Since the morning of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “Truthers” and other conspiracy theorists have tried to put their own spin on the events that happened at the school. Among the biggest questions that have been raised in the past year is whether the shooter acted alone. The state’s attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury says Yes.
With the release of “Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury on the Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda Street, Newtown Connecticut on December 14, 2012” (“the report”) by State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky, this particular conspiracy theory and others are being officially debunked. Eleven months after the investigation began, Mr Sedensky’s office announced on November 25, 2013, that all leads had been followed.
Mr Sedensky’s report states that “an abundance of caution was used during the investigation to ensure that all leads were looked into, despite the fact that more than 40 such ‘leads’ proved, after investigation, to be unsubstantial.”
One of the first things people began questioning was whether anyone else had been involved in the planning and implementation of the shootings that took the life of Nancy Lanza, who was killed at her home, and the six woman and 20 children who had been killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
According to Mr Sedensky’s report: “At the date of this writing, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone other than the shooter was aware of or involved in the planning and execution of the crimes that were committed on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda Street.”
Elsewhere in the report, in his executive summary, Mr Sedensky reiterates: “It is the conclusion of this state’s attorney that the shooter acted alone and was solely criminally responsible for his actions of that day. Moreover, none of the evidence developed to date demonstrates probably cause to believe that any other person conspired with the shooter to commit these crimes or aided and abetted him in doing so.”
Conspiracy theorists have long wanted to know why other people were seen being handcuffed at the scene.
“Individuals located in the wooded areas surrounding the school as the searches and evacuation were taking place were initially treated as suspect and handled accordingly (including being handcuffed) until their identity could be determined,” the report states. “The circumstances surrounded all of these individuals were fully investigated and revealed no additional shooters. DNA testing of evidence recovered from both the school and 36 Yogananda Street also revealed no potential accessories or co-conspirators.”
One theory leading people to believe that a second person was involved in the shooting were reports of people seeing someone running along the east side of the school building with something in his hand.
Newtown Police officers encountered that person, a male, at 9:39 am. The report says a Newtown officer had that man “prone on the ground” one minute later. It was later determined, according to the report, that “the initial unknown male … turned out to be a parent with a cell telephone in his hand.”
Another rumor that fed the theory were statements and even television footage that showed armed responders holding two people at gunpoint. These two people, according to the report, were “two reporters located in the woods around SHES, who were held at gunpoint by Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) police officers until their identities could be determined.”
One person, a man, was also reported to be seen in handcuffs. The report addresses that concern as well, saying, the unidentified person “from New York who was working in a nearby town and went to SHES after an application on his cell telephone alerted him to the situation at the school. He drove to the [Sandy Hook] firehouse and went up to the school on foot. He was taken from the scene of the school in handcuffs and later to Newtown Police Department. It was later determined that he did not have a connection to the shooting and had gone to SHES to see what was going on.”
A pair of sweatshirts reportedly found in front of the school after the shooting also led some to believe others were involved.
The reports says “the two sweat jackets were both C-Sport brand black zip up hooded sweat jackets with no size listed and were located immediately outside the shooter’s car; Both are believed to have been brought there by the shooter.”
Additional points that Mr Sedensky’s office based their belief that there were no additional shooters are:
“Searches of the area and examinations of local business security surveillance videos” did not show anyone else;
“Witness interviews which indicated that no witness saw anyone other than the shooter, with a firearm;
“Witness interviews in which it was determined that a number of SHES staff had escaped from the school through a window and had been running outside the school building during the shootings;
“The shotgun located in the shooter’s car had been purchased by the shooter’s mother previously;
“The live shotgun shells (other than the one found on the shooter and the ones found in the shooter’s car) that were located inside and outside of the school were in locations where first responders had been. Additionally, there were first responders who reported missing live shotgun rounds. Moreover, the shells were found in locations where there had not been reported sightings of any non-law enforcement individuals;
“There were no expended shotgun shells found in the actual crime scene nor were any expended 12 gauge shotgun pellets or slugs recovered;
“The only expended casings located outside of the school building were 5.56 mm casings located just outside the school’s front entrance, consistent with the shooter’s entry into the school; and
“The officer who heard what he believed to be outside gunfire was in a position to have heard the shooter’s gunfire coming from window openings in the classroom in which the shooter was firing.”
For those who believe that the scene was staged, Mr Sedensky’s report addresses that.
“Items of evidence such as shell casings, may not have been found in their original positions because, as mentioned previously, the first priority was to locate and neutralize any active shooter, followed by the location and treatment of the victims, the search for additional shooters and the safe evacuation of the school,” it states.
In another section of the report, called “Investigation To Determine Accessories And/Or Co-Conspirators,” Mr Sedensky again returns to this subject. After reflecting on the earlier statement that “none of the persons found in the vicinity of SHES on December 14, 2012, played any role in the shootings,” the report turns to the investigation of whether anyone had conspired with or aided the shooter prior to 12/14.
Investigators examined “social contacts, writings, e-mails, Internet blogs, telephone records and his general Internet presence,” according to the report. One blog Lanza offered posts on focused on mass shootings, particularly the Columbine High School shootings of April 1999. He also, says the report, “exchanged e-mails with others who were interested in the topic of mass shootings.”
Mr Sedensky does not believe that those interactions developed into collaborations.
“None of these communications, however, related to SHES or in any way suggested that the shooter intended to commit a mass shooting,” says the report. “The evidence as developed to date, does not demonstrate that any of those with whom he communicated conspired with the shooter or criminally aided and abetted him in committing the murders on December 14, 2012.”
Another section of the report, “Miscellaneous Investigative Leads,” debunks rumors of what the shooter had done in the days and even hours before the shootings at SHES. State and federal law enforcement personnel were contacted during the course of the investigation. Among the rumors the report calls unsubstantiated is the one that the shooter was seen at SHES on December 12, 2012, and also that he went to Newtown High School before going to SHES the morning of the shootings. The report also debunks rumors that Lanza tried to purchase ammunition at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store, that he had tried to rent a room from a person and told that person “he was having problems with his mother,” and a “man claimed that while in Oklahoma a woman told him about the planned shooting before the shooting occurred.”
In a typical criminal case, an investigation would remain open while potentially important evidence was still being examined. The hard drive of a computer taken out of the home of the shooter was extensively damaged. No information has been recovered from that drive Mr Sedensky says was “intentionally damaged.”
Conspirists would like to believe that case is being closed without the full examination of that evidence.
The reports counters that.
“Given the improbability of any information being recovered from the damaged hard drive,” the report states, “this outstanding piece of evidence is not preventing the closure of this case now. Should any relevant information related to the existence of any accessory or co-conspirator by obtained from the hard drive, the case will be reopened.”
Hoaxers and others would like to believe that those who were at the school, the Sandy Hook firehouse, and elsewhere on December 14, 2012, were actors. That theory is not addressed in this report. It is not part of the investigation.
The state has done its investigation. It is very likely that the reasoning behind the actions of 12/14 — why a 20-year-old decided to kill his mother, a group of strangers, and then himself — will never be known. At least now, some of the public’s questions have been answered. As far as the state is concerned, “with the issuance of this report, the investigation is closed,” the state’s attorney concludes.