Texas Report Finds Police Failures in Uvalde School Shooting

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Nearly 400 officers responded to the scene, but a lack of leadership and communication resulted in a delayed confrontation with the gunman. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed.

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Nineteen fourth-graders and two teachers died. The 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, was eventually confronted and killed by a team of Border Patrol agents—more than an hour after police started to arrive, the report found.

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The 77-page report concluded that officers “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.”

“These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy. Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies—many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police—quickly arrived on the scene,” the report said.

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State Rep. Dustin Burrows, chairman of the committee, said in a news conference Sunday that Robb Elementary and Uvalde were unprepared for an attack. He said he fears other communities across the state and country have systems in place that could similarly fail, if they can’t imagine a mass shooting happening in their community.

“We want to tell ourselves that systems work,” state Rep. Joe Moody said. “We want to tell ourselves there’s one person we can point our fingers at. We want to tell ourselves this won’t happen again. That’s just not true.”

Uvalde police, responding to a car wreck by the shooter and shots fired, were the first to arrive, and that should have made one of them incident commander, the report said. Once school police chief Pete Arredondo arrived, he would have been a natural person to assume command, but he didn’t consider himself the commander, he told the committee.

“You can always hope and pray that there’s an incident command post outside,” the report quotes Mr. Arredondo as testifying. “I just didn’t have access to that. I didn’t know anything about that.”

Following the release of the report, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said that Lt. Mariano Pargas, who was acting police chief that day, was placed on administrative leave. The city is using an independent investigator to weigh whether Mr. Pargas should have taken command the day of the shooting, or made any effort to do so, the mayor said.

“It is imperative that every agency on site at Robb Elementary that day commits to the same process, an investigation of the highest-ranking officers’ on site actions that day,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Furthermore, the committee found that law enforcement “did not remain focused on the task of ‘stopping the killing’ as instructed by active shooter training.” Thought Mr. Arredondo was consumed with finding a key to the door of the classroom the shooter entered, no one ever checked if it was locked.

It likely wasn’t, the report found. No one called the school principal, who had a master key to all classrooms.

Despite hearing gunfire, seeing clouds of debris in the hallway and seeing bullet casings, initial officers on the scene didn’t understand children and teachers had been shot in the classrooms, because they didn’t hear screaming, the report said. Mr. Arredondo, after seeing one vacant classroom, began to consider the situation involved a barricaded suspect, rather than an active shooter.

“I guess, if I knew there was somebody in there, I would have—we probably would have rallied a little more,” he told the committee.

A lawyer for Mr. Arredondo didn’t respond to a phone message seeking comment.

The committee met with relatives in Uvalde on Sunday morning to go over the report. Police body-camera footage was also released to relatives, the city said in a statement.

The newly released footage shows a confused scene unfolding at the school, including a retreating officer who can be heard on a phone call telling someone that he is bleeding from the ear and that the shooter is in a classroom, actively shooting.

In footage from another officer’s body camera, officers can be heard giving conflicting details about the shooter’s location to dispatchers before someone finally reports that he is in an occupied classroom. About 15 minutes after officers arrive, one officer who repeatedly called Uvalde dispatchers can be heard telling others, “chief is there, chief is in charge.” It is unclear which police chief the officer is referring to.

Several community members expressed anger at an afternoon press conference that the report hadn’t yet been translated into Spanish. After yelling from several community members in the audience at the news conference, committee members said they would act quickly to provide a translation.

Steven McCraw, head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, previously laid blame for law enforcement inaction primarily on Mr. Arredondo, who officials said was the incident commander. Mr. McLaughlin and other local officials have bristled at the blaming of locals and claimed DPS was trying to deflect attention from its own role in the incident.

The House committee concluded that any number of other officers, including nearly 100 state police troopers and 149 Border Patrol agents, could and perhaps should have taken control of the scene.

In addition to law enforcement failures, the committee found that school officials had violated security procedures by not locking three exterior doors.

“Had school personnel locked the doors as the school’s policy required, that could have slowed his progress for a few precious minutes—long enough to receive alerts, hide children, and lock doors; and long enough to give police more opportunity to engage and stop the attacker before he could massacre 19 students and two teachers,” the report said.

Principal Mandy Gutierrez told the committee she struggled to send a lockdown alert because of a bad Wi-Fi signal and didn’t attempt to put a call over the school intercom. She told the custodian to check that doors were locked and locked down in her own office, according to the report.

The shooter fired about 142 rounds in the attack, likely firing about 100 shots before any officers arrived about three minutes after the attack began, the report found. One teacher, Eva Mireles, was alive and calling her husband throughout the siege. She was later pronounced dead in an ambulance outside. A few of the children were pronounced dead at or en route to hospitals.

The preliminary findings by Texas lawmakers are the first from multiple ongoing probes examining what went wrong in the response to the massacre. They offer the most comprehensive analysis to date of the police response, which has triggered broad criticism from victims’ families, the Uvalde community and lawmakers.

The Texas DPS is conducting the primary criminal investigation into the shooting and law enforcement’s response to it. Separately, the US Department of Justice is reviewing the law enforcement response to identify lessons learned.

Texas lawmakers said they were releasing interim findings because “the victims, their families, and the entire Uvalde community have already waited too long for answers and transparency.” The document is dedicated to the victims and opens with brief tributes to each.

Earlier this month, a video recording of the incident was leaked to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper and KVUE television station. The surveillance video shows officers from multiple police agencies milling in the hallways for more than an hour before the room was breached.

Alfred Garza III, whose 10-year-old daughter Amerie Jo Garza was killed in the shooting, said after watching the leaked video that hearing the blast of gunshots was the worst part. Seeing the officers standing in the hallway for so long provided a grim confirmation of earlier reports.

For now, he said he was trying to manage grief over the death of his daughter—who loved to give him hugs, text him TikTok videos and gently roast him by calling him chubby—with patience as the investigations unfold.

“I find it to be bigger than the loss of our kids,” Mr. Garza said. “I find it important to go through this so we can make changes and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Write to Elizabeth Findell at [email protected] and Alicia A. Caldwell at [email protected]

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Credit: www.Businesshala.com /

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