Texas reports blast police response to Uvalde school shooting

Texas reports blast police response to Uvalde school shooting

UVALDE, Texas – A review of the Uvalde school massacre by Texas lawmakers found that systematic failures by hundreds of heavily armed law enforcement officers could have resulted in a delayed confrontation with the shooter that cost lives.

Although 376 officers from local, state and federal agencies rushed to the May shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, none took command of the chaotic scene, effectively leaving the inexperienced local school district police department to lead the response, according to preliminary findings by a committee of the Texas House of Representatives. .

Nineteen fourth-grade students and two teachers died. The 18-year-old gunman, Salvador Ramos, was eventually confronted by a group of Border Patrol agents and killed — more than an hour after police began arriving, the report found.

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

“These local officials weren’t the only ones who expected leadership 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.

Uvalde police, responding to a car wreck and shooting by a gunman, were the first to arrive and one of them should have been the incident commander, the report said. Once school police chief Pete Arredondo arrived, he would have been a natural person to take command, but he did not consider himself a commander, he told the committee.

“You can always hope and pray that there is an incident command post outside,” the report quoted Mr. Arredondo as testifying. “I just didn’t have access to that. I knew nothing about it.”

Furthermore, the committee found that law enforcement “did not focus on ‘stopping the kill’ as mandated in active shooter training.” Although Mr. Arredondo found the key to the classroom door the gunman entered, no one ever checked to see if it was locked.

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

Texas Department of Public Safety Chief Steven McCraw previously blamed law enforcement inaction primarily on Mr. Arredondo, who officials said was the incident commander. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and other local officials have pushed back against local blame and claim DPS is trying to divert attention from its own role in the incident.

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

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

“Had the school staff locked the door as per school policy, his progress would have been slowed for a few precious minutes – enough to get the warning, hide the kids and lock the door; And enough to give police more opportunities to engage and stop the attackers before killing 19 students and two teachers,” the report said.

The gunman fired about 142 rounds in the attack, possibly as many as 100 before an officer arrived about three minutes after the attack began, the report found. A teacher, Eva Mireles, was alive and calling her husband during the siege. He was later pronounced dead in an ambulance outside. Some children were declared dead at the hospital or on the way.

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

Texas DPS is conducting a preliminary criminal investigation into the shooting and law enforcement response. Separately, the US Department of Justice is reviewing law enforcement responses to identify lessons learned.

Texas lawmakers said they are releasing the interim results because “the victims, their families and the entire Uvalde community have already waited too long for answers and clarity.” The document is dedicated to the victims and opens with a brief tribute to each.

Earlier this month, a video recording of the incident was leaked to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper and television station KVUE. Surveillance video shows officers from multiple police agencies meeting in the hallway for more than an hour before breaking into the room.

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

“I’m upset about how long they took, but we already knew that,” Mr. Garza said. “We’re going to find out whatever it is.”

For now, he said he is trying to cope with the death of his daughter – who loved to hug him, send him TikTok videos and gently roast him for being chubby – with patience as the investigation continues.

“I consider it bigger than losing our kids,” Mr. Garza said. “I think it’s important to go through this so we can make changes and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

write down Elizabeth Findell at Elizabeth.Findell@wsj.com and Alicia A. at Alicia.Caldwell@wsj.com. Caldwell

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