It’s been nearly two years since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES) massacre and the facts continue to hold up against the persistent scrutiny of die-hard deniers.
Nothing has really changed.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence made public by the State of Connecticut and various law enforcement bodies, there are still some who continue to insist that the shooting never occurred and what we’ve been told is simply a cover story for an elaborately staged government hoax.
Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the desperation inherent in the deniers’ arguments. No sooner than one wild theory is debunked, a more absurd and ridiculous theory takes its place.
In recent days, for instance, conspiracy theorists have placed much emphasis on the glass window that mass murderer Adam Lanza shot out to gain access into the school.
One theory suggests that bullets could not have possibly shattered the window if it had been made of a type of glass mandated by federal and local safety laws in effect during 2012.
Another argues that trained law enforcement officers neither could nor would enter through the hole made in the broken glass because it was too small and posed a serious threat of injury.
The first argument comes from wealthy entrepreneur George Mason.
For those unaware, Mason attracted considerable attention from the local press in 2013 when he proposed construction of a $30 – $50 million equine facility in Newtown as a tribute to the Sandy Hook victims. Soon after the project was nixed by town leaders, on the grounds that it might be perceived as an exploitation of the tragedy, Mason—a resident of Maine at the time—accused them of not wanting “outsiders in their town” because they could potentially “ask questions and see things that might unravel the Newtown lies and deception.”
During a recent online discussion with this Newtown Post-Examiner (NPE) reporter, Mason argued that the glass pictured in crime scene photographs was not “correct glass for a school or public building.”
Mason then posted a photograph he obtained from the Associated Press and wrote: “correct glass would look like this when shot.”
That post was followed by a crime scene photograph from SHES and this statement from Mason: “not like this. Plain safety glass with such a large span has no impact strength.”
When I pointed out that it has been commonly accepted that “tempered glass” was the type of glass in place before Lanza shot it out, Mason replied: “Tempered? That large, no impact strength. Why do you think they use laminated glass for windshields?…”
Mason went on to write: “…Door glass must be tempered and have a specific fire resistence code. However, there are guid[e]lines for various sizes of glass. The larger the span, the more impact strength it has to have. It isn’t rocket science.”
To determine the veracity of Mason’s claims, this NPE reporter consulted Matthew Roetter, President of Roetter Window and Door Company, Inc. in Hayden, Idaho. Mr. Roetter is the nation’s leading forensic expert on the analysis of fenestration components, such as doors and windows, and has been retained on more class-action cases than any other fenestration expert witness or consultant in the country.
When asked if he could determine what type of glass was in place from the crime scene photos contained in the State of Connecticut’s final report, Roetter replied: “Yes I can and I can say with 100% certainty that the glass was tempered glass.”
According to Roetter, tempered glass is the result of standard annealed glass being put through a heat treatment process. This allows the glass to be hardened by placing the molecules into a constant state of stress.
“Tempered glass has a unique breakage characteristic,” Roetter added. “When it breaks, the tension in the molecules will release. So the whole sheet of glass will break into popped-popcorn size pieces of glass. That’s very evident in the photographs that it is tempered glass.”
Roetter went on to say that tempered glass is the type typically required by law for public places because it poses less of a threat of injury than annealed glass. In one of Roetter’s recent personal injury cases, for instance, a man in Colorado suffered a heinous injury from broken annealed glass that had been installed in close proximity to a hot tub.
“When [annealed glass] breaks, it breaks into large, sword-like, armed length pieces of glass, which are very sharp,” he said. “In this case, the person had his eyeball bisected by the glass. Had it been tempered glass, in my opinion, an injury may have occurred but would not have been as severe.”
Though tempered glass is designed to absorb and deflect impact from blunt force, it is still very fragile and vulnerable to breakage under the right conditions. According to Roetter, “Once that tension is released, it just falls apart. It crumbles. From the edge it’s very fragile. All it takes is the slight tap of a hammer to shatter the glass.”
When asked if bullets would have pierced rather than shattered the glass, Roetter was very clear.
“Just one .223 round—or for that matter a .22 or .357 or 9mm—just one round would have been enough to cause that glass to shatter,” he replied. “That’s all it would take. In reading the Connecticut State Attorney General’s report, there were eight shell casings that were found outside of that window, which they indicated was shot by the perpetrator. Obviously just one round would have been able to cause the glass to shatter and eight would have been able to clear the hole that we see. In my opinion, eight rounds shot in a larger pattern would have easily caused that hole…There’s no question in my mind.”
When asked if the tempered glass pictured in crime scene photographs was consistent with the kind used in schools during 2012, Roetter replied: “In my opinion, the proper glass type was used in the window that the perpetrator shot a hole in. It was tempered glass. It was required to be tempered because of its distance to a door and distance to the floor. So it met code and, in my opinion, there’s nothing unusual about it being tempered glass.”
The second theory comes courtesy of Wolfgang W. Halbig, the so-called “school safety expert” who has collected more than $20,000 for an independent investigation into the SHES tragedy.
In his continuing effort to convince potential donors that the SHES tragedy was a staged event, Halbig has called into question the actions of the Connecticut State Troopers who entered the school through the hole in the broken glass.
“Why go through the broken glass window exposing you to serious injury?” Halbig wrote in a complaint filed with the State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “These 11 sworn police affidavits showing them entering the Sandy Hook Elementary School through the shot out glass window is just unbelievable.”
Unbelievable to Halbig perhaps, but not to the glass expert this reporter consulted.
“I personally would have no problem myself going through that hole,” said Roetter, who described himself as six-foot-three and two-hundred-thirty pounds. “I don’t see it as a safety risk.”
Halbig has also previously stated that no trained law enforcement officer would enter through a broken window without breaking it out completely with his “metal baton.”
Again, our glass expert disagrees.
When asked if the Troopers were prudent in their decision to keep the glass intact as a way of preserving evidence, Roetter replied: “Absolutely…whenever I do an investigation into fenestration products, I want something that no one has touched. The pristine condition of the evidence is what I want. I don’t want it altered.”
That’s not to say that Roetter agrees that the Sandy Hook Elementary School was best equipped to ward of an attack. As he explains: “Had the glass been laminated or even wired fire-rated glass, which wouldn’t necessarily been required by code, there’s a chance that the perpetrator would have had a problem entering the building.”
Roetter went on to say that the “glass industry ought to look at promoting a safer glazing for schools” and that “our building codes and safety codes ought to address this for safety in school buildings.”
Hopefully, school districts and agencies that regulate school safety will heed Mr. Roetter’s advice and perhaps prevent future SHES tragedies from happening. And, hopefully, those who deny that the shooting took place will stop listening to unqualified sources and begin consulting experts like Mr. Roetter who can set the record straight.