NEWTOWN -- In the chaotic response to the deadliest grade-school shooting in U.S. history, local police officers waited about six minutes before entering Sandy Hook Elementary School, investigators revealed Monday in chilling new report that had been closely guarded.
Gunfire could still be heard in the background during the first minute the officers were on scene, with another five minutes passing until they ventured into the school through a boiler room and cafeteria, according to the 43-page report released by Danbury State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III .
The timeline is the product of an 11-month -- and at times controversial -- investigation that yielded new details about the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, but stopped short of establishing a motive.
"The obvious question that remains is: `Why did the shooter murder twenty-seven people, including twenty children?' " the report stated. "Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively, despite the collection of extensive background information on the shooter through a multitude of interviews and other sources. The evidence clearly shows that the shooter planned his actions, including the taking of his own life, but there is no clear indication why he did so, or why he targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School."
"To show up at an active-shooter situation and pull up to the front door is asinine. It increases the risk to the officer," Ruszczyk said.
Said Ruszczyk: The report "doesn't say anything we didn't expect it to say.
"Ultimately, it boils down to the fact there was a rapid response."
Global positioning system data analyzed by investigators placed the sociopathic shooter, Adam Lanza, 20, on a scouting trip in the vicinity of several local elementary schools the day before his shooting spree, including his eventual target, where he was once a student.
A recluse who studied the methods of other mass murders such as the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and violent video games, Lanza was thin and gaunt, standing 6 feet tall and weighing just 112 pounds.
He took his own life with a single gunshot from a Glock 20 semi-automatic pistol.
"It is known that the shooter had significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and to interact with others, even those to whom he should have been close," the report stated. "As an adult, he did not recognize or help himself deal with those issues. What contribution this made to the shootings, if any, is unknown as those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior."
Twenty children, none of them older than 7, and six adult females died in the shooting, including teacher and Stratford native Victoria Soto, 27, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for shielding her students from the gunfire.
Nine children were able to escape Soto's classroom, and another two hid in a bathroom until they were found alive by police, according to the report.
"As we close in on the end of a very difficult year, the releasing of this report is yet another blow that our family has been dealt," Soto's family said in a statement. "While others search for the answer as to why this happened, we search for the how. How can we live without Vicki? How do we celebrate Christmas without Vicki? How do we go on every day missing a piece of our family? Those are the questions we seek the answers for. There is nothing in the report that will answer those for us."
Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra declined to comment on the report until she read the document, which purposely omitted graphic descriptions of the victims and photographs from the crime scene.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who in recent weeks called for the report to be expedited, did not receive an advance copy of its findings, his aides told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.
"My thoughts today are with the people who lost a loved one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as they have been nearly every day since the tragedy," Malloy said in a statement. "The release of this report will no doubt be difficult on them. But if there is one thing that I believe we must do, it's that we must honor the lives that were lost by taking steps to protect ourselves from another horror like this. I hope that the information in this summary and in the supporting documents that will be released by the State Police takes us closer to that goal."
Two other adults were wounded during the shooting, with Lanza firing 154 rounds in 11 minutes inside the school, which is now being demolished.
A police radio transcript that accompanied the report illustrates for the first time the initial confusion of first responders and the communication barriers between state and local law enforcement officers.
Four minutes after State Police learned of a lockdown at the school, they were still in the dark as to the gravity of the situation.
"Troop A do we know ... what ... Newtown has on scene ... Are they engaged with the shooter yet?" State Police Sgt. Cario is overhead on his radio.
The last names of the officers quoted in the report were not included in the transcript.
"We don't have, uh, Newtown on the line yet sarge," State Police desk officer Loomis replied.
Cario is then overhead, "Get Newtown on the line, begin coordinating with them. They may just want us to establish a perimeter or whatever."
Thirty seconds later, another state trooper, identified as Cournoyer, asked for directions to the school.
"I get off exit 10, you said take a right?" Cournoyer said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., commended police and other emergency personnel for their response.
"There's no question about the courage and bravery of the first responders who went into that building without knowing how many shooters there were or knowing what kind of lethal danger they might encounter," Blumenthal told Hearst. "I don't know that the report has enough factual detail to reflect what impact that delay had, if in fact there was a delay. Rather than second-guessing what the police and first responders did based on one fact or another, I hope there will be lessons about the need for better school security and mental health initiatives and other common sense steps that can be taken to stop dangerous people from these unspeakable killings."
While Lanza's motive still eludes investigators, their report attempts to delve into the recesses of the mind of the killer diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.
"Some recalled that the shooter had been bullied; but others -- including many teachers -- saw nothing of the sort," the report stated. "With some people, he could talk with them and be humorous; but others saw the shooter as unemotional, distant and remote. As he got older, his condition seemed to worse, he became more of a loner."
For a fifth-grade class project, Lanza wrote a story titled the "Big Book of Granny," in which the main character had a gun in her cane and shot people, according to the report.
The story included violence against children. There was no indication that Lanza turned the story in at school, however.
In his adolescence, Lanza became increasingly disconnected from society, with the report stating, "Over time he had multiple daily rituals, an inability to touch door knobs, repeated hand washing and obsessive clothes changing, to the point that his mother was frequently doing laundry."
The gunman fatally shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, four times at point-blank range in their Yogananda Street home before embarking on his rampage with an arsenal of weapons that were legally registered to her. For Christmas, Lanza's mother wanted to buy him a semi-automatic pistol made for the Czech military.
Lanza fired 154 shots from his mother's Bushmaster XM-15 E2S rifle, which is now included on a list of banned assault weapons that was expanded by the Legislature after the massacre.
"Should they have gone in right away? Sure, in retrospect it would have been a good idea to go in," said Peter Massey, a retired Hamden police detective who heads the undergraduate forensics program at the University of New Haven. "But you have to look at a whole bigger picture, beginning with what information they received and what type of training they had undergone."
For instance, he asked if they were sure it was only one shooter; were there booby traps (as in Columbine); were there suspects outside; did they know what kind of firepower was inside?
"I don't think you can criticize them. They probably did the best they could with the information they had at the time ¦ You have to believe they made the best call they could based on the information they had at that moment," Massey said. "For first responders, this report should serve as a learning tool. A mandatory uniform response for departments is a powerful tool."
James Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, said schools are vulnerable to mass shootings.
"The prevailing wisdom is first responders should go in immediately," Fox said. "But that didn't happen here and as it turned out it wouldn't have made a difference."
He pointed out this was nothing like Columbine, where police waited before confronting the shooters, resulting in several additional deaths.
Here, the shooting ended relatively quickly.
"There was nothing controversial or surprising in this report," he said. "The warning signs are all 20/20 hindsight."
Ruszczyk, the Newtown police union president, said the report shows officers were not ordered to wait outside the school and that shots were still being fired as they waited to make entry.
One officer had parked his cruiser on Crestwood Road some distance from the school, and two others stopped by the athletic field about 100 yards away from the main entrance before proceeding on foot, said Rusczyk, who characterized that as in keeping with their training.
Ruszczyk called media reports quoting anonymous sources raising questions about the Newtown police response "a concerted effort to drive a wedge" between the Newtown police and state troopers.
"It lays all those rumors to rest," he said of the report.
Staff writers Michael Mayko and John Pirro contributed to this report.
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