A series of “systemic failures” and “egregious poor decision making” prevented police from quickly reacting to the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May, according to a report obtained by media outlets Sunday that shows the most complete picture to date of how a gunman killed 21 people despite a response by hundreds of police officers.
The report by a Texas House of Representatives committee revealed for the first time that 376 law enforcement officers responded to the shooting, though authorities waited more than an hour to confront and kill the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, according to the report , which was obtained and posted by the Texas Tribune,
Most of the officers on the scene were from federal and state agencies—including 149 Border Patrol agents, 91 state police officers and several people from the US Marshals Service and Drug Enforcement Agency—but the response also included 25 Uvalde city police officers, 16 county sheriff’s deputies, five officers from the school police department and personnel from police forces in neighboring counties.
The scene was plagued by poor communication and an absence of clear leadership, with an “overall lackadaisical approach by law enforcement” and multiple people describing the elementary school as “chaos,” the report said.
The officers, who did not follow training to immediately confront active shooters and instead retreated and waited for backup after coming under fire, “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” according to the report.
While officials have placed much of the blame for the botched response on Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who was believed to be the incident commander, the report found responders from other agencies “could have helped to address the unfolding chaos” by questioning the lack of onsite leadership, adding that many other officers were “better trained and better equipped” than local police.
It was Border Patrol agents who decided to breach the classroom without taking instruction from Arredondoaccording to the report, which noted the team killed the gunman at 12:51 pm, more than an hour after the first officers arrived on the scene.
"Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any 'villains' in the course of its investigation," the report said. "There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregious poor decision making."
What We Don't Know
Because the gunman fired off the majority of his rounds before the police arrived, it's unclear whether a faster response by the officers would have saved any lives, according to the report. The committee wrote that it is "plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue."
The report also found that state leaders like Texas' Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott shared false information about the shooting to the public because they "relied on the information law enforcement gave them." Officials initially claimed that the first responders almost immediately confronted the gunman. Abbott, who praised the police's response in the wake of the attack, later said he had been “misled” and that he was “livid” about being given inaccurate information. Uvalde community members booed Abbott during a visit to Robb Elementary School in May.
The report was produced by a committee made up of Texas state Reps. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) and Joe Moody (D-El Paso) as well as former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. Members of the Uvalde community were privately presented with the report before it was released to the media, according to the Texas Tribune.
Almost immediately after the shooting—which killed 19 children and two teachers—state officials and community members questioned the law enforcement response. Footage from the school's security cameras published last week by the Austin American-Statesman showed how the police went inside the school but hesitated to confront the gunman. The video shows that at one point, more than a dozen heavily-armed officers—some with ballistic shields—were crammed in the elementary school hallway whispering to each other as they waited.
Uvalde Shooting: Here's Everything That Turned Out To Not Be True (Forbes,
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