A clearer picture

A clearer picture


The Sandy Hook report released by state prosecutors on Nov. 25 depicts an appropriate police response and gross parental negligence.

Prosecutors made findings public on Nov. 25 in closing the case on the Newtown tragedy of last December. Release of Sandy Hook reports has been a hot topic, partly due to the question of whether law enforcement responded suitably. Police operations during other comparable tragedies have justly received criticism for delays — particularly at Columbine, or the Cheshire home invasion.

But based on details provided, officers first arriving at Sandy Hook reacted as well as possible given limited knowledge of what was unfolding inside. Reportedly, police entered the school about six minutes after arrival. Minor postponement was necessary to gather tactical info. For instance, responders were unsure whether the building had been booby-trapped, or whether there were multiple gunmen, and understandably did not want to rush in without a clearer picture of what violent forces they might encounter.

Reports indicate that Lanza killed himself after spotting two officers in Sandy Hook. His suicide, the end of the rampage, occurred just 15 minutes after he blasted out a school window to force an entrance. A prompt, well-reasoned response by local police likely saved lives on Dec. 14, 2012.

One shocking takeaway from the prosecution’s report is how badly Lanza’s family mishandled the abnormally troubled boy. Having grown up with patent mental illnesses and stifling social phobias, Lanza, by age 20 in 2012, was demonstrating symptoms of unusual severity. He allowed nobody into his bedroom, disliked touching doorknobs, changed clothes numerous times daily, and required that his food be served in certain arranged patterns. His relationship with his mother Nancy (with whom he lived, though largely separated from her in their spacious home) had devolved to the point where, for weeks prior Dec. 14, he communicated with her only via email. He became obsessed with large-scale killings and collected books, photos, articles, footage and violent video games on the subject, even compiling a spreadsheet that ranked mass murderers.

Why was he not taken for more psychiatric help? Perhaps his family did not understand his problems. Perhaps they found his ailments too taboo or tiring to address. Whatever the reason, a troubled mind was left to degenerate, practically alone, amidst an atmosphere of violence.

Despite many red flags that her son suffered from a disturbed mind, Nancy Lanza maintained a household replete with guns and ammo. Reportedly, she and her son frequented shooting ranges together. For Christmas 2012, she had planned to gift him a pistol normally carried by soldiers of the Czech army. Photos released from the Lanza home depict an alarming setting in which a veritable stockpile of firearms and bullets were distributed among unlocked closets and drawers — readily available.

Although stricter gun-storage laws passed in Connecticut after Newtown are necessary regulations, police cannot realistically inspect each home for compliance. Consequently, that Nancy too was a victim of Lanza’s killing spree is sadly symbolic of a lack of oversight that helped lead to Sandy Hook. Gun-owners like she must store weapons securely, so that firearms do not fall into the possession of individuals who might misuse them, such as people significantly affected by mental illness or instability.

Police responded swiftly and admirably to Sandy Hook. Where costly delays occurred were at the Lanza household, over the years, in which a family somehow could not find time to take proper care of a troubled, violence-minded child.


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