First responders rushing to school shooting in Uvalde did not prioritize saving lives, new report says

Nearly 400 law enforcement officers rushed to a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, but “extremely poor decision-making” resulted in more than an hour of chaos before the gunman who took 21 lives was eventually confronted and killed, according to a scathing investigation. report was released on Sunday.

The nearly 80-page report was the first to criticize both state and federal law enforcement, and not just local authorities in the city of Texas, for the mind-boggling inaction of heavily armed officers when a gunman fired into a fourth-grade classroom.

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement officers did not adhere to their active shooting training and did not prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.

The gunman fired about 142 shots into the building, and it’s “almost certain” that 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the report.

The report — the most complete record yet of the hesitant and haphazard response to the May 24 massacre — was written by a Texas House of Representatives commission of inquiry.

Grace Valencia cries as she speaks to reporters after collecting a copy of the report from the Texas House Commission of Inquiry in Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday. Her grandniece, Uziyah Valencia, was one of 21 victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)

The findings include:

  • The commander of a border patrol tactical team waited for a bulletproof shield and working runner in front of the classroom, which may not even have been necessary, before entering the classroom.
  • No one took command, despite dozens of officers on the scene.
  • A Uvalde police officer said he heard about 911 calls coming in from the classroom and understood that officers on one side of the building knew there were victims trapped inside. Still, no one tried to break into the classroom.

The fallout from the findings was swift: Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, a Uvalde Police Officer who served as the city’s deputy police chief during the massacre, was placed on administrative leave.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said an investigation would be launched to determine whether Pargas should have taken command of the scene.

McLaughlin also said the city would now release all body-camera images from Uvalde police captured during the shooting.

Vincent Salazar has a copy of the report released Sunday by the Texas House Commission of Inquiry in Uvalde. His granddaughter Layla Salazar was killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)

According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers gathered at the school. The vast majority of those who responded were federal and state law enforcement officers. That included nearly 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officers.

“Except for the attacker, the commission found no ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or bad motives. Instead, we have found system errors and extremely poor decision-making.”

The report noted that many of the hundreds of law enforcement officers rushing to the school were better trained and equipped than the school district police — who had previously accused the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state police, of failing to attend. went to school. the room earlier.

“In this crisis, not a single aid worker has taken the initiative to establish an incident command post,” the report said.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday.

Police chief wasted time searching for key

No officer has received as much criticism since the shooting as Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief who resigned from his newly appointed seat on the city council after the shooting.

Arredondo told the commission that he treated the gunman as a “barricaded subject,” according to the report, and defended that he would never treat the scene as an active gunman situation because he had no visual contact with the gunman.

Uvalde school police chief on a podium.
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, pictured in Uvalde on May 24, was placed on administrative leave last month for his handling of the school shooting. (Mikala Compton//USA Today Network/Reuters)

Arredondo also tried to find a key to the classrooms, but according to the report, no one ever bothered to check if the doors were locked.

“Arredondo’s search for a key required his attention and wasted precious time, delaying the classroom breakthrough,” the report said.

The report criticized the approach of the hundreds of officers surrounding the school as “lax” and said they should have acknowledged that Arredondo staying in the school without reliable communication was “inconsistent” with his being the site commander.

The report concluded that some officers waited because they relied on bad information, while others “had enough information to know better.”

The commission did not receive “medical evidence” to show that police breaking into the classroom earlier would have saved lives, but it concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived had they not had to wait an extra 73 minutes for rescue.” .”

Families react to new report

Relatives of the victims in Uvalde received copies of the report on Sunday before it was made public.

“It’s a joke. It’s a joke. They have nothing to do with wearing a badge. None of them do that,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazer, said on Sunday.

Michael Brown, whose nine-year-old son was in Robb Elementary’s cafeteria the day of the shooting and survived, showed up to the committee’s press conference on Sunday with placards that read “We Want Accountability” and “Prosecute Pete Arredondo.”

Michael Brown holds protest signs as the Texas House Commission of Inquiry prepares to present its full report on Sunday’s Uvalde shooting. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)

Brown said he has not yet read the report but already knows enough to say that the police have “blood on their hands”.

“It’s disgusting. Disgusting,” he said. “They are cowards.”

The report followed weeks of closed-door interviews with more than 40 people, including witnesses and law enforcement officers who were at the shooting scene.

Flowers piled high in the town’s main square had been removed as of Sunday, leaving a few stuffed animal cards scattered around the fountains, alongside photos of some of the murdered children.

School video gets new criticism

A nearly 80-minute hallway surveillance video published this week by the Austin American-Statesman publicly showed for the first time a hesitant and haphazard tactical response, denouncing the Texas state police chief as a failure and some residents of Uvalde as cowards. have labeled .

This still image, taken on May 24 on a surveillance video at Robb Elementary, tells law enforcement officers to stay as gunshots are heard in the hallway. The video was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. (Austin American-Statesman/Reuters)

Since the shooting, the call for police responsibility has increased in Uvalde. So far, only one cop from the scene of the deadliest school shooting in Texas history is known to be on furlough.

The report is the result of one of several investigations into the shooting, including another led by the Justice Department.

A report earlier this month by tactical experts at Texas State University claimed that a Uvalde police officer had a chance to stop the gunman before entering the school armed with an AR-15.

But in an example of the conflicting statements and disputed accounts since the shooting, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has said that never happened.

A couple pay their respects at a makeshift monument outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 25, a day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at the school. (Nuri Vallbona / Reuters)

That report was prepared at the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which increasingly criticized and accused McLaughlin of trying to minimize the role of his troopers during the massacre.

Texas DPS head Steve McCraw has called the police response an abject failure.

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