One of the most perplexing aspects of the Petit murders in Cheshire is the seemingly slow response of local police.
Part of the reason there’s such rampant speculation that the police botched the job – and perhaps lost the chance to save three lives – is that authorities are inexcusably withholding key information, including 911 calls, dispatch records, police log books and surveillance tapes. Since they have the suspects in custody, and nobody appears to think they had any outside help, there’s no reason to hold back such crucial stuff except to protect the police.
I’ve tried to put the timeline together as best I could from stories that have been published so far.
Deb Biggins, a Cheshire resident, told The New Haven Register on July 27 that she saw Jennifer Hawke-Petit enter the Bank of America branch at Maplecroft Plaza about 9:30 a.m.
“She looked taut, tense and very pale,” said Deb Biggins, a town resident who was opening a new account at the branch when Hawke-Petit entered and withdrew $15,000.
“After she saw Hawke-Petit leave the branch unaccompanied a few minutes after 9:30 a.m., Biggins saw the teller who waited on her leave her post carrying a piece of paper,” according to the story.
“Minutes later, police arrived at the bank, she said, and left a short time later,” the New Haven paper reported.
We don’t know for sure whether the police sent officers to both the bank and the Petit house at the same time. They may have gone to the bank first and then to the house. Stories conflict on the point, though a state police spokesman said officers initially went to both locations.
We also don’t know for sure what the note said that Hawke-Petit gave the teller. The wording would make a difference in the appropriate response, certainly.
In any case, we know from multiple sources that the fire department in town got a call at 10 a.m. from officers arriving at the Petit house.So what’s uncertain is what happened between, say, 9:35 a.m. and 10 a.m.
We know that Hawke-Petit returned home, which is about 8 minutes from the bank.
Between 9:40 a.m. and a few minutes before 10 a.m., the deadly duo strangled Hawke-Petit, set the house on fire (and perhaps poured the gasoline around first) and raced out of the place just after police began arriving.
We know that the first officer to respond heard one or both of the girls screaming as the flames rose inside.
According to The New York Times, State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said the first police officer to arrive at the Petit house saw that it was on fire and saw two men trying to flee in a car. When the officer tried to block the men, they rammed his police cruiser, Vance said. The officer then called for help, and fellow members of the Cheshire Police Department positioned two more police cars nose-to-nose as a barricade a few houses away, The Times reported.
“A neighbor, Anton Rao, an optometrist who described himself as a close friend of the Petits’, said the two men drove into the police barricade at close to 60 miles per hour, and crashed through it before their car broke down and came to a halt,” according to The Times.
What’s interesting about that is that pictures clearly show the police cars were parked to block the road – and no officers were injured. So they had already stopped and gotten out of the way before the two thugs crashed into the cars.
Tyhe New York Post said that Vance describd a scene in which the two men ran from the house, jumped into Petit’s SUV and “tore out of the driveway and sped off, but almost immediately rammed into two police cars hidden around a corner.”
What were the police cars doing “hidden around a corner?”
That kind of makes me think they had set up a perimeter before moving in at all, time that may have doomed the Petit family, sort of like the police at Columbine in 1999 who didn’t go storm into the school in time to save anyone.
But, to be fair, it’s also possible the police did nothing wrong.
What’s alarming to me is that the information the public needs to make a decision remains secret, for no reason that makes any sense.
Give us the facts. Release everything.
No matter what’s eventually made clear, the one sure thing is that a great evil was perpetrated in Cheshire by two dirtballs who aren’t worth the air they breathe.
It’s terrifying to realize, as we are so often forced to do, that we live in a world with all too many sick, crazy, evil people who commit unspeakable atrocities. And the police, however perfect they are, can never stop them all.