The Sandy Hook School Massacre: Unanswered Questions and Missing Information
Inconsistencies and anomalies abound when one turns an analytical eye to news of the Newtown school massacre. The public’s general acceptance of the event’s validity and faith in its resolution suggests a deepened credulousness borne from a world where almost all news and information is electronically mediated and controlled. The condition is reinforced through the corporate media’s unwillingness to push hard questions vis-à-vis Connecticut and federal authorities who together bottlenecked information while invoking prior restraint through threats of prosecutorial action against journalists and the broader citizenry seeking to interpret the event on social media.
Along these lines on December 19 the Connecticut State Police assigned individual personnel to each of the 26 families who lost a loved one at Sandy Hook Elementary. “The families have requested no press interviews,” State Police assert on their behalf, “and we are asking that this request be honored. The de facto gag order will be in effect until the investigation concludes—now forecast to be “several months away” even though lone gunman Adam Lanza has been confirmed as the sole culprit.
With the exception of an unusual and apparently contrived appearance by Emilie Parker’s alleged father, victims’ family members have been almost wholly absent from public scrutiny. What can be gleaned from this and similar coverage raises many more questions and glaring inconsistencies than answers. While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place—at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.
The Accidental Medical Examiner
An especially important yet greatly underreported feature of the Sandy Hook affair is the wholly bizarre performance of Connecticut’s top medical examiner H. Wayne Carver II at a December 15 press conference. Carver’s unusual remarks and behavior warrant close consideration because in light of his professional notoriety they appear remarkably amateurish and out of character.
H. Wayne Carver II has an extremely self-assured, almost swaggering presence in Connecticut state administration. In early 2012 Carver threatened to vacate his position because of state budget cuts and streamlining measures that threatened his professional autonomy over the projects and personnel he oversaw.
Along these lines the pathologist has gone to excessive lengths to demonstrate his findings and expert opinion in court proceedings. For example, in a famous criminal case Carver “put a euthanized pig through a wood chipper so jurors could match striations on the bone fragments with the few ounces of evidence that prosecutors said were on the remains of the victim.” One would therefore expect Carver to be in his element while identifying and verifying the exact ways in which Sandy Hook’s children and teachers met their violent demise.
Yet the H. Wayne Carver who showed up to the December 15 press conference is an almost entirely different man, appearing apprehensive and uncertain, as if he is at a significant remove from the postmortem operation he had overseen. The multiple gaffes, discrepancies, and hedges in response to reporters’ astute questions suggest that he is either under coercion or an imposter. While the latter sounds untenable it would go a long way in explaining his sub-pedestrian grasp of medical procedures and terminology.
With this in mind extended excerpts from this exchange are worthy of recounting here in print. Carver is accompanied by Connecticut State Police Lieutenant H. Paul Vance and additional Connecticut State Police personnel. The reporters are off-screen and thus unidentified so I have assigned them simple numerical identification based on what can be discerned of their voices.
Reporter #1: So the rifle was the primary weapon?
H. Wayne Carver: Yes.
Reporter #1: [Inaudible]
Carver: Uh (pause). Question was what caliber were these bullets. And I know—I probably know more about firearms than most pathologists but if I say it in court they yell at me and don’t make me answer [sic]—so [nervous laughter]. I’ll let the police do that for you.
Reporter #2: Doctor can you tell us about the nature of the wounds. Were they at very close range? Were the children shot at from across the room?
Carver: Uhm, I only did seven of the autopsies. The victims I had ranged from three to eleven wounds apiece and I only saw two of them with close range shooting. Uh, but that’s, uh y’know, a sample. Uh, I really don’t have detailed information on the rest of the injuries.
[Given that Carver is Connecticut’s top coroner and in charge of the entire postmortem this is a startling admission.-JT]
Reporter #3: But you said that the long rifle was used?
Reporter #3: But the long rifle was discovered in the car.
State Police Lieutenant Vance: That’s not correct, sir.
Unidentified reporter #4: How many bullets or bullet fragments did you find in the autopsy. Can you tell us that?
Carver: Oh. I’m lucky I can tell you how many I found. I don’t know. There were lots of them, OK? This type of weapon is not, uh … the bullets are designed in such a fashion that the energy—this is very clinical. I shouldn’t be saying this. But the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullet stays in [the tissue].
[In fact, the Bushmaster .223 Connecticut police finally claimed was used in the shooting is designed for long range field use and utilizes high velocity bullets averaging 3,000 feet-per-second, the energy of which even at considerable distance would penetrate several bodies before finally coming to rest in tissue.]
Reporter #5: How close were the injuries?
Carver: Uh, all the ones (pause). I believe say, yes [sic].
Reporter #6: In what shape were the bodies when the families were brought to check [inaudible].
Carver: Uh, we did not bring the bodies and the families into contact. We took pictures of them, uhm, of their facial features. We have, uh, uh—it’s easier on the families when you do that. Un, there is, uh, a time and place for the up close and personal in the grieving process, but to accomplish this we thought it would be best to do it this way and, uh, you can sort of, uh … You can control a situation depending on the photographer, and I have very good photographers. Uh, but uh—
Reporter #7: Do you know the difference of the time of death between the mother in the house and the bodies recovered [in the school].
Carver: Uh, no, I don’t. Sorry [shakes head excitedly] I don’t! [embarrassed laugh]
Reporter #8: Did the gunman kill himself with the rifle?
Carver: No. I—I don’t know yet. I’ll-I’ll examine him tomorrow morning. But, but I don’t think so.
[Why has Carver left arguably the most important specimen for last? And why doesn’t he think Lanza didn’t commit suicide with the rifle?]
Reporter #9: In terms of the children, were they all found in one classroom or—
Carver: Uhm … [inaudible] [Turns to Lieutenant Vance] Paul and company will deal with that.
Reporter #9: What?
Carver: Paul and company will deal with that. Lieutenant Vance is going to handle that one.
Reporter #10: Was there any evidence of a struggle? Any bruises?
Reporter #11: The nature of the shooting; is there any sense that there was a lot of care taken with precision [inaudible] or randomly?
Carver: [Exhales while glancing upward, as if frustrated] Both. It’s a very difficult question to answer … You’d think after thousands of people I’ve seen shot but I … It’s … If I attempted to answer it in court there’d be an objection and then they’d win—[nervous laughter].
[Who would win? Why does an expert whose routine job as a public employee is to provide impartial medical opinion concerned with winning and losing in court? Further, Carver is not in court but rather at a press conference.]
Reporter #12: Doctor, can you discuss the fatal injuries to the adults?
Carver: Ah, they were similar to those of the children.
Reporter #13: Doctor, the children you had autopsied, where in the bodies were they hit?
Carver: Uhm [pause]. All over. All over.
Reporter #14: Were [the students] sitting at their desks or were they running away when this happened?
Carver: I’ll let the guys who—the scene guys talk—address that issue. I, uh, obviously I was at the scene. Obviously I’m very experienced in that. But there are people who are, uh, the number one professionals in that. I’ll let them—let that [voice trails off].
Reporter [#15]: How many boys and how many girls [were killed]?
Carver: [Slowly shaking his head] I don’t know.
More Unanswered Questions and Inconsistencies
In addition to Carver’s remarks several additional chronological and evidentiary contradictions in the official version of the Sandy Hook shooting are cause for serious consideration and leave doubt in terms of how the event transpired vis-à-vis the way authorities and major media outlets have presented it. It is now well known that early on journalists reported that Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan Lanza was reported to be the gunman, and that pistols were used in the shooting rather than a rifle. Yet these are merely the tip of the iceberg.
- When Did the Gunman Arrive?
After Adam Lanza fatally shot and killed his mother at his residence, he drove himself to the elementary school campus, arriving one half hour after classes had commenced. Dressed in black, Lanza proceeds completely unnoticed through an oddly vacant parking lot with a military style rifle and shoots his way through double glass doors and a brand new yet apparently poorly engineered security system.
Further, initial press accounts suggest how no school personnel or students heard gunshots and no 911 calls are made until after Lanza begins firing inside the facility. “It was a lovely day,” Sandy Hook fourth grade teacher Theodore Varga said. And then, suddenly and unfathomably, gunshots rang out. “I can’t even remember how many,” Varga said.
The recollection contrasts sharply with an updated version of Lanza’s arrival where at 9:30AM he
walked up to the front entrance and fired at least a half dozen rounds into the glass doors. The thunderous sound of Lanza blowing an opening big enough to walk through the locked school door caused Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach to bolt from a nearby meeting room to investigate. He shot and killed them both as they ran toward him.
Breaching the school’s security system in such a way would have likely triggered some automatic alert of school personnel. Further, why would the school’s administrators run toward an armed man who has just noisily blasted his way into the building?
Two other staff members attending the meeting with Hocksprung and Scherlach sustained injuries “in the hail of bullets” but returned to the aforementioned meeting room and managed a call to 911. This contrasted with earlier reports where the first 911 call claimed students “were trapped in a classroom with the adult shooter who had two guns.” Recordings of the first police dispatch following the 911 call at 9:35:50 indicate that someone “thinks there’s someone shooting in the building.” There is a clear distinction between potentially hearing shots somewhere in the building and being almost mortally caught in a “hail of bullets.”
- How did the gunman fire so many shots in such little time?
According to Dr. Carver and State Police, Lanza shot each victim between 3 and 11 times during a 5 to 7 minute span. If one is to average this out to 7 bullets per individual—excluding misses—Lanza shot 182 times, or once every two seconds. Yet according to the official story Lanza was the sole assassin and armed with only one weapon. Thus if misses and changing the gun’s 30-shot magazine at least 6 times are added to the equation Lanza must have been averaging about one shot per second—extremely skilled use of a single firearm for a young man with absolutely no military training and who was on the verge of being institutionalized. Still, an accurate rendering of the event is even more difficult to arrive at because the chief medical examiner admittedly has no idea exactly how the children were shot or whether a struggle ensued.
- Where is the Photo and Video Evidence?
Photographic and video evidence is at once profuse yet lacking in terms of its capacity to demonstrate that a mass shooting took place on the scale described by authorities. For example, in an era of ubiquitous video surveillance of public buildings especially no visual evidence of Lanza’s violent entry has emerged. And while studio snapshots of the Sandy Hook victims abound there is little if any eyewitness testimony of anyone who’s observed the corpses except for Carver and his staff, and they appear almost as confused about the conditions of the deceased as any layperson watching televised coverage of the event. Nor are there any routine eyewitness, photo or video evidence of the crime scene’s aftermath—broken glass, blasted security locks and doors, bullet casings and holes, bloodied walls and floors—all of which are common in such investigations and reportage.
- Why Were Medical Personnel Turned Away From the Crime Scene?
Oddly enough medical personnel are forced to set up their operation not at the school where the dead and injured lay, but rather at the fire station several hundred feet away. This flies in the face of standard medical operating procedure where personnel are situated as close to the scene as possible. There is no doubt that the school had ample room to accommodate such personnel. Yet medical responders who rushed to Sandy Hill Elementary upon receiving word of the tragedy were denied entry to the school and forced to set up primary and secondary triages off school grounds and wait for the injured to be brought to them.
Shortly after the shooting “as other ambulances from neighboring communities rolled up, sirens blaring, the first responders slowly realized that their training would be tragically underutilized on this horrible day. ‘You may not be able to save everybody, but you damn well try,’” 44 year old emergency medical technician James Wolff told NBC News. “’And when (we) didn’t have the opportunity to put our skills into action, it’s difficult.’”
In light of this, who were the qualified medical practitioners pronounced the 20 children and 7 adults dead? Who decided that none could be revived? Carver and his staff are apparently the only medical personnel to have attended to the victims—yet this was in the postmortem conducted several hours later. Such slipshod handling of the crime scene leaves the State of Connecticut open to a potential array of hefty civil claims by families of the slain.
- Did a mass evacuation of the school take place?
Sandy Hook Elementary is attended by 600 students. Yet there is no photographic or video evidence of an evacuation on this scale. Instead, limited video and photographic imagery suggest that a limited evacuation of perhaps at most several dozen students occurred.
A highly circulated photo depicts students walking in a single file formation with their hands on each others’ shoulders and eyes shut. Yet this was the image of a drill that took place prior to the event itself. Most other photos are portraits of individual children. Despite aerial video footage of the event documenting law enforcement scouring the scene and apprehending one or more suspects in the wooded area nearby the school, there is no such evidence that a mass exodus of children from the school transpired once law enforcement pronounced Sandy Hook secure. Nor are there videos or photos of several hundred students and their parents at the oft-referenced fire station nearby where students were routed for parent pick up.
Sound Bite Prism and the Will to Believe
Outside of a handful of citizen journalists and alternative media commentators Sandy Hill’s dramatically shifting factual and circumstantial terrain has escaped serious critique because it is presented through major media’s carefully constructed prism of select sound bites alongside a widespread and longstanding cultural impulse to accept the pronouncements of experts, be they bemused physicians, high ranking law enforcement officers, or political leaders demonstrating emotionally-grounded concern.
Political scientist W. Lance Bennett calls this the news media’s “authority-disorder bias.” “Whether the world is returned to a safe, normal place,” Bennett writes, “or whether the very idea of a normal world is called into question, the news is preoccupied with order, along with related questions of whether authorities are capable of establishing or restoring it.”
Despite Carver’s bizarre performance and law enforcement authorities’ inability to settle on and relay simple facts, media management’s impulse to assure audiences and readerships of the Newtown community’s inevitable adjustment to its trauma and loss with the aid of the government’s protective oversight—however incompetent that may be—far surpasses a willingness to undermine this now almost universal news media narrative with messy questions and suggestions of intrigue. This well-worn script is one the public has been conditioned to accept. If few people relied on such media to develop their world view this would hardly be a concern. Yet this is regrettably not the case.
The Sandy Hook tragedy was on a far larger scale than the past year’s numerous slaughters, including the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting and the Batman theater shooting in Colorado. It also included glaringly illogical exercises and pronouncements by authorities alongside remarkably unusual evidentiary fissures indistinguishable by an American political imagination cultivated to believe that the corporate, government and military’s sophisticated system of organized crime is largely confined to Hollywood-style storylines while really existing malfeasance and crises are without exception returned to normalcy.
If recent history is a prelude the likelihood of citizens collectively assessing and questioning Sandy Hook is limited even given the event’s overtly superficial trappings. While the incident is ostensibly being handled by Connecticut law enforcement, early reports indicate how federal authorities were on the scene as the 911 call was received. Regardless of where one stands on the Second Amendment and gun control, it is not unreasonable to suggest the Obama administration complicity or direct oversight of an incident that has in very short order sparked a national debate on the very topic—and not coincidentally remains a key piece of Obama’s political platform.
The move to railroad this program through with the aid of major media and an irrefutable barrage of children’s portraits, “heartfelt” platitudes and ostensible tears neutralizes a quest for genuine evidence, reasoned observation and in the case of Newtown honest and responsible law enforcement. Moreover, to suggest that Obama is not capable of deploying such techniques to achieve political ends is to similarly place ones faith in image and interpretation above substance and established fact, the exact inclination that in sum has brought America to such an impasse.
Andrew Whooley provided suggestions and research for this article.