Jennifer Maksel