Some state legislators are outraged that new details about Newtown shooter Adam Lanza were released at a New Orleans police conference before being given to lawmakers and the victims’ families.
The legislators are still reacting to a front-page report in the New York Daily News this week that said that Lanza generated a spreadsheet, measuring 7 feet by 4 feet, that charted multiple mass killings around the world. The story said that the spreadsheet showed that Lanza had conducted a massive amount of research and had been planning the attack, possibly for years.
“I think all of us – I’ll speak for myself – were taken aback and frankly outraged [at the disclosures] as we had been meeting hour after hour, trying to craft a reasonable compromise, and are entitled to all information possible,” House Republican leader Larry Cafero told Capitol Watch in an interview Thursday. “Most of all, the families of Newtown – the victims – are entitled to any information they can get that doesn’t compromise the investigation.’’
The information spilled out during a presentation in New Orleans by Colonel Danny Stebbins, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the Connecticut state police. Stebbins spoke to a room full of police chiefs and commanders, and at least one of them apparently tipped longtime New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, who lives in lower Fairfield County.
Gov. Malloy announced early Thursday afternoon that new information would be released by Good Friday, a state holiday on which the state Capitol is closed. Malloy said he was “bewildered by the demands of Mr. Cafero” and others because the general information – that Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six female educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School with a military-style rifle - is well known. Cafero responded that he is bewildered by the actions and words of the governor regarding the issue.
“That’s a curious word,” Cafero said. “I think myself and everyone in the General Assembly are bewildered by the governor. We’re bewildered how this man could invite the gun manufacturer who makes the Bushmaster to come to Connecticut, offer a $1 million loan, and then 10 days later withdraw it. That bewilders me.’’
Malloy has flip-flopped by saying that the legislature should move quickly – but then also take their time to get it right - ”five times by my count,” Cafero said. “That bewilders me.”
Cafero said that Malloy “has, unfortunately made this personal to me. Every one of the six legislative leaders has the same questions.’’
Cafero said it was “irresponsible” for Stebbins to be “in New Orleans at a conference, telling many strangers what was found at that scene” when legislators and the families lack the same information. He said Stebbins needs to “issue an interim report – orally or written. I would prefer it done in writing. We are entitled to that information.’’
As the top six legislators continue crafting a comprehensive gun-control bill, Cafero said there are a series of questions that have not been provided, on the record, to the legislators who are entrusted with deciding whether to change Connecticut’s laws because of what happened in Newtown on December 14, 2012.
“What kind of magazines were used by Lanza?” Cafero asked Thursday, reciting questions that he wants answered. “If so, were all the bullets expended? If he has a 20-round capacity, did he only use 9? Did he ever attempt to buy a weapon? Was he turned down? Was there a safe storage facility at his mother’s house? Did it not exist?”
Since state and Newtown police are not actively seeking a perpetrator in this particular case, Cafero said those questions could be answered in the same way that conference attendees learned previously undisclosed information. If the police were searching for a fugitive, that would be different.
“I am not a criminal justice expert. I’m not going to second guess them,” Cafero said in an interview. “But common sense and logic tells me that when the perpetrator of the shooting is deceased, to ask the question how many ammunition magazines were used, what were their size, does not seem to me – the untrained lay person – to be a question that would interfere with that criminal investigation.’’
He added, “I might be wrong. If I am, tell me why I am. If I am not, then give me the answers to the questions.’’
Cafero said he has not spoken personally to Stebbins about the case.
“It’s been made known to him, through the commissioner, that we are very anxious to meet with him,” Cafero said Thursday. “I have heard nothing.’’
But Senate Republican leader John McKinney has spoken to Stebbins on the telephone and is working on arranging a meeting that would likely be held next week.
After reading Lupica’s column, McKinney said he was “upset and concerned that many of the families of the 26 victims would be learning about the tragedy from news reports rather than Connecticut officials.”
He then called Malloy’s handpicked commissioner, Reuben Bradford, “and we had a good conversation,” McKinney said. ”Colonel Stebbins did call me yesterday morning. We had a pretty lengthy conversation” about making sure that the 26 families were receiving information in a timely manner.
“He assured me they were,” McKinney said.
Regarding whether Stebbins confirmed the information in the New York Daily News, McKinney said, “I didn’t go over all the details of the story with him.’’
“The main point is whether or not—even if what he did is commonplace in law enformcemnent and the law enforcement officials in the room agreed to keep it confidential, even if that is true - the families of the victims of the tragedy were learning from news reports and not Connecticut officials,” McKinney said. “That’s not acceptable, and I think Colonel Stebbins understood that.’’
“Getting answers to questions regarding the event is important and can inform our decisions,” McKinney said. ”I’ve made a request of Kevin Kane, the state’s attorney, since shortly after the tragedy. It’s my understanding the state’s attorney’s office is the primary office in charge of this investigation. It’s up to Kevin Kane and attorney Sedensky to either answer questions on the record for us or issue some type of preliminary report.’’
Concerning what legislators might learn next week from Stebbins, McKinney said, “I don’t know what we’re going to learn.’’
Governor Malloy released the following statement Thursday:
“Like many others, I was disappointed and angered to learn that certain information about the Newtown shooting had been leaked, specifically with concern for the victim’s families who may have been hearing this news for the first time.
“Today, my office contacted the Chief State’s Attorney. I requested, and they have agreed, to release additional information relevant to the investigation and to provide a status on where the investigation currently stands. This information will be provided by Friday, March 29.
“As to what information can reasonably be shared at this time – that is a question that must be left to the State’s Attorney and other law enforcement. As a former prosecutor, I’m sensitive to the need for an independent investigation and believe that we must allow their work to continue without any undue interference.
“Having said all that, I will also say that I am bewildered by the demands of Mr. Cafero and others for a special briefing they claim is necessary in order for them to take a firm position on potential legislative responses to this horrific tragedy.
“To Mr. Cafero and those others I must ask: what more could you possibly need to know?
“We know for a fact that on December 14, a very disturbed young man took a military-style rifle with high-capacity magazines into a school and murdered 20 innocent children and six innocent adults. We know he had access to that weapon and others, although they were registered to someone else.
“Today, more than three months later, the vast majority of people in Connecticut can agree on some simple, common-sense things we can do – right now – to ban the sale of the weapon he used, to outlaw the high-capacity magazines he used, and to put in place systems that will make it much more difficult for a weapon like that to fall into the wrong hands.
“I ask again – what more does Mr. Cafero need to know before he’s finally ready to take action?”