The Hopkinton Police Department on Wednesday released records — including the police log, audio of the 911 call, and separate audio and video from emergency vehicles driving to the scene — related to the Mikayla Miller death investigation.
The information comes on the heels of Tuesday’s report that the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner issued its findings on the cause and manner of Miller’s death, determining it to be suicide.
“The death of a child is a universal tragedy, and it is the most difficult situation a police officer or firefighter can be called to respond to,” Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett said in a statement. “We generally do not comment publicly on such cases. I do appreciate and understand the tremendous public interest in this investigation. We all want answers. However, our department is at all times bound by the laws of the commonwealth, and there is much we cannot disclose during an active death investigation. We are today releasing a number of records that have been requested by the public and approved for release. The department has also met with District Attorney Marian Ryan’s Office to ensure the release of these records will not adversely affect the ongoing investigation.
“I wish to state for the record that the officers and staff of the Hopkinton Police Department are professionals who responded to this tragedy with urgency and who are assisting in conducting a thorough and impartial investigation.”
The 911 call came from a passing jogger and was patched to Hopkinton Police from a state 911 dispatcher. The caller, who mistakenly identified Miller as a male, helped pinpoint the location in the woods of West Main Street and waited for emergency personnel to arrive.
The call log from April 18 indicates that at 7:04 a.m. an individual reported finding Miller hanging from a tree in the woods off West Main Street. The call log indicates the incident type as “suicide” and refers to the 16-year-old having “hung herself in a tree.”
Miller’s family and supporters have disputed the account of her death being suicide and criticized investigators for suggesting that to be the case. They point to an incident on April 17 in which the Hopkinton High School sophomore had a confrontation with a former girlfriend and some other teens and have claimed Miller was “murdered.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, whose office is leading the investigation, has said no conclusions would be reached until after the medical examiner’s findings were disclosed.
In Wednesday’s statement, the Hopkinton Police Department explained why it waited to release the records.
“The Hopkinton Police Department is committed to transparency in policing, and careful consideration was made prior to the release of these records,” the statement reads. “However, Chief Bennett believes the release of records is the prudent course of action given the volume of records requests received and the amount of public commentary already made regarding this case. The public should have faith that its municipal police department responded to this tragic circumstance promptly and treated it with due care and consideration. The Police Department also communicated with the District Attorney’s Office to ensure that the release of these records would not adversely affect the ongoing investigation.
“Certain records could not legally be released during the initial death investigation, and some records remain restricted from public disclosure by law. Specifically, under the Domestic Violence Act of 2014, an incident that occurred on April 17 that has generated significant attention and inquiry must be excluded from the department’s public log and reports regarding that incident are prohibited from public disclosure as a matter of law due to the existence of a dating relationship.
“However, Chief Bennett reiterates that the Hopkinton Police Department did its duty and promptly responded to, investigated, logged and treated the incident on April 17 and Mikayla’s death with the utmost care and professionalism as the public should rightly expect and demand of its police departments.”
The HPD also explained why the 911 call was left out of the original police log.
“The death investigation call was omitted from the April 18 public-facing log file because incidents involving the deaths of children are generally not included in the public log,” the statement reads. “It is being released at this time, on the advice of counsel, separately from the previously released public log.”
The statement adds: “The radio and dispatch recordings are often difficult for the public to decipher, but they show first responders being dispatched to the area after a 911 call was placed. Police and fire units arrived quickly, established incident command, secured the scene and requested a detective, the state police and the medical examiner to respond. Another officer also indicates that the department will notify the family. These are standard operating procedures for death investigations.”