Newtown Police Chief in Wilmington to talk crisis management

A student returns to classes at Newtown High School. (Source: MGNonline/Patrick Raycraft)
A student returns to classes at Newtown High School. (Source: MGNonline/Patrick Raycraft)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Approximately 700 student lives were on the line December 14, 2012 when 20-year-old Adam Lanza went to Sandy Hook Elementary School with the plan to kill.

He was successful in his plan killing 26 people that day, and Chief Michael Kehoe with the Newtown Police Department saw the carnage first hand.

Wednesday, Chief Kehoe will give a special presentation to law enforcement agencies and government officials from across the state at the Police Executives Conference.

He's not going to focus on the gruesome details, but will tell as much as he can to keep officers in North Carolina on their A-game if a crisis arises.

When interviewing Kehoe before the conference, he mentioned his 'if I knew then what I know now,' story.

"The shooting itself lasted an hour and half to two hours," said Kehoe. "The officers did very well during the event-- but the aftermath is what we weren't prepared for. You have the media in your community for days and weeks on end and reconnecting with you every six months. You have hundreds of emails you get from well- wishers and people who want to help. There are systems I wish we would have had in place for these elements."

He added that a community has to be cohesive before a crisis event happens so you can navigate through it.

"Newtown is very small and all the officers know each other-- it's very tight knit; and despite all sadness I'm seeing a lot of gains for the community, the agencies and for the families," said Kehoe.

Chief Ralph Evangelous with the Wilmington Police Department agreed that the aftermath is a tough issue to tackle- especially all the emotions attached to a tragedy like Sandy Hook.

"I just can't imagine, the officers, the community-- the emotional weight of it all. I mean you think of all those kids who were killed. How do you deal with that?"

It's one of the many questions Chief Kehoe hopes to answer during his four-hour presentation Wednesday.

In addition to learning how to get things in order for an after math-- dealing with the media, families and community-- law enforcement will hear all about preventative measures.

" You always hear critiques about the situation after it's happened. I want to know how to keep tragedies like this from happening in our country. How do we drill the prevention issue down," said Chief Evangelous.

In addition to learning from officials who dealt with Sandy Hook first hand, presenters who were part of the Zahra Baker murder case in Hickory, NC and officials who dealt with large, weather-related disasters presented earlier in the week as well.

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