Key Takeaways from the Sandy Hook Elementary School Mass Shooting Report

These are some of the key points from today’s Newtown, Conn., school shooting report that apply to K-12 school design, lockdown, evacuation and emergency notification.

Earlier today, Newtown, Conn., officials released their final report on the mass shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 14, 2012. The points listed below are the ones I believe other K-12 campuses can learn from regarding building design, emergency notification, lockdowns, sheltering in place and evacuations.

  • Prior to the shooting, the front entrance doors to the school were locked, as they customarily were at this time, the school day having already begun. The shooter proceeded to shoot his way into the school building through the plate glass window to the right of the front lobby doors. (Note: The main entrance to the school was located next to the large glass window that the shooter shot out to enter the school. A patio area was just before the entrance doors. The entrance to the lobby consisted of two sets of locked full glass doors that opened outwardly using a pull handle. They were separated by a small vestibule. The doors were secured with an electronic locking mechanism. The doors could be opened from the inside with a horizontal push bar across the middle of the door. The broken area of the window that the shooter shot out measured approximately 35.33 inches wide and 42.5 inches high.)
  • In a minute or so after the gunman started shooting in the front office, a call was made to 9-1-1 and someone turned on the school-wide intercom. The turning on of the intercom may have been done inadvertently but provided notice to others on campus.
  • Staff members hiding in the main office were not shot by the gunman even though he entered the office where they were located. Their hiding may have saved their lives.
  • The shooter shot and killed four adults and 20 children with the Bushmaster rifle in classrooms 8 and 10. Twelve children survived, one from classroom 8, and 11 from classroom 10.
  • The shooter finally killed himself in classroom 10 with one gunshot to his head from a Glock 20, 10mm pistol. This is believed to have occurred at 9:40:03, approximately 10 minutes after the shooter had parked his vehicle outside the school in a no-parking zone.
  • The two classrooms on either side of 8 and 10 were numbered 6 and 12. Classroom 6 was on the eastern side of classroom 8 and classroom 12 was on the western side of classroom 10. Staff and students hid in the class restrooms, locking the restroom doors from the inside. (Note: The doors to the classrooms in the north hallway where the shootings occurred all locked from the outside with a key. The interior door handles had no locking mechanism. All of the doors opened outwardly toward the hallway. All doors were solid wood with a circular window in the upper half of the door. All classrooms in the north hallway had a restroom and a closet. The restrooms were uniformly designed, approximately 4 feet 7 inches by 3 feet 6 inches with a solid wood door. The door of each restroom opened inward and away from the toilet. Each restroom door had a knob push button lock on the inside handle and a key lock on the outside handle. Classrooms in the north hallway 12 and 10, 8 and 6, 6 and 4, and 3 and 5 respectively had an interior door that was shared by the two classrooms.)
  • Throughout the rest of the school, staff and students hid themselves wherever they happened to be at the time they became aware of gunfire. The staff used various ways to keep the children calm, from reading to having them color or draw pictures. Those hiding in rooms closest to the shooter kept silent. Some people were able to escape out of the building prior to the police arrival and went to Sandy Hook center, nearby residences, or received rides from parents going to the school or from passersby.
  • One staff member heard a loud crashing noise and ran toward the front lobby. As the staff member got closer, bullet holes could be seen and gun powder smelled. Realizing what was going on, the staff member immediately called 911, turned and went back down the hall from where the staff member had come. During the incident, while staying on the line with the 911 operator, this staff member sent other staff to their rooms or had them stay in their rooms and this staff member went about locking doors. The staff member remained in the hallway on the telephone with the 911 operator until the police arrived.

Law enforcement timeline:

  • 9:35:39 — First 911 call to Newtown Police Department is received.
  • 9:36:06 — Newtown Police Department dispatcher broadcasts that there is a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
  • 9:37:38 — Connecticut State Police are dispatched to SHES for active shooter.
  • 9:38:50 — CSP are informed that SHES is in lockdown.
  • 9:39:00 — First Newtown police officer arrives behind SHES on Crestwood Rd.
  • 9:39:13 — Two more Newtown officers arrive at SHES and park on the driveway near the ball field. Gunshots are heard in the background.
  • 9:39:34 — Newtown officer encounters unknown male running along the east side of SHES with something in his hand.
  • 9:40:03 — Last gunshot is heard. This is believed to be the final suicide shot from the shooter in classroom 10.

Read the full report.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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