<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Newtown School Shooting]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/feature/newtown-school-shooting http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:08:36 -0400 Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:08:36 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Sandy Hook Responders Receive Awards]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:58:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sandy+hook+ap.jpg

Connecticut State Police presented awards Tuesday to more than 300 state and local police officers who responded to Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012.

Commissioner Dora B. Schriro and State Police Col. Brian Meraviglia led the ceremony at Rentschler Field in East Hartford at 11:30 a.m. and gave medals to the first responders.

It was a solemn ceremony, and a year and a half after the tragedy, the air was still heavy with heartache.

"It's important that we recognize the professionalism and the good work that was done by many, many people," said State police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman were scheduled to address the award recipients at the event. 

"In the midst of disaster and despair, so many in Connecticut rose to the occasion," Malloy said.

Family members of Sandy Hook victims were also in attendance.

"It will always be in our minds," Vance said. "Our hearts will always be broken."

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<![CDATA[Venezuelan Man Charged With Threatening Newtown Residents]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 06:56:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/venezuela+newtown+threat.jpg

Federal authorities have arrested the Venezuelan man accused of placing 96 threatening phone calls to families in Newtown two days after the fatal shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, per the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Wilfrido A. Cardenas Hoffman, 30, of El Hatillo, Venezuela, was arrested Saturday at Miami International Airport while traveling from Venezuela to Mexico, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Cardenas Hoffman is accused of threatening Newtown residents in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, on Dec. 16, 2012.

According to the official complaint filed May 20, 2013, Cardenas Hoffman used a program called iCall to place 96 phone calls to Newtown via the Internet.

In the calls, he claimed to be Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who entered the school Dec. 14, 2012 and fatally shot 20 children and six educators, and threatened to kill the residents, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"All right. This is Adam Lanza. I'm gonna [expletive] kill you. You're dead. You're dead. You hear me? You're dead," he allegedly said in one of the calls.

Cardenas Hoffman is charged with transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce to injure another person. He appeared in federal court today and is due back Thursday. If convicted, he could serve up to five years in prison and pay a fine of up to $250,000.

“This complaint charges that Cardenas Hoffman made dozens of threatening telephone calls to residents of Newtown when they were suffering from one of the worst tragedies in our nation’s history,” said U.S. Attorney Dierdre M. Daly in a statement Monday. “Threatening such vulnerable people is reprehensible and inhuman criminal conduct. Further, it inappropriately stressed law enforcement resources at a critically demanding time. This case demonstrates the resolve of our office and the FBI to arrest individuals who believe that international boundaries will protect them from prosecution in the United States.”

The FBI is investigating and the U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.



Photo Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Sandy Hook Charities & Organizations]]> Sat, 14 Dec 2013 16:51:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/newtownangelsmemorial.jpg

In the days following December 14, 2012, many organizations formed to try and create something positive in the wake of the tragedy.

Below is a list of some of the charities and other organizations honoring the victims.

My Sandy Hook Family

26 Acts of Kindness

Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation

Newtown Helps Rwanda

Newtown Kindness

Lauren Rousseau Memorial Scholarship

UConn Sandy Hook Memorial Scholarship Fund

Snowflakes Fall

The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play

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<![CDATA[Va. Police to Return Stolen Sandy Hook Memorial Signs]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:40:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/2014-06-04_0530.png

Police in Herndon, Virginia, are making a special trip to Connecticut Wednesday to return two signs stolen from parks honoring victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Andrew David Truelove, 28, is accused of stealing a memorial sign for 7-year-old Grace McDonnell from a park in Mystic, Connecticut, and another for 7-year-old Chase Kowalski from a park in Mantoloking, New Jersey. Both signs were stolen about a month ago.

After stealing the sign from the park honoring McDonnell, he called the slain girl's mother to say her daughter "never existed" and that the shooting was a hoax, according to one of the playground's supporters.

He was arrested in Herndon last week.

New signs have since been installed at the parks, so officers will return the stolen signs to McDonnell and Kowalski's parents.

"We think about Sandy Hook, we are all affected by Sandy Hook all the time," Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said last week. "And when you think about that and all the kids who were affected by that it's hard not to get emotional. And one of the things that our investigators talked about was having the honor of being able to take these signs back and hand them over to the families and put them back where they belong. That's most important to us."

Truelove's father, Alan, maintains that his son didn't steal the signs.

"They're chasing the wrong fella," Alan Truelove told NBC Washington. "So police have this investigation completely wrong."

Police in Virginia said grand larceny charges in Connecticut and New Jersey are pending. Investigators may upgrade his charges to felonies.

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<![CDATA[Handmade Signs Show Up After Theft at Memorial Park]]> Wed, 14 May 2014 13:34:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Grace+McDonnell+temporary+signs.jpg

A vinyl peace sign will be reinstalled at a playground dedicated to a Sandy Hook shooting victim a week after a man stole it.

Last week, a man stole the 50-pound sign from a park dedicated to Grace McDonnell, then called her mother and claimed the school shooting was a hoax, according to one of the organizers of the group building the playground. 

Offers to replace the sign have since come from across the state and as far away as Florida.

The Where Angels Play Foundation has ordered a replacement sign and temporary handmade signs have been placed at the playground until it arrives.

The nearby YMCA will next work on a security strategy with the Stonington Police Department and police patrols will be increased at the playground.

Becky Morris, of Mystic, said the theft broke her heart, but the public response proves a simple act of kindness can always outweigh the bad.

"There's so much goodness and kindness and there's so much to be positive about, so focus on that,” Morris said. "Really, the worst bit for us is that somebody could suggest that Sandy Hook never happened and to do that to Grace's mom.”
 



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Compromise Reached in Location for Playground in Honor of Sandy Hook Victim]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:36:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Sandy+Hook+playground+1200a.jpg

A special meeting was held on Monday night to address the proposed West Haven location of one of the 26 “Where Angels Play” playgrounds and a compromise was reached.

The New Jersey-based Sandy Ground Project wanted to build a playground in an area near the Savin Rock Boardwalk in honor of Charlotte Bacon, one of the Sandy Hook School shooting victims.

“I think the playground is a great idea,” Nikita Reddy, a West Haven resident, said. “I think that is actually a beautiful idea.”

However, members of the West Haven Land Trust, which owns the land, had concerns that this would open the door to future expansion.

Carol Conroy was opposed to the proposed location and said it would attract development of the shore area.

“We don’t want this to become a commercial area,” Conroy said.

Some residents said the playground should be placed further down the boardwalk, where there are other playgrounds.

“There is a partial playground down there on the beach; a blue one and if they added to that or put a new one in, somewhere where we can keep both sets of people happy,” Conroy said.

On Monday night, the City Council voted to change the location to Sea Bluff Beach.

Organizers hope to begin building in June.



Photo Credit: Submitted]]>
<![CDATA[Zumbathon Honors Sandy Hook Victim]]> Sat, 12 Apr 2014 22:10:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/ana_grace_still_041214.jpg

It was a dance party in West Hartford Saturday evening as dozens came together for Ana Marquez-Greene, a young girl many at the event never met but who affected them deeply.

Ana was one of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. She grew up in Hartford and spent her time playing at Elizabeth Park where just last week, on what would have been her eighth birthday, a new purple playground was dedicated.

So Carla Butler began the Dance for Ana with Love Zumbathon Charity event last year after finding out how much Ana loved music and loved to dance.

"I read a tribute to Ana from mom and dad, and they said that she never walked because her mode of transportation was to dance," said Butler.

"Everybody has just stepped right up," said organizer Diana Stephens. "Everybody loves Sandy Hook. Everyone loves the Newtown victims, and we just want to continue to show the support to everybody."

Every penny raised goes to the Ana Grace Project, which works to build connections in communities, prevent violence, and help victims. For the people dancing it was a way to show how important Ana is to them.

"It's love. It's love. Mom's message is 'love wins,' and that's what this is showing: that people love," said Butler.

You can visit the Ana Grace Project online.

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<![CDATA[West Haven Could Nix Sandy Hook Playground Proposal]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:19:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/west+haven+sandy+hook+playground.jpg

Some members of the West Haven Land Trust appear to be balking at a plan to build a playground to honor one of the victims of Sandy Hook.

In the 16 months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 18 playgrounds have been constructed in communities struck hard by Superstorm Sandy in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. The playgrounds are named in honor of some of the 26 victims of the tragedy.

There’s a proposal to build one in West Haven in honor of Charlotte Bacon, whose parents have fond memories of taking family trips to the West Haven shoreline.

Some members of the land trust aren't sold on the idea. They feel allowing the playground to be built could open the door to future expansion.

West Haven Mayor Ed O'Brien favors building the playground and says he is in talks with members of the land trust.

“I feel it should be done. It's the perfect fit for it,” said O’Brien. “There has to be some kind of balance. I'm not in favor of large-scale development. I don't think this playground is large-scale development.”

The playground would be built on a 55-by-75-foot grassy area in the Savin Rock section of West Haven. It's not much in terms of development, but business owners say they need all the help they can get.

"If you go to any shorefront communities, towns up and down the coast, the ones that thrive nurture and enhance [their shorelines],” said Paul Gagliardi, Jr. “Beautify it so that everybody gets to enjoy it.”

Gagliardi is a co-owner of Jimmies of Savin Rock, a restaurant that sits near the potential site for the playground. He welcomes the playground, and the economic boost he feels could come from it.

Members of the land trust did not return requests for comment.

Mayor O’Brien says he’ll meet with the land trust over the weekend, ahead of a City Council Meeting Monday evening.

The council will only decide whether to accept the gift of the playground from the Sandy Ground Project. The council will not make a decision on where the playground should go.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Public Input Leads to Newtown Aid Distribution Plan]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:19:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Newtown-1.jpg

More than a year after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a foundation created to distribute donations has made funding recommendations to address unmet needs of the needs of the community and continue to help Newtown heal.

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, a nonprofit designed to distribute funding, released a report Tuesday following anonymous surveys and on-on-one meetings conducted by the Sandy Hook School Support Fund’s 2nd Distribution Committee between Dec. 16, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2014.

The surveys asked community members and survivors what kind of support and assistance they still needed and which resources they thought would best support them.

According to one of the surveys, one-on-one counseling, cash assistance, family and relationship counseling are among the resources most requested, followed by support groups, workshops, community activities, additional school security measures and support for school staff and first responders.

The report also found that family members of the victims and surviving children have experienced enduring mental health issues, and that families or surviving children often feel forgotten and “are struggling with significant family disruption” in the wake of the tragedy.

Additionally, the report expressed “grave concerns for the well-being” of several members of state police who were on scene that day. Some emergency responders haven’t wanted to seek mental health treatment due to stigmas around needing assistance and a lack of understanding of the resources available, according to the report.

Parents and community members are concerned about first responders and other affected individuals who have not sought the treatment they might need, according to the report.

According to a second survey that addresses barriers to getting help, primary roadblocks have been difficulty accessing services, lack of awareness and understanding about available funding resources, financial burdens and feeling discouraged, like nothing will help.

Barriers are most commonly experienced by family members of victims and surviving children, members of the Newtown Ambulance Corps, family members of first responders, teachers and school staff.

As a result, the foundation has put together a community recovery plan to help organize donations and funnel them to the people and services most in need. The committee recommends the following:

  • $75,000 to help with out-of-pocket mental health support costs
  • $75,000 toward a “financial needs fund” for affected individuals and families
  • $10,000 for community programming to foster a sense of unity
  • $40,000 for public education and training surrounding mental health concerns

The process will be repeated and the foundation will distribute funds again in the fall.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sandy Hook Architects Present New Designs]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 07:51:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/sh+design+2.jpg

Students and parents in Newtown, Conn. are getting an idea of what a new Sandy Hook Elementary School could look like.

The old Sandy Hook School was torn down after the December 2012 shootings that took the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators.

A new school will be built on the same property. More than 200 members of the community came together to share their vision for the new facility. 

New Haven-based architects Svigals + Partners, the firm that is designing the school, presented those designs for the first time to the entire Public Building and Site Commission on Tuesday night.

The architects incorporated nature into the design.

"Having more access to nature on an everyday basis improves the life in the school, it improves the learning environment and it improves us as people," Jay Brotman, of Svigals + Partners, said.

"So far so good ... as far as architecturally, making it a more open school and incorporating nature into the school," said Steve Uhde, a local parent.

He attended attended Sandy Hook Elementary, as did his son.

Barry Svigals, of Svigals + Partners, said the site has been designed "so that the school that we create really could not be any place else and it's resonant with what their aspirations are for the school and what the history of the town has been."

The renderings show a school designed with a Main Street theme, including open-air learning and stone walls to create a sense of safety.

"They really know what Sandy Hook is," Robert Mitchell, chairman of the public building commission, said. "Now it's Newtown, but Sandy Hook is a very special part, and they're really incorporating what we are."

Overall, the commission member said they are pleased.

"We're very much in a natural setting. It's very unusual to have this kind of opportunity. We're surrounded by wetlands and hills and trees," Mitchell said.

The new design takes advantage of those resources but still provides a safe place to go.

"When the children walk into the school, they should go 'Wow what a great place to learn," Mitchell said. "It's an educational experience what we're creating here and we want to enhance that experience."

The architects are still-fine tuning the design and hope the school can open by 2016.

They said the site where the shootings happened are not being touched. It's unclear what will go there now.



Photo Credit: Svigals + Partners]]>
<![CDATA[Company Apologizes for Using Sandy Hook Photo in Ad]]> Thu, 30 Jan 2014 20:48:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sandy+hook+window+shattered.jpg

A security company has apologized for using a crime scene photo from inside Sandy Hook Elementary School as part of an advertisement.

The company, Commercial Window Shield, emailed the ad to towns earlier this week.

It included a picture of a window at the front entrance of Sandy Hook that had been shattered by gunfire. The email said Commercial Window Shield's shatter-resistant window film could help keep out unwanted intruders.

“I didn't even start reading the article, I just stopped right there and said 'this is what is wrong with this country,'” said Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek. “This company wanted to sell safety glass. This company has sold safety glass to other people in Connecticut. I just think it's the wrong thing to do to profit off a crime like this and show pictures of it."

Monroe, a town neighboring Newtown, opened up one of its schools to the students of Sandy Hook, who continue to attend classes there until a new Sandy Hook Elementary School is built.

Vavrek and Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra sent emails to the company expressing their disgust.

“What I wrote to them was basically that this was insensitive. I think they owe the people of Newtown an apology for using this crime to build their business,” said Vavrek.

The company issued an apology to Llodra via email on Wednesday.

"As you may know, we sent out an email yesterday regarding the installation of security window film. Although it was not our intention, we understand that the email was insensitive and disrespectful. Our intention was not to profit from a tragedy. Security window film is a current topic of discussion among many schools and towns throughout the country, and we were attempting to shine light on this safety measure. We took the wrong approach with the email, and would like to offer our most sincere apologies; not only to those that received this email but also to the entire Newtown community," the email read.

Llodra accepted the apology in an email sent back to the company.



Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police]]>
<![CDATA[Sandy Hook: One Year Later]]> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:23:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sandy+hook+one+year+later.jpg NBC Connecticut shines a light on the good being done to honor the memories of those who were taken on December 14, 2012.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Newtown Police Chief Withdraws Termination Recommendation]]> Tue, 17 Dec 2013 17:16:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/newtown+police.jpg

A veteran Newtown police officer who has not returned to work since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year is no longer in danger of losing his job.

Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe has withdrawn his recommendation to terminate the employment of Patrol Officer Thomas Bean.

"I am hereby withdrawing my request and recommendation for the termination of Officer Thomas Bean," Kehoe wrote in a letter to the Newtown Board of Commissioners on Dec. 5.

On Aug. 9, Kehoe submitted a letter to the board recommending that Bean be fired for not returning to work after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012.

Bean was among the first to respond to the horror at Sandy Hook and suffered the effects of post-traumatic stress.

"It was a devastating day and the effects have been devastating," said Eric Brown, attorney for the Newtown Police Union.

Bean received a letter over the summer stating the town needed to take some sort of action in terms of his employment.

Bean has been receiving long-term disability benefits, but the town's insurance police will only cover two years of long-term disability.

"The town tried to pinch some pennies by buying the wrong type of insurance policy, " said Brown.
   
Brown has said he believes this was a violation of the union contract and said Bean was supposed to get 50 percent of his pay until retirement.

"Tom acknowledges, based on his own reports, that he's probably not going to be able to come back to work. The question is what type of benefit is he entitled to?" Brown said.

Bean appeared on the Today Show last month, where he said what he witnessed inside the Newtown school continues to haunt him and he wanted the town to keep a promise it made to him and other officers to take care of them should something happen to them.
 

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<![CDATA[26 Acts of Kindness Continue]]> Sat, 14 Dec 2013 20:16:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/26ActsOfKindnessAudreyWashington121113.JPG

Just days after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the "26 Acts of Kindness" movement was born.

First proposed by NBC's Ann Curry, the concept of the "26 Acts," one for each of the lives lost at Sandy Hook, centered around healing through giving.

Wayne Harriman, of Wallingford, said he felt helpless after December 14.

“To shoot a 6 year old child for no reason is just, you know, why?" Harriman said. “I can’t understand the rationale behind it and I suppose we never will."

Then Harriman said he heard about the 26 Acts of Kindness movement and immediately decided to show random kindness, one day at a local restaurant.

“And it just hit me that this would be a great time to do something for someone else, so I just turned around and said I would like to pay for these peoples’ meal as well,” Harriman said.

His wife, Pat Harriman, joined in, as well.

“I needed two pies, so I bought three, so I decided to give someone a pie because Wayne had told me the story about Ann Curry and the acts of kindness. So I got to the checkout and I paid for it and then I turned around and gave it to the woman behind me,” Pat Harriman said.

In New Haven, photographer, Karissa Van Tassel decided to give her clients candid pictures of their families, free of charge.
She said the pictures of the young and innocent Sandy Hook School victims, gave her the inspiration.

“As my act of kindness as a souvenir of that time we had together, as a souvenir of their family to give them all an 8x10 portrait to make sure they have those memories around them, every day,” said Van Tassel.

“The meaning behind someone you don’t even know, just saying I care about people, I think as a community created such an overwhelming feeling of love,” Van Tassel said. “Throughout the process I was so phenomenally moved by all of the things people were doing just to say, I care.”

In Newtown, people continue to carry on the "26 Acts of Kindness" through small acts of giving. Someone left a small envelope with a bag of cocoa outside Town Hall. The note on the envelope read: “Kindness Warms Your Soul.”

Newtown resident, Betty Hallquist, says the envelope makes her happy to know the movement has not lost its momentum.

“We didn’t forget, we still care,” said Hallquist.

Harriman agrees and says even the smallest gesture, makes a difference.

“It doesn’t have to be something monetary, it could just be a deed you wouldn’t normally do out of the ordinary, for someone who isn’t expecting it,” Harriman said. “If you just take a few minutes out of your day to be kind to someone else, what a different world this would probably be.”

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<![CDATA[Playgrounds Celebrate Lives of Those Lost at Sandy Hook]]> Sat, 14 Dec 2013 16:50:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sandy+hook+emilie+parker+playground.jpg

From the ground up, every slide and every swing has been a labor of love for the Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play, because each of the playgrounds represents an angel from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“It makes me feel like a million dollars. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done,” said Bill Lavin, founder of The Sandy Ground Project.

The project was both an effort to rebuild coastal communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy and a way to honor the lives of the 20 children and six adults who were killed in Newtown last year.

“We thought that too much focus was on the way these children left us. We wanted to celebrate who they were, their favorite colors, have their personalities reflected, and while doing that, have other children benefit,” said Lavin.

The playground in New London is built in honor of Emilie Parker. It has the special touches of Emilie’s drawings and her favorite colors of pink, black and blue. It’s a playground Emilie’s father says she would love.

“She was someone who was all about community and love and making sure that everybody felt welcomed, so that’s what’s going to happen here,” said Robbie Parker, Emilie’s father.

It will happen on all of the 26 playgrounds that are built. So far there are 15 completed, and the work is far from over. The playground dedicated to Josephine Gay was just completed this week in Bridgeport, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“A great way to overcome the anniversary with a celebration of her life,” said Michele Gay, Josephine’s mother.

“From something ugly that is happening, something beautiful is coming out of it,” said Carlos Soto, whose daughter, teacher Vicki Soto, lost her life in her classroom at Sandy Hook.

Organizers feel the memory of the 26 angels will forever live on through these playgrounds, the passion of the volunteers who built them and the children who will be able to enjoy them every day.

“I want parents when they come here with their kids to put their cell phones away and just really enjoy the pure joy that kids embrace and fill our lives with,” said Robbie Parker.

“The gift of hope and giving and people coming together against all odds and in the wake of such horror, I think will live on for generations,” said Bill Lavin.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Author With Ties to Sandy Hook Collaborates on Children's Book]]> Sat, 14 Dec 2013 16:51:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/snowflakes+fall+sandy+hook.jpg

For decades, children grew up reading famed author and illustrator Steven Kellogg’s stories about cows, unicorns and dogs.

Kellogg lived  and wrote in Sandy Hook for 35 years, raising his children in a place that he said gave people a good quality of life and a feeling of safety.

Kellogg moved from Sandy Hook 10 years ago, but the events December 14, 2012,  affected him greatly, sending him, like so many others, into a depression. He lost what he called his optimism to do what he had done for so many years.

Fortunately, Kellogg shared an agent with Patricia MacLachlan, an award-winning children’s author.  MacLachlan was asked to write a children’s book with a Sandy Hook theme. When she heard that Kellogg was struggling, she agreed to collaborate with him on the unique project. The book made them both busy with a purpose.

The pair worked quickly from separate locations. The result is an innocent and inspiring children’s book called Snowflakes Fall.

Since the book is geared towards children between the ages of 3 and 7, the author chose to write in metaphors. The book shows children making snow angels. Snow is the book’s theme, since snowflakes became a symbol of tribute to the Sandy Hook shootings. One section points out that no two snowflakes are the same, a reference to the children who lost their lives in the 2012 tragedy.

“A lot of emotion putting this book together," Kellog said. "It was the story of a place that I loved that had suffered and I wanted to help to heal it."

MacLachlan did not want the children who lost their lives to be forgotten. She wanted to write about how joyful childhood can be, and also the changing seasons that are part of life.

“Then when the snow goes as sometimes things leave, the flowers will come again when the rain comes. It’s about memory and renewal,” MacLachlan said.

Kellogg says he found the process of illustrating the book therapeutic and uplifting, restoring his outlook on life.

Random House, which published the book, made a donation to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund and donated 25,000 copies of  Snowflakes Fall to children in need.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Mother of Newtown Victim Reaches Out to Crash Survivors]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 19:42:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/jessielewischooselovepic.jpg

Nurturing, healing, love.

It was the last message Jesse Lewis left his mom before he went to school at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012. They’re the words Scarlett Lewis has lived by in the year since Jesse’s death.

"We are Sandy Hook, we choose love. We started the movement and that is going to move forward. I think when people think about our town that's what they think of,” she said.

To encourage others to choose love, Scarlett started the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, which is dedicated to teaching children to be compassionate. Now, a chance meeting at Jesse's gravesite is showing how Scarlett is living that message.

"Jesse brought us together and, in some way, this is all connected,” explained Michele Palmieri.

Michelle met Scarlett on a snowy day soon after Jesse's death. She was driving through Newtown when she stopped to pay her respects.

"We ended up at Jesse's grave through a feeling that we had to be there,” she recalled.

At the same time, Jesse’s mom was also paying tribute at his grave.

"I did invite them back to the house for tea and we developed a friendship after that,” said Scarlett.

Their connection stayed strong. Almost a year later, it was Michele who would lean on Scarlett.

When a horrific November car crash involving an alleged drunk driver took the lives of Michele's great niece and nephew, 5-year-old Tatiana and 8-year-old Lorenzo Cruz, Scarlett was right there to help.

“It was overwhelming,” she said, “Somebody who has lost children and understands is reaching out and that's a comfort."

The children's mother, Gina Schroder, father, Michael Cruz and 12-year-old brother, Lorenzo survived the crash. Michele said Scarlett's immediate offer to help touched the family even through their grief.

Scarlett held a fundraiser through her foundation to raise money for a memorial fund set up in Tatiana and Lorenzo's names.

"I was so happy to be able to do something for someone else, and it's so small compared to the pain that they're feeling. But it's something, and in doing something for them, I'm also helping my own healing,” said Scarlett.

It's all part of choosing love. In the year since Jesse was killed, the foundation set up in his name has partnered with compassion expert Dr. Chris Kukk to create a compassion curriculum that is being piloted in two Connecticut schools next fall.

Jesse’s brother JT has started a website, called www.newtownhelpsrwanda.org, in order to raise money to help Rwandan genocide survivors. They are some of the many people who reached out to him in the days after Jesse died.

"The ultimate mission of my foundation is to continue the momentum that the world started on December 14th, and that was a movement to choose love,” Scarlett said.

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<![CDATA[Governor Malloy Reflects on Sandy Hook Shootings]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 23:15:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/malloy+on+newtown.JPG

As the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings draws near, Gov. Dannel Malloy is reflecting on that day and the lessons learned.

Malloy was thrust into the role of consoler-in-chief that tragic day and said he's been permanently impacted by the events of that day.
 
"There has not been a day this year that I haven't thought about Newtown and what transpired on Dec. 14," said Malloy said in an interview with NBC Connecticut. "What has continued to cause me great concern is how the families of the victims are doing, how the town itself is doing."
 
Malloy said it's hard for him to answer when asked how the tragedy has changed him personally.
 
"If you're talking about on the governmental side, there's nothing that quite compares to ultimately learning in the course of the day that you've lost 26 of your citizens," said Malloy.
 
Despite the difficulties of that day, Malloy said that the state has learned a lot.
 
"If there is anything to be learned out of this – and there are lots of things to be learned – but perhaps the most important thing is that guns and mental illness do not mix well," he said.
 
In the spring, the governor signed sweeping gun control reforms into law.
 
Since the release of the prosecutor's report on the shootings, Malloy said more can be done, especially when it comes to the issue of mental health.
 
"One of the things we know a lot about mental illness is that the earlier the intervention, the more intense that experience of intervention, the better the results are likely to be," said Malloy.
 
He said since Dec. 14, 2012, first responders around the state are even more prepared.
 
"We are learning lots every day and the technology is getting better and hopefully we will avoid some of these – and it did at UNH, by the way," Malloy said, referencing the campus-wide emergency and lockdown that was prompted by a student with a gun.
 
Newtown plans to mark the tragedy's one-year anniversary with silent reflection, and Malloy says the healing process will be ongoing.
 
"The loss of a child, spouse, a loved one, that's not necessarily something that you recover from," he said. "It's a strong and resilient community."
 
The governor is encouraging people to volunteer and commit acts of kindness in honor of the anniversary.

 



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Malloy Reflects on Newtown Anniversary]]> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 20:23:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/GOVMALLOYEMOTIONAL.jpg

A visibly emotional Governor Dannel Malloy held back tears as he talked about the one year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Malloy said he will attend a mass in Newtown and volunteer but he'll do it out of the view of cameras and reporters.
 
"I'm doing my best to be respectful to the community," said Malloy.
 
It was an emotional day throughout the halls of the state capitol.
 
An exhibit showcasing art work made by the children of Newtown was on display. The children made safe places as a form of art therapy.
 
"It's really amazing to see all of the art work and how much strength is really in Sandy Hook and Newtown," said Nicole Willcox, a family art therapist who has been helping the community of Newtown. "The art is really beneficial because it gets into the pre-verbal part of the brain where the processing needs to happen to deal with the trauma."
 
Along with the children's artwork there were also photographs lining the hallway between the capitol and legislative office building.
 
The photos, taken by Darien photographer Robert Carley, documented the memorials and other scenes in the weeks after Newtown.
 
"I started seeing beautiful creations, beautiful memorials and I wanted to document them," said Carley.
 
He said the photos showcase the hope and love that poured into Newtown after the tragedy.
 
"There are tributes that came in from all over the country," said Carley. "It showed the love of the country and compassion from outside Newtown."
 
Gov. Malloy has requested flags around the state to be lowered to half-staff on Saturday and he also wants houses of worship to toll their bells 26 times at 9:30 in the morning.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Vigil For Sandy Hook Victims Held in Washington]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 19:09:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/455617381.jpg

Two days before the anniversary of the Newtown massacre, grieving families from around the country filled the Washington National Cathedral on Thursday to plead that loved ones lost to gun violence won’t go forgotten, and that the country will find a way to curtail the illegal use of firearms.

One by one, many of those relatives stepped forward to tell their stories: the father of a man killed in the July 2012 attack in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater; the father of a teacher killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012; a 15-year-old boy whose older sister was gunned down on a Chicago street; the father of a man shot as he dined with his wife in San Diego; a Hartford, Conn. pastor whose son was killed in the city where he preached.

“Those who’ve gathered here today show me that my family is not standing alone,” the 15-year-old, Anthony Hardmond, said, holding his sister Ashley’s photo aloft.

He concluded, as the others did, with the promise: “I will remember.”

The audience responded: “We will remember.”

The 90-minute vigil began just before 4 p.m., when the lights of the cathedral dimmed and the sanctuary drew quiet as bells rang for 3 minutes — each representing 10,000 of the more than 30,000 people killed in gun violence last year. Along the interior walls were t-shirts emblazoned with the names of people shot to death this year in the nation's capital.

Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy opened with benedictions urging that the Newtown attack remain a rallying point for peace.

"Almost one year has passed” since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 26 children and educators died, “and so many other violent deaths since then,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, his voice breaking. “Three hundred sixty-five days. And although much has not yet been done, there has been much honor and action all over America, communities coming together in acts of kindness in remembrance of those who lost their lives.”

The Rev. Mel Kawakami, senior minister of Newtown United Methodist Church, said the point of the service was not only to remember the victims and their families, but also to thank police and rescue workers who regularly rush toward danger to save others, and activists who campaign against violence.

"We gather to say, 'No more'," Kawakami said.

The vigil wasn't billed as a political event, but it nevertheless included several sharp remarks in support of stricter gun laws, and damning critiques of the gun lobby.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, recalled the sermon he delivered a couple days after the Newtown attack.

“A year ago next Sunday, I said from this pulpit, 'The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.' I said that then, and I say it now. I believe that the forces of love are greater and stronger than the forces of hatred.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington D.C.'s delegate to the House of Representatives, called for a continued "persistence" in the fight for gun control in Washington.

So did the Rev. Anthony Motley, pastor of Washington D.C.'s Redemption Ministries. "The law is slack and needs to be strengthened," he said.

The service continued with testimonials from more relatives of victims: a survivor of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech; the brother of a man incapacitated in the 1997 shooting at an Empire State Building observatory; a man who lost his mother, and whose father was wounded, in a shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Each ended their stories by saying, “I will not be silent.”

The audience responded: “We will not be silent.”

Carole King sang a hymn. The World Children’s Choir performed “The Angel’s Lullaby.”

The vigil was organized by The Newtown Foundation, a charitable organization with multiple goals: honor the memory of the Newtown victims, increase awareness of the thousands of other people killed in shootings every year, and lobby lawmakers for stricter gun control measures. Every few months, the group arranges visits to Congress by delegations of families of victims.

While there was an overwhelming political motive to those trips, this one was different. The National Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence was timed to take place just before the Newtown anniversary, intended to  focus on the nation's victims while drawing attention away from Newtown itself. That small bucolic community in Connecticut has chosen not to mark the anniversary in any formal way, and asked that the rest of the country turn its gaze elsewhere.

Among those in the audience were five Oakland women who'd never been to the nation’s capital before, invited by the Newtown Foundation. They packed everything they could into the visit: meetings with a U.S. senator and staff of two Congress members to talk about gun control, volunteering at a domestic violence shelter as an “act of kindness" and connecting with people around the country just like them, who’d lost loved ones and wanted desperately to keep them from being forgotten.

“I had no idea I’d ever be here,” Davoria Williams, whose son, Clifford Snead, was murdered in October 2012, said over lunch with her friends before Thursday's vigil. “When my son was with me, you couldn’t have told me I’d be in Washington D.C. for a national candlelight vigil.”

The rims of her eyes grew moist. “But I'm here.”

Her friends — all part of a informal support group they called Their Lives Matter — listened quietly. Brenda Grisham, whose son, Christopher Jones, was shot down in 2010. Sherron and Stacy Hogg, sisters of Sedric Gadson, murdered in 2009. Antoinette Johnson, mother of Terrell Reams, shot to death in April. Murders that all remained unsolved.

Sharron Hogg said she felt empowered by her visit, and would leave with a deeper appreciation for the breadth of the gun violence problem.

"I've looked at the faces of people from all over the country who have brought pictures of their loved ones, and it made me realize this is not a Newtown epidemic or an Oakland epidemic. This is a worldwide epidemic."

Also at the vigil was Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was killed in Sandy Hook Elementary.

“I’m here just to honor and remember Jesse and the great son he was,” Heslin said before the vigil, standing in the cathedral entrance wearing a large brass belt buckle engraved with his son’s name. “And the other victims. It’s not about a political agenda or belief. It’s about honoring and remembering.”

Everyone in the audience was handed a single burning white candle while the World Children’s Choir sang “My Beautiful Town."

The candles remained lit until the service's conclusion, when an organist began playing the hymn, "This Little Light of Mine." The audience, singing along, walked toward the exits. They passed baskets full of handmade paper hearts, taking one as they snuffed the flames and continued out into the freezing night.



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Song About Newtown Promotes Healing, Kindness]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 20:00:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/newtown_music.jpg

One Connecticut musical group has turned to song to help the healing in Newtown, and, in the process, is hoping to bring kindness to our nation’s kids.

It all began with an organization called Newtown Kindness, borne out of the loss of Sandy Hook first-grader Charlotte Bacon. The group is committed to promoting acts of kindness and encouraging children to become lifelong contributors to their communities.

The group asked The Alternate Routes to write a song for them, entitled “Nothing More.”

“This is a simple idea," said lead singer Tim Warren. "It reaches people in the simplest way possible. It's not political. It's not about a tragedy. It's like, we are going to pick the pieces up and we are going to try and make the best of the situation, and that idea comes from people who had to overcome a lot.”

Students from the Sunset Ridge School in East Hartford had the opportunity to sing with the band after their teacher reached out to the musical duo.

“It really is a powerful message about how we should all be kind to each other,” said 11-year-old East Hartford student Ashya Perez.

To that end, students at the arts-themed school have pledged to commit 26 acts of kindness in honor of the Sandy Hook shooting anniversary.

“We expect all of our students to be kind, to be considerate role models,” said school principal Emil Kopcha.

The mission of Newtown Kindness is spreading. Other children throughout the country are also singing this song in their classrooms to help inspire a positive school climate.

“One thing I think I will say about children is that when they see a need, they respond to it immediately. Whereas as adults, we overthink it,” said sixth-grade teacher Cara Quinn.

It's a simple message and the youngest among us are its messengers.

“I really like the song. I think it's really powerful," said 11-year-old Maya Mason. "And my favorite part in it is that heroes don't look like they used to. They look like you do. I think that's trying to say that anybody can be a hero because it’s not just like Superman and Batman. It's about anybody. Just because you are being kind, you can be a hero.”

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<![CDATA[After Newtown: Police Receive More Training for Working With Mentally Ill]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 19:59:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/len+newtown+one+year.JPG

In the year following the Newtown tragedy, police have reassessed the way they'd respond to a similar incident, and a number of departments are learning how to better work with people who have mental health issues or are in crisis.

Louise Pyers, founder and executive director of the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement, said one of her close relatives tried to kill himself by threatening to hit a police officer with a bottle.

“What he did was try to entice a police officer to shoot him by threatening the officer and he was successful at that," Pyers said. "The officer did shoot him. And luckily, this young person was able to survive.”

Pyers said the experience showed her the need for police training in how to best work with people with mental health issues or who are experiencing a crisis.

For more than a decade, Pyers has been a driving force behind police Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, training. CIT training specifically shows officers how to recognize the mentally ill, deescalate situations involving them and quickly get them professional help.

She said that in the 12 months since Sandy Hook, more police departments are asking about CIT courses.

“I think what law enforcement is seeing is that they’re really does need to be more awareness community wide,” Pyers said.

Windsor police officer Sue Bowman has been using her CIT skills for roughly a decade, and was recently honored for her work. Bowman explains you need a different approach when dispatched to a call involving someone with a mental illness.

“Sometimes these cases take a little bit longer," Bowman said. "We have to slow everything down and ask more questions than we might normally, spend some time with the person.”

In fact, the day before NBC Connecticut spoke with Officer Bowman, she was dispatched to speak with a suicidal man on the train tracks near Windsor Center.

“It was clear that the gentleman was suffering from some mental health issues," Bowman said. "And we were able to calm him down because he was a little aggressive at the beginning. ... [We were able to] bring him down to where he wasn’t kicking, he wasn’t yelling, and we calmly walked him over to a waiting ambulance.”

Bowman also helps other officers in Connecticut learn about CIT by serving as a facilitator for many of the 40-hour courses funded by the state. She said CIT may not prevent violent crimes committed by people struggling with mental illness, but it’s a start.

“Would it have stopped Newtown? Probably not," she said. "I don’t know, but it may have assisted that young man, prior in some way. I don’t know. We can never say.”



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[President to Observe Moment of Silence for Newtown ]]> Tue, 10 Dec 2013 19:58:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/obama_mandela_1200x675_81632835519.jpg

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will honor the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting by observing a moment of silence on Saturday, according to a White House official.

It's not clear yet what time the moment of silence will be held.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has asked houses of worship around Connecticut to toll their bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

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<![CDATA[Sandy Hook Mother Supports Meriden Crash Family]]> Tue, 10 Dec 2013 19:56:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/meridensandyhook.jpg

Just over a month since two children were killed in a devastating drunk driving crash, help and support for the family is pouring in from an unlikely source.

Five-year-old Tatiana Cruz and 8-year-old Lorenzo Cruz were killed when the car they were riding in was struck from behind by a man accused of driving drunk. The children’s mother, Gina Schroder, father Michael Cruz and 12-year-old brother Alejandro survived the crash.

“It's like you hear the words being said but it doesn't really register with you,” said Michele Palmieri, the children's great aunt.

Now hope and healing are coming from someone who knows what it's like to lose a child.

“One of the greatest lessons I've learned through my suffering and what brings meaning to the suffering is doing something for someone else,” said Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was one of the 20 children killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

When she heard about the car crash, Scarlett offered to help by holding a fundraiser in Jesse’s name. All proceeds go to the Cruz-Schroder Memorial Fund set up by Tatiana and Lorenzo’s family.

“Being in service to others heals your pain. And I was so happy to be able to do something for someone else and it's so small compared to the pain that they're feeling, but it's something and in doing something for them I’m also helping my own healing,” Scarlett said.

Michele reached out to Scarlett after Jesse’s death last year. Now Scarlett believes things have come full circle.

“I know that Jesse is with those kids. That's my personal belief, and I know he would love that it's Christmas time, it's a season of giving, and it’s so beautiful to be able to reach out and help another family,” she said.

Michele said she's touched by the gesture.

“It's like, here it is so close to the anniversary, and she's reaching out and doing something for somebody else,” she said.

The dinner will be held Wednesday night at Il Monticello in Meriden. Tickets are $35 per person, which includes dinner. Those hoping to attend can buy seats at the door or register online by emailing maureen@jesselewischooselove.org.

Scarlett will be among the speakers.

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<![CDATA[Touching Tribute to Newtown Victims]]> Mon, 09 Dec 2013 15:13:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/SandyHookFamilies.JPG The families of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy by lighting candles to honor their loved ones.]]> <![CDATA[WATCH: Families of Newtown Victims Offer Touching Tribute]]> Mon, 09 Dec 2013 20:07:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/sandy+hook+families+screen+shot.JPG

Families of victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre appeared together Monday to make a brief but moving joint statement asking that America mark the approaching anniversary of the attack by performing acts of kindness and volunteering for charities in their hometowns.

"We hope that some measure of good may be returned to the world," they said.

The statement, read aloud by two red-eyed Newtown mothers in halting voices, concluded with relatives announcing their intent to light a candle on the eve of the anniversary in honor of the loved one they lost.

It started with with JoAnn Bacon, whose daughter was killed and who read the last half of the joint statement.

"I'd like to add that our family will be lighting a candle on the eve of 12-14, the last night we spent with our sweet Charlotte."

Then 13 more family members — representing about half of the shooting's victims — stepped up to say who they'd be lighting a candle for that night:

"Our beautiful girl, Jessica," Jesse, "our daughter, Emily," "my mom, Dawn Hochsprung," "our older sister, Victoria,"  "my sweet boy, Jack," "our beautiful girl, Grace," "our gorgeous daughter, Avielle," "our beautiful daughter, Ana," "our sweet son, Daniel," "my daughter, Lauren," Chase, "our irrepressible Benny."

The group slowly walked away, passing beneath a banner inscribed with the names of each of the 20 children and six educators killed on Dec. 14, 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza burst into the school and opened fire before turning a gun on himself. The names on the banner were shaped in a heart, with the the phrase "Always in our hearts" underneath.

The families said that they were all grieving in deeply unique and personal ways, but wanted to allow others to share remembrances of the victims and communicate with each other. So they created a website, My Sandy Hook Family.

"This will be a singular place for sharing, communication and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day," said Krista Rekos, whose daughter, Jessica, was killed in the shooting. "MySandyHookFamily.org allows us the opportunity to honor those who were taken from us so violently."

Early in the day, officials in Newtown said they were trying to make the approaching anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as uneventful as possible, urging media to stay away and asking people to focus on performing "acts of kindness" in their everyday lives instead of descending on their small town and triggering bad memories.

"We are trying to respect the world's interest in us, but we also have a real need in our community to gain a foothold," First Selectman Pat Llodra said at the start of a 50-minute press conference meant to satiate intense media demands for comment. "We pay a price when the media is here, because we're a small community."

She and other officials stressed that Newtown was on the first leg of a long journey toward healing, and was in no need of being reminded of the shooting.

"Newtown is cracked," said Matt Crebbin, the senior minister for the Newtown Congregational Church and coordinator of the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association, paraphrasing a lyric by songwriter Leonard Cohen.

"He writes in one song that there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in," Crebbin explained. "I'd say Newtown is cracked. We've been through a devastating experience and yet in the midst of our cracks and our brokenness there is light shining through."

Crebbin noted, for example, that in addition to honoring those who died, his congregation would be baptizing a baby this weekend.

Interim Schools Superintendent John Reed said the district would attempt to have as normal a day as possible on Friday, the day before the anniversary. A majority of students and staff are expected to come to school.

The goal is to "maintain as much as possible the consistency and ebb and flow of the school day," Reed said.

The district has been operating an intense mental health program in which it has monitored the progress of its students — not only those who were in the school at the time of the shooting, but across the entire local system, Reed said. That observation will continue until they graduate high school, he said.

Newtown is in the process of developing a school to replace Sandy Hook Elementary, which was demolished weeks ago. Llodra said there was no plan for a memorial at the new building.

Police Chief Mike Kehoe said there would be an "increased law enforcement presence" in Newtown all weekend to ensure a sense of safety and security. Other than that, "we're going to do what we can to make it a routine day, like any Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

His officers were among the first to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary as the massacre was unfolding. Asked how those officers were doing, Kehoe said the department had "made remarkable gains."

"We're showing a resilience that I expected from a law enforcement agency," Kehoe added. "But I know we have a long road to go."

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<![CDATA[Schools Enhance Security in the Wake of Sandy Hook]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 19:49:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/fairfield+police_schools.jpg

An extra check of a secured doorway has become the norm for Fairfield schools. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fairfield, like many other towns, has taken a closer look at school security and made changes to enhance it.

“One of the things we did, one of the initiatives is numbering every single doorway in every school,” said Fairfield Police Lt. James Perez. The security enhancement will help first responders to know what part of the school building in which there may be an emergency or an incident.

Lt. James Perez went through every single school and put together a safety plan with three major steps. The first was looking at every school building and making sure it was secure.

People walking into the building will have to navigate a detachable rope system, similar to those used at airport security, or a ticket counter.

“We designed this so that visitors have to go through the soft barrier. They have to go to the main office to report, so no one is just allowed to walk in,” said Lt. Perez.

The second step was training for all staff members, so that they know what to do and how to respond to an act of violence and also what indicators there may be that could help prevent it.

“I try to give training based on the ability for the staff member to react, rather than just freeze there if something bad were to happen,” said Lt. Perez.

Another part of the school safety program is sharing information between the police department and the school system.

“It’s really sharing the same information that we both know from each other, but we never knew because we always had our backs to each other. So now we’re reversing that, so their problems become our problems and our problems become their problems,” said Lt. Perez.

Police officers have also been integrated into the schools. It’s the first year where officers are permanently in place at the high schools and the middle schools. They walk the halls, talk to students and keep a constant eye on the building.

“Every morning I’m here I get hellos. I get asked on certain things going on in the school to speak to the students, whether it’s bullying or behavioral, not necessarily a law enforcement role, but maybe that person from inside the school to give my perspective,” said Fairfield Police Officer George Buckmir, who is stationed at Tomlinson Middle School.

Officer Buckmir has also been building relationships with students and fostering the new relationship between the police department and the school system, which is one that is so important after recent events.

“Our lives have changed. There’s a new appreciation for security and safety in our buildings, and because of that, the wonderful result was a growing relationship with the police department and very much so now, we are partners,” said Sally Bonina, Principal of Tomlinson Middle School.

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<![CDATA[Sandy Hook Investigation Report to Be Released on Monday]]> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 12:23:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP238829179457.jpg

On Monday, prosecutors will release a long-awaited report on the investigation into the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown last Dec. 14.

The Office of the State’s Attorney plans to publish the report around 3 p.m. on the State of Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice website.

The report on the shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six staff members was supposed to be released in June, then was pushed back to the fall.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said he agrees that the information should be made public and is glad the information will be released.

Last month, he called
upon the Chief State’s Attorney to release the final report.

"I'm frustrated by the amount of time that it's taken and I think the longer it takes, the more things come out as opposed to being in an official report," Malloy said last month. "And I think the people of Newtown and families of those injured deserve it."

Malloy said today that he has not been briefed on the report but is glad that the victims' families were last week.

In advance of the report being issued, the interim superintendent of schools in Newtown has reached out to parents and sent a letter to ensure they’re prepared.

"We all understand that for the children who were directly affected by this tragedy the release of the report and the upcoming anniversary can carry a very personal meaning," the letter reads.

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sandy Hook Teacher Named Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year]]> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 14:36:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kaitlin+Roig-DeBellis.jpg

When horror happened around them at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December, teachers took on the role of heroes, working to keep their students calm and safe.

One of those teachers, Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, has been recognized as one of Glamour magazine’s  Women of the Year for 2013.

Last December, as shots rang out in the school, Roig-DeBellis moved her 15 students into the bathroom, blocked the door and assured them that everything would be OK, even though it was hard for her to believe herself. 

She also ensured that something positive came out of something terrible and created the charity Classes 4 Classes, a non-profit meant to connect children and foster living with love, kindness, empathy and compassion.

“Twenty young children and six brave adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, but in the middle of this horrific act, a miracle happened. Fifteen first graders survived and are alive today because of the courage, love and devotion of one teacher, Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis,” Arianna Huffington said during the event.

“I have lived my life so as not to let that day define myself or my students,” Roig-DeBellis said. “This award is an honor of the 26 angels who I know are looking down on us right now, she said through her tears. “This is for them.” 

Former First Lady Laura Bush also made a statement about Roig-DeBellis for the magazine.

“Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis is a Woman of the Year because... ‘No teacher expects to have to rescue her students from a deadly attack. But Kaitlin's quick thinking at Sandy Hook saved 15 lives’," Bush wrote.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images for Glamour]]>