Investigators used incorrect GPS data in official Sandy Hook report

When police searched the Lanza home on the evening of December 14th, they recovered a Garmin Nuvi 200 GPS unit. They quickly determined that this unit was from the shooter’s car, and thus all recent data in it would reflect trips that the shooter drove.

Key among these trips is one from December 13th, 2012: the day before the shooting. In this trip, the shooter drove to, and just past, Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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(from the Official Report summary)

Note that the time of day cited for this trip was 2:09pm, and ended at 2:32pm.

In a report documenting the examination of the GPS unit, the investigator notes the importance of confirming the accuracy of these time stamps, an issue for which they contacted Garmin directly in order to confirm:

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Unfortunately, it seems that they did not clarify with Garmin that, while the time stamps are accurate, they may not be adjusted to match the timezone where the trips took place.

The real timing of the December 13th trip

In a later appendix (the “guts” of the investigation upon which the report summary is based on) there is a report dated July 31st, examining the same GPS data:

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(from report file 00171468)

…but this time, the results change. Significantly, this particular investigator noted a different time for the December 13th trip:

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Obviously, both reports cannot be true: the time stamps in this report change from a start of 2:09pm, and end of 2:32pm, to a start of 9:09am and an end of 9:32am.

That’s a difference of exactly 5 hours.

Connecticut is on Eastern Standard Time (EST) in the United States. EST is also expressed as GMT-5, or UTC-5 (Greenwich Mean Time, or Coordinated Universal Time). It’s exactly five hours behind GMT, in other words.

Thus, I submit that the 9:09am trip time is accurate, as it was adjusted to EST, and that somehow this step was missed in the official report summary.

To further verify this, look at the trip that took place on April 24th/25th. From the summary report:

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The official report claims that the shooter left his home at 1:40am, and arrived at 2:00am at his destination, where he remained for approximately 3hrs and 15minutes.

The destination at 2 International Drive in Danbury, CT, is the AMC Loews Danbury 16 movie theatre:

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This is the same theater where the shooter was known as “DDR boy” for his marathon gaming sessions on the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game in the theater’s lobby. 

It’s not open 24 hours a day, though. Like most movie theaters, the last showing would not extend much into the after-midnight hours. This makes the time stamps from the second report, which start at 8:40pm EST on the 24th for the trip to the theater, and 12:16am EST on the 25th for the return trip, much more likely.

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(this supplemental report doesn’t lend well to posting in-line, so I’m attaching a full copy of the PDF to this post)

In fact, it’s quite possible that the shooter (given his documented interested in the subject) was at the movies to see a showing of Disney’s “Chimpanzee” which was showing there at the time… but it’s just as likely he was playing Dance Dance Revolution the entire time. 

The important fact to take away is that here, the EST adjusted time is the only reasonable version of events, and thus we can conclude that it is accurate for the trip past Sandy Hook Elementary as well. And, thus, the version of events portrayed in the official report is wrong.

Importance of the adjusted timeline

Now that we know that the shooter drove past Sandy Hook Elementary School between 9:09am and 9:32am on the day before the shooting, we can more accurately infer the purpose of that trip. As the (accurate) report notes, this trip was not just to the scene of the crime on the day before it occurred, but very nearly or even exactly 24 hours before it occurred.

The assault on the school (beginning when shots were fired to create a hole in the glass next the school’s entrance) is listed in the report as starting at “shortly after 9:30am”. This is a rather fuzzy time to cite, but it seems based on the fact that a 9:30 meeting was already in progress at the time, given the victims in the meeting room, and the first 911 call received at 9:35am (and 39 seconds).

In other words, the shooter drove by the school on December 13th at the same time of day that he would drive up to the school the following day. From this, we can speculate several scenarios to explain the purpose of the December 13th trip, but here are the two I will submit as most immediate:

  1. The shooter parked and waited to verify the appropriate “start time” for his crime the next day, either listening for the school bell or waiting for all of the school buses to depart; essentially, he we collecting reconnaissance.
  2. The shooter was armed and ready to commit his crime when he drove to Sandy Hook Elementary on the 13th, but at the last second, as he was driving up to the school, he postponed it for one day (perhaps deciding to wait for his mother to come home so he could kill her first.)

 …the first being the most likely, in my opinion.

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About Reed Coleman

email: reedscoleman@gmail.com
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16 Responses to Investigators used incorrect GPS data in official Sandy Hook report

  1. wadesvideo says:

    Wow, Another great one Reed. That definitely makes a lot of sense. Well done. If he normally kept it plugged into his cig lighter, that would explain the dead battery as well.

    I dont think he was ready to go on the 13th though because:
    a) he posted to 4chan when he was going to do it (I believe that was him posting that)
    b) when he actually did go, he cleared out all the contents of his car.

    It seems to make sense that he was on a scouting mission though and that lines up perfectly whith how you wrote it. It is known CT schools start school at 8 am so by 9 he knew he would catch them in the class room. He didn’t deviate from his plan to go to classrooms (where he went as a kid) because had he made a right and headed to the gym, well the gym was full of kids and the numbers and crime scene would have been a lot different.

    In the report it has Animal sitting in the parking lot of the theater at odd times, 3, 4 am, when nothing going on.. Have you placed that with your work here to see if there is a possible adjustment to the time? The CSP could not figure out why he was in the parking lot that late and no witnesses ever saw him there that late.

    • Reed Coleman says:

      Thanks, Wade. I recall that the 4chan posting was investigated by the FBI and ruled to be unrelated to the SHES shooting. Don’t remember if they explained why.

      It looks like “bell time” for SHES was actually 9:05am. So he left home pretty much exactly as school started.

      I haven’t looked at conclusions based on GPS data elsewhere in the report. But if they got this one wrong, I can’t imagine they got it right anywhere else. Do you know where that is located in the report?

    • Reed Coleman says:

      nevermind, I found it: “SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT: ADDENDUM TO GPS”

    • Reed Coleman says:

      “On August 12th, 2013 at approximately 1030 hours, I drove to International Drive/Eagle Rd. in Danbury, CT to determine the reason the GPS would be positioned there during early morning times from 2400 hours to 0516 hours on the following dates of, 04/25/12, 04/28/12, 05/09/12, 05/10/12, 05/12/12, 05/19/12, 06/02/12, 06/03/12, 06/17/12. Upon arrival, I found that the plaza has three businesses, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Loews Theatres.

      Within Loews Theatres (AMC) I spoke with Joe Andrews, Maintenance and Repair. Andrews verbally stated that the last movie showing would be over at 0230 hours and the doors to the theatre are locked at 0245 hours. I informed Andrews of my reason for the visit and inquired if he remembers seeing the shooter at the theatre. At this point, I provided Andrews with a DMV blow back picture of the shooter and his mother.
      Andrews replied that he has never seen the shooter but has seen his mother.

      Because of the early morning times that the GPS was positioned in the parking lot I inquired why a person would be here and he replied that there is none. I then spoke with Corey Davidson, Supervisor Corey stated that he recognized the shooter and has seen him in the theatre pretty much every weekend for the past four years. Davidson further stated that the shooter comes in by himself around 6pm and leaves at approximately 11pm.”

    • Reed Coleman says:

      It looks like Detective Mudry is the one with the bogus time stamps, and Detective Kimball is the one with the accurate time stamps. Kimball could have saved Mudry a trip to the AMC if he pointed out the time differences…

  2. wadesvideo says:

    Sorry I didnt get email notification that you responded.

    The summary of the final report left the 4chan thing was inconclusive, correct?; either way, they havent provided us evidence to look at for ourselves (I included it in my FOIA reqest btw and that has been mailed in) for that and I havent seen a 4chan search warrant return. Just like shockedbeyondbelief, i think they didnt do due diligence on checking that angle. To me its a very compelling post.

    In any event, I dont believe hew as going to leave his mother alive.. she was part of the plan. She had gone on I think – about 8 trips, if he wanted to do it when she was gone, he had ample opportunity.
    He was very careful, he did not want to be caught. He didnt alter or deviate his plan in anyway, he didnt shoot through doors, he didnt go in room 9. The risk of getting “Michael Carneal’ed” and captured/stopped/stalled in any way i think was repulsive to his 3 years of planning. You know what he thought of failed shooters. I highly doubt he would have risked going there armed on the 13th.

    I’m not debating, I’m kind of bouncing ideas your way to get your opinion/thoughts.

    in any even, this article is well on the way to answering somethign that was a loose end.. the GPS thing has bugged me.

    • Reed Coleman says:

      No worries. I agree that killing Nancy was always part of the plan; it would have been very out-of-character for him to have not planned every step meticulously. He had been planning the shooting for years, but I do wonder if the actual date to execute the plan was flexible, and that he chose Dec 14th rather late. A number of other factors seem to converge in the last half of 2012, I’ll post about that soon. I’ll be very interested to see any reply you get on the FOIA requests.

      re: 4chan, the report said “Both of these leads were immediately investigated by federal law enforcement and found to have no validity and no relation to Newtown” – since they specifically said federal, I’m guessing the redacted FBI docs do have some kind of specific information about why that lead was dropped. But who knows

  3. john says:

    Reed how exactly back do you think he planned the shooting? And can you share your personal opinion as to why Adam commited the shooting? I personally think it was his isolation and stubborness. Adam never gave the world a chance. He thought everyone was evil and sick. That idea grew with him over the years he never threw himself into a social setting. Sure there’s a big genetic component to Adam lanza I don’t think anyone could argue that, but I believe he was able to live a normal healthy life with the proper guidance.

    • Reed Coleman says:

      I’m working on a book that examines exactly those questions. It’s complicated. He probably had a fantasy of a shooting, and at some point it crossed over from fantasy to planning, so even if we knew everything we couldn’t be certain exactly when.

  4. iamgh057 says:

    These are two different GPS units: 1. Garmin Nuvi 200 seized from the house. 2. Garmin Nuvi 550 from the Honda.

    • wadesvideo says:

      I believe that is false. Do you have any documentation or photos to back that up from the report? There was no GPS in the honda. All contents, even the registration, of the honda were removed with the exception of shotgun, magazines, and the key.

      • iamgh057 says:

        Did we not read the same post or do you just exclude what you do not want to see?

        From the original post:
        Official Report summary: “During the search of 36 Yogananda Street, a global positioning system (GPS) device was located in the shooter’s room…”
        report file 00171468: “…Garmin Nuvi Model 550 Global Positioning System (GPS) device which had been removed from a 2010 Honda Civic…”

        I’m not sure if this is what you are asking for. I know the Nuvi 200 is listed as “Item #58” and the Nuvi 550 is “Exhibit 58” for the same case #. So, that does make it seem like it could be the same item I guess. I don’t know if an “Item” is different from an “Exhibit”.

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