The families of those massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School are calling on legislators to amend state law so that photos and audio of the 9-1-1 phone calls from the December incident are not released to the public.

“They are offensive and an invasion of my son’s right to dignity,” said Dean Pinto, whose 6-year-old son, Jack, was fatally shot along with 25 other students and educators at the Newtown school.

A bill that the legislative leadership has been secretly negotiating with the governor’s office would block future release of crime-scene photos, audio and the names on statements from the children who witnessed the slaughter.

“None of us here want to hear gun shots and the screams of our loved ones,” Pinto said.

But some legislators, open-government advocates, and newspaper editorial boards have concerns about exempting this traditionally public information from disclosure.

“When did somebody in state government decide that secrecy was good public policy?” the Hartford Courant wrote in a recent editorial about the proposal.

“This is wrong at every level… It isn’t a good idea, and they damn well know it,” the editorial said.

But the families who came to the state Capitol Friday to ask legislators to change the law said many of them have already been harassed and subjected to conspiracy theories by crackpots -– an indignity releasing such graphic information would just exacerbate.

“Every family you see behind you has been harassed on multiple occasions,” said Gilles Rousseau, whose daughter, Lauren Rousseau, a substitute at the school, was slain.

“She has become the fuel of many crazy people out there. I can only imagine what will happen when [the] Internet is flooded with hundreds of thousands of photos and depict the actual gruesome scene,” he said. 

Parents also said they don’t want filmmakers like Michael Moore using images of their dead family members to make a political point.

“I don’t want my child to be collateral damage,” said Jennifer Hensel, who lost her daughter at Sandy Hook.

Moore, an anti-gun advocate who produced a movie about the shootings at Columbine High School, recently wrote in the Huffington Post about the benefit of releasing these photos.

“When the American people see what bullets from an assault rifle fired at close range do to a little child’s body, that’s the day the jig will be up for the [National Rifle Association]. It will be the day the debate on gun control will come to an end. There will be nothing left to argue over. It will just be over. And every sane American will demand action,” he wrote.

Lt. Paul Vance, spokesman for the State Police, the agency leading the investigation of the Newtown shooting, said he does not believe anyone has asked for the photos yet, but believes it is only a matter of time.

He said he is also waiting for guidance on whether the final report on Newtown should include certain details. He predicted the report will be released sometime this summer.

Newtown family members were at the Capitol Friday to deliver a letter to legislators saying that the only thing releaseing these photos will accomplish is to extend their grief and to provide training materials for others like shooter Adam Lanza who are bent on causing mayhem.

“Please get this done for us, for our families, and for our community,” the letter reads.

“The only person who will learn from them is the next Adam Lanza,” said Pinto.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, who represents Newtown, said that he is working hard with the governor’s office and the leadership for the Democratic majority to get a bill approved. 

“I am unapologetic in what I am trying to do for these families… I am with them first and foremost,” he said.

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said, “I think we’ll do something and what that is we’re still working on.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters earlier this week he supports the changes, too. 

“I am standing with the parents. I want to be very clear… Given the extraordinary circumstances they are deserving of some additional protections for their and their children’s and their deceased spouses interests,” he said.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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