WATERBURY, Conn. ― An FBI agent who responded to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting delivered heart-wrenching testimony Tuesday in a civil trial aiming to hold conspiracy theorist Alex Jones accountable for claiming the attack was an elaborate hoax.
Agent Bill Aldenberg fought back tears as he described the scene he witnessed upon entering the school where 20 children and six adults were shot to death in Newtown, Connecticut. Aldenberg recalled seeing blood in the classrooms, and coming upon the bodies of the school’s principal, counselor and a teacher.
“It overwhelms your senses,” Aldenberg told the court, where Jones was noticeably absent. “I don’t know what I heard, I just know what I saw. It overwhelms your senses. It’s freaking horrible.”
A jury of six is expected to decide how much Jones should be forced to pay Aldenberg and the family members of eight Sandy Hook victims in what is his second defamation trial this year related to the shooting. Jurors in Texas determined that Jones should pay more than $45 million in punitive damages at the earlier trial this summer.
Through his website Infowars, Jones for years claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting was faked by so-called “crisis actors” in order to galvanize public support for tighter gun control laws. Jones’ claims led to a wave of harassment and threats against the parents and family members of the victims, who were accused of not having lost any loved ones.
Conspiracy theorists also began spreading the idea that Aldenberg and Sandy Hook parent David Wheeler ― whose son Ben was killed in the shooting ― were the same person. There were “hourslong videos” on the internet discussing the bogus theory, Aldenberg testified.
Aldenberg had been part of a team of law enforcement officers who performed a secondary search of the school building after first responders cleared the scene and rushed the wounded to hospitals. He testified that he saw the bodies of victims upon entering the school along with bloodied floors. A Connecticut state police officer he encountered while walking up to the school had been “in hysterics.”
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Chris Mattei, asked Aldenberg whether any of what he saw was fake or synthetic.
“No, sir,” Aldenberg replied.
“See any actors that day, Bill?” Mattei asked.
“No, sir,” Aldenberg said, weeping. “It’s awful. It’s awful. It’s awful.”
Infowars racked up millions of page views, according to documentation shared in court, and millions of dollars in profit for Jones ― a fact Aldenberg took particular issue with.
“You know, you can say whatever you want about me. I don’t care. Just say whatever you want. I’m a big boy. I can take it,” he told the court.
He added that Infowars and Alex Jones “want to make profit. They want to make millions and millions of dollars. They want to destroy people’s lives.”
Aldenberg pointed at the Sandy Hook families, his voice shaking with emotion.
“Their children got slaughtered,” he said. “I saw it myself. And now [the victims’ family members] have to sit here and listen to me say this, and these people made millions upon millions. They’ve destroyed everybody and they don’t give a damn.”
Because of Jones’ lack of cooperation in both the Connecticut and Texas trials, judges in each state ruled against him by default, leaving only the dollar amount in damages to be decided by jurors.
The Connecticut trial is expected to last several weeks.