SALISBURY — Nothing prepares a person for the horror Newtown police Chief Michael Kehoe and his officers witnessed after crashing through the locked doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
Responding to the first 9:35 a.m. distress call that an “active shooter” was in the building, Newtown police made it the 2.1 miles between the station and the school in about two minutes. The simple arrival of the police cruisers stopped the killing rampage of shooter, Adam Lanza, who killed himself when he saw them. About three minutes was all it took for him to fire 154 .233 rounds from a Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle, riddling the little bodies of 20 first graders and six educators, Kehoe said.
The scene was something only witnessed in theaters of war, Kehoe said, the worst thing he ever saw and something neither he nor his 45-person police force ever imagined would happen in the affluent Connecticut community of 25,000 residents he’s led as chief since 2001.
“It was a massacre,” said Kehoe, a 30-year veteran law enforcement officer. “I certainly never expected something like this, and I’ve seen more than most in my career.”
After responding to one of the worst mass killings in history, Kehoe is on a mission, he said. He intends to use what he went through, and is still going through, to help other law enforcement agencies by giving them the behind-the-scenes true story that will open their eyes to what really happens when tragedy hits their community.
Thanks to his relationship with Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler, the former deputy chief in nearby Branford, Conn, Kehoe did just that yesterday morning at a function room at Salisbury Beach. He spoke for hours as more than 60 state and regional law enforcement professionals from New Hampshire to Cape Cod sat riveted to his every word.