Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner on the Newtown shooting victims

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims. The press conference was held on Dec. 15, 2012. 

First of all, on behalf of my wife and my sons and on behalf of my other family – our people at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and everyone else who has been so hurt by this event. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner got here – actually, the Chief Medical Examiner – got here a couple hours after the building was secured. We were here until approximately 12:30 last night. We thank the emergency services who built us the temporary facility in the parking lot, and we took identification photographs and did preliminary identification on all victims and had everybody transported back to Farmington by about 1 a.m.

Our entire staff turned out, started the post-mortem examinations this morning. We’ve completed the children by about 1:30 p.m. and I believe everybody except the assailant and his mother will be finished tonight and I’ll do those tomorrow morning.

Lt. Vance and his staff have released the names and the dates of birth…and that will be distributed…

Everybody’s death was caused by – everyone we’ve completed so far was caused by gunshot wounds, and obviously the manner of death on all these cases has been classified as homicide.

Question: [Inaudible]

Carver: I have 4 doctors and I think all 10 of my technicians, both full-timers and part-timers, were there. And one student from Quinnipiac University – this was her first day – that was kind of interesting. And the majority of our investigative staff were working on this at some point whether they were with us last night or on the job today. And our – I think a lot of our clerical – what they call the processing techs who do the paperwork and so forth, they’re up on the second floor and I didn’t get there today.

Question: Sir, given the nature of your job, you deal with horrible things sometimes. Is this one over the top? Is this one a bit different than anything you’ve dealt with before, sir?

Carver: …Given what I deal with all the time, is this one over the top? I’ve been at this for a third of a century, and my sensibilities may not be the average man’s, but this probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know any of my colleagues have seen, and that all the more makes me proud and grateful to our staff who to a man have just behaved most professionally and strongly. And I hope they and I hope the people of Newtown don’t have a crash on their head later.

Question: Doctor, on that examination, could you tell which caliber of the handgun compared to the rifle on these shooting victims were?

Carver: It’s a good thing there’s not be a prosecution ’cause then I couldn’t answer that. All the wounds that I know of at this point are caused by the one weapon.

Question: So the rifle was the primary weapon?

Carver: Yes.

Question: What caliber was used?

Carver: The question was what caliber were these bullets. And I know I probably know more about firearms than most pathologists but if I say it in court, they yell at me and make me answer. So I’ll let the police deal with that for you.

Question: Doctor, can you tell about the nature of the wounds? Were they at very close range? Were the children shot from across the room?

Carver: I only did 7 of the autopsies. Victims I had ranged from 3 to 11 wounds apiece, and I only saw 2 of them with close-range shooting. But that’s – you know, that’s a sample. I really don’t have detailed information on the rest of the injuries.

Question: Wait, you said it was the long rifle that was used? [inaudible, overlapping audio]

Carver: Yes.

Question: How many bullet casings at the crime scene did you find total? [inaudible]

Carver: I’m looking – I can tell you how many I found. I don’t know…there were lots of them, okay? This type of weapon is not – the bullets are designed in such a fashion that the energy – this is very clinical, I shouldn’t be saying this – but the energy is deposited in the tissue and so the bullets stays in.

Question: Did the children die quickly? Are you able to tell that?

Carver: That’s always a difficult question and obviously, I don’t have – I don’t have detailed information on all of them but this is a very devastating set of injuries.

Question: Did they suffer?

Carver: I don’t – I don’t. The best of my ability to answer that question, which is always less than perfect – if so, not for very long.

Question: [inaudible]

Carver: All the ones – I believe so, yes.

Question: [inaudible]

Carver: We did not bring the bodies and the families into contact. We took pictures of them of their facial features. It’s easier on the families when you do that. There is a time and a place for up close and personal in the grieving process. But to accomplish this, we felt it would be best to do it this way, and you can sort of – you can control the situation, depending on the photographer and I have very good photographers.

Question: Do you know the difference between the time of deaths between the body that was recovered from the house and the bodies of the children?

Carver: No, I don’t. Sorry, I don’t.

Question: How young was the youngest victim? How old was the oldest victim?

Carver: You all will have to look at the spreadsheet when we pass it out. I’m sorry.

Question: [inaudible]

Carver: All the ones I don’t know – I first, everybody I dealt with, I believe they were all first graders.

Question: Did the gunman kill himself with the rifle?

Carver: No. I don’t know yet. I’ll examine him tomorrow morning. But I don’t think so.

Question: [overlapping audio]

Carver: I have not seen here yet.

Question: [inaudible]

Carver: …Paul and company will deal with that. Paul and company – Lt. Vance.

Question: You said that all of the children you personally examined were shot multiple times. [inaudible]

Carver: We discussed this briefly with the staff before I came here. There was – I believe everybody was hit more than once.

Question: Was there any evidence of a struggle? Any bruises or…?

Question: Sir, the nature of the shooting, was there any sense that there was a lot of care taken to [inaudible] or was it spread randomly?

Carver: Both. It’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s really…You’d think after the thousands of people I’ve seen shot I could answer that question but I – if I attempted to answer it in court, there’d be an objection and they’d win.

Question: Doctor, can you describe the 7 kids you worked on personally…what did these kids look like when they came to you? What were they wearing?

Carver: Well, they were wearing kids’ stuff. I mean, they were first graders. They were wearing cut kids’ stuff. It’s the kind of stuff you’d send your kids to your grandkids…

Question: Doctor, can you describe the fatal injuries to the adults?

Carver: They’re similar to those of the children.

Question: Doctor, the children you’ve autopsied, where on their bodies were their wounds?

Carver: All over. All over.

Question: What about the mother?

Carver: I have not examined her yet. That will be tomorrow morning.

Question: Were they sitting at desks or were they running away?

Carver: I’ll let the guys – the scene guys address that issue. Obviously, I was at the scene. Obviously, I’m very experienced in that. But there are people who are the number one professionals in that. I’ll let them go over…

Question: You said that the bodies you examined 7 had 3 to 11 shots?

Carver: That’s just the ones that I did.

Question: So this man was there shooting repeatedly…

Carver: I think the guys who did the crime scene are going to be able to tell you how many cartridges were found.

Question: Is there a protocol for the order you did the autopsies? Like the mother and the…

Carver: Other – our goal was to get the kids out and available to the funeral directors first. Just for, well – obviously -

Question: How many boys and how many girls?

Carver: I don’t know.

Question: [inaudible]

Carver: Yeah, there’s been times in my career where I – for reasons I don’t appreciate – go into a locker and sit down and cry. And I think if you don’t have to do that you shouldn’t be in this business. But for this one, not yet. Notice I said yet.

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