As reported by Courant.com:
Tragedy's Final 41 Minutes Unclear
Questions Linger In Cheshire Killings
By COLIN POITRAS And DAVE ALTIMARI | Courant Staff Writers
August 2, 2007
In the wake of the Cheshire home invasion last month that left three members of a well-known family dead, new details are emerging about the police response and strategy.
Speculation has focused on the period of time from 9:20 a.m., the approximate time a bank manager is believed to have called 911, to 10:01 a.m., the time that court records indicate the suspects were apprehended a block from the home.
During that time, police say, suspects Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, of Cheshire, and Steven Hayes, 44, of Winsted, strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and set fire to the home. Hawke-Petit's two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, died of smoke inhalation. Dr. William Petit Jr. escaped, despite being bound and severely beaten.
The first responding officers did not immediately enter the house at 300 Sorghum Mill Drive and could have been outside for at least 20 minutes before the suspects allegedly set the house on fire, raced out and were caught. A neighbor who was outside walking his dog that Monday morning said he saw a police officer near the house about 20 minutes before the suspects fled.
Although no one is publicly criticizing the police, the idea that officers were positioned outside the home for at least 20 minutes while some family members may still have been alive inside adds a new dimension to the scope of the tragedy as it unfolded.
Cheshire Police Department spokesman Lt. Jay Markella defended the officers' actions that day.
"The Cheshire Police Department's officers acted properly and according to their training," Markella said in a recent phone interview. "Based on the information that was received, the officers followed procedure and protocol."
John Gnagey, a national expert on hostage situations and police tactics, said Wednesday it appeared that the first responding police officers - unsure of exactly what was going on - were attempting to establish a secure perimeter around the Petit home, which would be a reasonable protocol.
"You don't just go barging in," said Gnagey, a retired deputy police chief and executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association in Doylestown, Pa. "You don't know if you have exigent circumstances. You get there and you try to corroborate any information you have."
Komisarjevsky and Hayes face six counts each of capital felony. The suspects are accused of breaking into the home early on July 23 and terrorizing the family for more than six hours.
New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington has ordered police not to discuss a specific timeline or other details because it might jeopardize prosecution of the suspects, both of whom are facing charges that could result in the death penalty.
Through witness interviews, law enforcement sources and information released by authorities to date, the following events appear to have taken place:
• Hawke-Petit, possibly threatened with her life and the lives of her children, withdrew $15,000 from a local Bank of America branch at about 9:20 a.m. while one suspect waited outside, according to a knowledgeable law enforcement source.
• A bank manager contacted police via 911 shortly thereafter. State police have declined to release the 911 tape, but have said the manager alerted Cheshire police to a "suspicious withdrawal."
• Cheshire police officers responded to both the bank and the Petit home after the 911 call, state police have said. It takes seven to 12 minutes to drive from the bank office in Maplecroft Plaza at 185 Highland Ave. to the Petit home at posted travel speeds. It takes eight to 12 minutes to travel from the Cheshire Police Department at 500 Highland Ave. to the Petit home at posted travel speeds.
• After arriving at the home, Cheshire police are believed to have begun establishing a secure perimeter around the house and to have notified the local SWAT team to respond.
• A neighbor, Walter Ryan of 295 Sorghum Mill Drive, who was outside walking his dog about the time events at the Petit home were unfolding, said about "20 minutes" transpired between the time he saw a uniformed Cheshire police officer walking through the woods behind the Petit home and when the two suspects ran out of the burning home and were confronted by police.
• Court records show the two suspects were arrested at 10:01 a.m., after they crashed the Petit family's sport utility vehicle into a police roadblock that had been set up at the intersection of Sorghum Mill Drive and Burrage Court about a block from the house.
• After the suspects fled the burning house, crashing into a police cruiser at the bottom of the Petits' driveway before speeding to the roadblock, several police officers went around the house banging on first-floor windows in an effort to alert any occupants inside, according to Ryan. But Ryan said he didn't see any officers enter the home, which was rapidly becoming engulfed in flames. At some point shortly thereafter, and possibly on the other side of the house away from Ryan, a Cheshire police officer discovered the partially bound and badly beaten Petit, who had managed to hobble out of the basement to safety. He was the only survivor.
State police initially said the first responding Cheshire police officers arrived just as Komisarjevsky and Hayes were exiting the home and the fire was beginning to spread...
Source - http://www.courant.com/news/custom/topnews/hc-petitrescue0802.artaug02,0,5028212.story