The first 911 call to Newtown police came in at 9:35 a.m.:
“I think there’s somebody shooting in here in Sandy Hook School,” a woman said, her voice shaking with fear.
“Why do you think that?” the dispatcher asks.
“Somebody’s got a gun, I saw a glimpse of somebody running down the hallway, they’re still around me, there’s still shooting. Sandy Hook please,” she said.
Six more calls rang into Newtown police the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, after Adam Lanza had shot his way into the elementary school and began rampaging down the corridors and into classrooms.
When he was done, 20 first-graders and six school employees lay dead, as did Lanza, 20, who committed suicide inside the school in Connecticut.
Nearly a year after the massacre, detailed records of the police investigation and the 911 calls have finally come to light, despite efforts by many in the state and Newtown to keep them sealed.
Families of most victims have argued that putting details of the horrible day in the public domain would only make it more difficult to recover from their loss.
But a judge last month ruled that the state’s Freedom of Information Act mandated that the 911 calls be released by Wednesday afternoon. The recordings revealed the calm yet firm demeanor of police dispatchers who tried to reassure frightened callers as the sound of gunfire echoed through the halls.
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 calling 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.
“OK, we have officers on the scene,” the dispatcher says as he handles more calls.
A woman, breathless and in a shaky voice, says when the dispatcher answers her call: “I think there’s somebody shooting in here.”
“What makes you say that?” the dispatcher replies.
“Because somebody’s got a gun,” the woman says, sounding tearful.
The most dramatic exchanges are between the dispatcher and a custodian, who remains on the line as shots can be heard blasting in the background.
“I believe there’s a shooting … something’s going on,” says the custodian, who is in a corridor.
“All right, I want you to take cover,” the dispatcher says.
“It’s still going on … I keep hearing shooting. I keep hearing popping,” says the custodian, who is still on the phone with the dispatcher when police arrive on the scene.
A female teacher calls in from her classroom, calmly explaining what she hears.
“It sounds like there are gunshots in the hallway,” she tells a different dispatcher, who asks if her pupils are safe inside the classroom. They are, the teacher responds.
“Keep everybody calm, keep everybody down,” the dispatcher says. “Get everyone away from the windows.”