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Massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School

27 people – 20 of them children – were killed in a school shooting Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn.

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NEWTOWN — “Newtown 911, what’s the location of your emergency?”

“We’ve got a shooting at theSandy Hook Elementary School.”

The 911 calls that poured into Newtown, Conn., police last Dec. 14 were handled by calm and firm dispatchers who directed a custodian to “take cover,” told a teacher to keep her kids away from the windows, and tried to reassure desperate callers as gunshots could be heard in the background.


Officials released recordings of the calls on Wednesday after a judge ordered them to do so, against the wishes of many Newtown residents, town leaders and the state’s attorney for theDanburyregion, Stephen Sedensky III.

School shooting

Courtesy Hartford Courant

They argued that making the information public would force victims’ families and survivors to relive the tragedy.

The judge sided with freedom-of-information advocates who said 911 calls were public record and could not legally be kept sealed. They were released Wednesday afternoon, 10 days before the first anniversary ofAdam Lanza’s rampage, which killed 20 first-graders and six school employees.

Much in the recordings is barely discernible, but the fear and desperation in callers’ voices is clear. Also clear is the main 911 dispatcher’s determination to keep the callers, and himself, calm as phones ring incessantly around him with people phoning in reports of the shooting.

“Newtown 911, what’s the location of your emergency?” the dispatcher says over and over again as he answers each call.

“My wife just texted me and said there’s a shooter in the school,” one man says.

For more on this LA Times story, click here.

REDMOND — It’s every parent’s worst nightmare — an emergency puts your child’s school into lockdown and you and hundreds of others rush to the scene to make sure they’re OK.

That’s exactly what happened in a Houston, Texas, school cafeteria Wednesday morning where one student was stabbed to death and three others were injured.

LOCKDOWN PROCEDURESSchool districts all over Washington state are reviewing security procedures after the fatal shootings of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook,  Conn., and other schoolhouse tragedies. But what are parents supposed to do when they hear about an emergency at school?

“My gut instinct is to go back to school and see what’s going on — is everything OK? Is my child OK,” mother Cindy Beltran said.

“Staying home, watching, waiting for the phone call, that’s living hell,” added parent Linda Sebenius. “I mean, that’s just a parent’s worst nightmare to sit and do nothing.”

“If you don’t give us any kind of boundaries, we’re all rushing up there and storming the place,” mother Nancy Staudinger said.

Scores of Houston-area parents lined up outside Spring High School desperate for news about their kids.

“We know that parent’s first instinct is going to be to run to the school,” said Kathryn Reith, with the Lake Washington School District.

School administrators in Washington are looking at how to implement procedures to protect students without leaving parents in the dark.

“It’s the what-ifs, and we know we won’t know all the what-if’s,” Reith said. “The more we can review and think about, then at least we have more tools for the what-ifs that we’ve talked about.”

But when parents rush to school, they can do more harm than good, especially if first-responders are still trying to get to the scene.

“Those folks are there, doing a really important job to get everyone out and get everyone safe,” Reith said.

But most parents said that it would be hard to stay away from any crime scene at their child’s school.

“I don’t think you can stop parents from going to the school, especially if their children are in danger,” Staudinger said. “No matter how much you tell us not to go, we’re not going to listen.”

“As soon as they hear there’s an incident, words aren’t going into the brain because it’s all about here and that panic they’re gonna feel,” added Sebenius. “It’s not going to comprehend to them that what you’re saying matters, because the only thing that matters is, ‘Can I get my child now? Where are they now? Are they safe now? Can I help them be safe now?’

Districts are looking at alerting parents by email, text and phone calls during an emergency.

But while you may want to get your kid away as fast as possible, be patient.  Schools are going to take extra care to make sure no one goes home with an unauthorized person.

“(There are) 600 kids in an elementary school, maybe 1,800 kids in a high school,” said Reith. “It’s going to take some time to make sure that each person coming to get their child really is that person and we’re releasing them to the right person and not someone we’re not supposed to be releasing to.”

Lake Washington administrators said their schools will go through lockdown drills in the next few weeks – and as part of those exercises, parents will get phone and email messages on where to go to pick up their child.

HARTFORD, Conn. — President Barack Obama is poised to make another impassioned pitch for gun control Monday as he travels to Hartford, Connecticut, not far from the site of the massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

His comments come as the Senate is expected to begin debate as early as this week over proposed firearm legislation.

“On the eve of Senate consideration of gun safety proposals the President will speak, as he did at the State of the Union, about the obligations the nation has to children lost in Newtown and other victims of gun violence to act on these proposals,” a White House official said.

obama 03-13-13

Courtesy of Fox News

Obama will speak in the early evening at the University of Hartford’s sport center. With the campus beginning to be locked down for security, one man with a large banner advocating the president’s gun control proposals told CNN he came all the way from Michigan to show his support.

The Senate is scheduled to soon begin voting on gun control measures, but Democratic sources admit that the gun bill as currently written does not have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Adam Lanza, the gunman who attacked a Connecticut elementary school, killing 20 children and six adults, had an arsenal of guns, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and even samurai swords, knives and a bayonet, according to search warrants released on Thursday.

The warrants outlined what police found in Lanza’s home and car during official searches of the Newton, Conn., home Lanza shared with his mother, who he killed before the Dec. 14 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The attack lasted less than five minutes before the 20-year-old Lanza killed himself with a Glock handgun.

School shooting

Courtesy Hartford Courant

All 26 victims inside the school were shot to death with a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, but Lanza had another loaded handgun and three 30-round magazines for the assault rifle. A loaded 12-gauge shotgun was found in the Honda Civic that Lanza drove to the school with two magazines containing 70 rounds of Winchester shotgun rounds, officials said.

The warrants give the most revealing look into Lanza’s world since the shooting that shocked the nation and led to calls to renew a ban on assault weapons and to limit the sale of guns. The Obama administration has also called for limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Congress is expected to consider limited gun-control measures, including universal background checks, when it returns from its spring break.

Local News

Armed deputies patrol schools in Snohomish County

MILL CREEK — In Snohomish County, there are now armed deputies whose sole focus is to keep school students safe. The special unit was created in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

It’s the first police unit of its kind in Washington state and might be the first in the nation.

Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick said, “I was impacted like millions of other people were with the incident at Sandy Hook,” and his new goal was to think outside the box about keeping schools safe in his jurisdiction.


Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovik created a special unit of armed deputies to work inside schools.

Lovick said he decided to create a new police unit strictly dedicated to school safety. “It’s going to be a game changer in this community.”

Several schools around the county already have police stationed as school resource officers, and that will not change.

But the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office’s new unit consists of five armed deputies to cover the schools in unincorporated parts of the county.

But protection costs money.

The sheriff has pulled officers from other units to put five deputies in the schools. He’d like more than 20 in the unit, but the budget would be over $1 million, he said.

He’s now looking to private companies, school boards and the Legislature to help fund it.

“I could have waited, which would have been probably been an easier thing to do, but we don’t have time to wait,” said Lovick. “When you’re looking at young people, when you’re looking at schools, when you’re looking at school safety, there’s no reason to wait.”

joe biden2

Courtesy Fox News

(CNN) — A federal task force looking for ways to curb gun violence will have a set of recommendations by Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday.

Speaking during a week of meetings with disparate groups on various sides of the issue — including some for and others against stricter gun controls — Biden, who oversees the task force, said the recommendations, to be given to President Barack Obama, will serve as a beginning.

“This doesn’t mean it is the end of the discussion, but the public wants us to act,” he told reporters.

Biden said he’s been surprised by how many groups have encouraged universal background checks for all gun owners, including those who purchase through private sales.

Some states have backlogs of thousands of felons who are never registered on lists aimed at helping prevent dangerous weapons from getting into their hands, he noted.

Obama called for the task force after last month’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 27 people were killed — 20 of them elementary school children.

For the complete CNN story, go here.


SnowflakeSEATTLE — West Seattle’s Young at Art studio is helping children make snowflakes to send to the students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

As part of a nationwide project, the children are hoping the snowflakes bring cheer to the students at the school.

Photojournalist Reid Johnson shows us how the snowflakes could help heal.


gunsSEATTLE — In the days since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, there has been a lot of talk about how to keep kids safe at school.

Some people say the answer is to put guns in the schools. That way, the argument goes, teachers and other school workers have a fighting chance against an armed attacker.

The debate is as contentious as the gun control debate itself.

Gun rights advocates in Utah are offering free gun training for teachers. Utah Shooting Sports Council says the 200-person, six-hour course was filled to capacity.

“I want to be able to protect my children in case of any assault, any bad guys coming in to attack,” teacher Cori Sorenson said.

In an effort to arm teachers at schools, a firearms group in Ohio is also launching a test program in gun training.

And in Arizona, the state’s attorney general is proposing a change to state law.

There are people with guns inside banks, malls, and government buildings, so Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne says that under the right conditions, “Why not put gun in hands of qualified individuals in our children’s schools?”

“On the one hand, you have people proposing that any teacher that wants to can bring a gun to school. I think that would create more danger than it would solve and I’m opposed to that. You have other people who don’t want to do anything for defense in the schools and I think we would regret that if there was another incident that might have been prevented,” said Horne.

Some law enforcement officers support the idea.

“If you have somebody come in that’s mentally ill with a weapon and killing people, an administrator or teacher can figure that out,” said Arizona’s Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

The move comes after the recent shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which a gunman shot and killed 26 people, 20 of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Gun-rights advocates say teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes to protect children during a school shooting.

But some teachers strongly disagree with the idea.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t think that teachers should be carrying guns. I don’t think violence is the answer. And the biggest thing I don’t think is I don’t think it’s going to solve the problem,” Kansas City Teachers Union President Andrea Flinders said.

So what about here in Washington state?

Could teachers here be allowed to carry guns in the classroom?

After all, the state has its own sad history of school shootings.

“This state has not been immune to school shootings. We had one in Moses Lake School District,Tacoma School District and an accidental shooting in the Bremerton School District,” state Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn said.

Still, Dorn says no to teachers carrying guns — not on his watch.

“That would not be something on my list to support,” Dorn said. “I think hiring people who are trained to have a gun, that would be the solution — police officers on campus, not arming our teachers.”

Only two states currently allow concealed weapons in schools. In Utah, its already legal, and in Ohio a school district has to give permission first.