Fact Check: FBI Did NOT Say That There Were No Killings At Sandy Hook -- Data Were Submitted To FBI Later

Fact Check

  • by: Christiana Dillard
Fact Check: FBI Did NOT Say That There Were No Killings At Sandy Hook -- Data Were Submitted To FBI Later Published Late

Did the FBI say that there were no killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the same year as the mass shooting at the school that resulted in 26 deaths? No, that's not true: Although data from the FBI's Crime in the U.S. 2012 publication list zero murders in Newtown, Connecticut, where the school was located, the figures in those data were reported under the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program by the law agencies handling the cases. In this case, Connecticut State Police, the agency that handled the mass shooting, submitted the appropriate data to the FBI at a later date. At the time of writing, the killings are included in the FBI Crime Data Explorer, which is updated more frequently than the annual Crime in the U.S. publication series.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on October 18, 2021. Its screenshot reads:

FBI SAYS NO ONE KILLED AT SANDY HOOK
Agency publishes crime report showing '0' murders occurred in Newtown in 2012

This is what the post looked like on Facebook on October 22, 2021:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Oct 22 14:40:34 2021 UTC)

The claim most likely originated from a 2014 article published on InfoWars, the media company founded by Alex Jones. Jones has faced legal repercussions from families of some of the Sandy Hook mass shooting victims for his previous claims that the shooting was a hoax, although he has since admitted that it happened. The 2014 Infowars article cited the Crime in the U.S. 2012 data that list "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement" in Connecticut, by city. The data show Newtown as having experienced zero murders or non-negligent manslaughters.

But the FBI did not supply these data on its own. The data declaration for Crime in the U.S. 2012 clarifies that agencies in charge of the cases submit the data:

This table provides the volume of violent crime (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and property crime (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft) as reported by city and town law enforcement agencies (listed alphabetically by state) that contributed data to the UCR Program.

In an email to Lead Stories on October 21, 2021, J. Paul Vance, the former media relations commander of the Connecticut State Police who provided the public with information about the Sandy Hook mass shooting and is now retired, explained the data delay:

The crime happened in the town of Newtown The local PD did not report the data as the case was turned over to the State Police to do the lead investigation on the entire crime

State Police submitted data to FBI at a later date.
The case took 364!days to complete that was the priority not data reporting

The 2012 expanded homicide data provided by Connecticut State Police to the FBI and are counted in the Crime Data Explorer do include the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings. Lead Stories reached out to the Connecticut State Police for more information about locating data about the Sandy Hook killings in the Crime Data Explorer. In an email sent on October 21, 2021, a spokesperson passed along a response from the agency's Crime Analysis Unit:

It was reported under CT State Police, rather than Newtown. So it is in a different section.

Lead Stories located the data in the Crime Data Explorer by taking the following steps:

In the Crime Data Explorer, we clicked "Expanded Homicide Data" under Crime Data on the left-hand side. We chose "Connecticut" under Location Select, typed in and then chose "Connecticut State Police" under Agency Select and chose "2012" under Year Select.

expanded homicide data ct 2012.PNG
(Source: FBI Crime Data Explorer screenshot taken on Thu Oct 21 19:37:50 2021 UTC)

We scrolled down to Expanded Homicide Offense Characteristics (not Counts) by Connecticut State Police and changed the dates from "2012" to "2012."

victim data ct 2012.PNG
(Source: FBI Crime Data Explorer screenshot taken on Thu Oct 21 19:39:26 2021 UTC)

The first category shown was Offender vs. Victim Demographics, with the data displayed by age as the default. Proof of the existence of the Sandy Hook mass shooting data was evident: 20 individuals aged 0 to 9 years old are shown as victims, the same number of children who were killed as a result of the mass shooting. Six adults were also killed at the school.

According to Connecticut state crime data from 2012, the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook were the only murders that appeared to be reported for the less than 10 years old age demographic of murder victims.

Besides the data included in the Crime Data Explorer, the FBI has documented the Sandy Hook killings, publicly releasing more than 1,500 pages of documents about the case in 2017.

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  Christiana Dillard

Christiana Dillard is a former news writer for Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. She received her undergraduate degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a freelance writer for several organizations including the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, Pitt Magazine, and The Heinz Endowments. When she’s not producing or studying media she’s binging it, watching YouTube videos or any interesting series she can find on streaming services.

Read more about or contact Christiana Dillard

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