Report Uvalde: 376 officers but ‘outrageously bad’ decisions

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Nearly 400 law enforcement officers rushed to a mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school, but “outrageously poor decision-making” resulted in more than an hour of chaos before the gunman who killed 21 was finally confronted and killed, according to a reporter. damning investigative report released 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 South Texas, for its mind-boggling inaction. by heavily armed officers when a gunman fired into two fourth-grade classrooms of Robb Elementary School, killing 19 students and two teachers.

Overall, the report was the most comprehensive to date of one of the worst school shootings in US history. But it did not satisfy all the parents and relatives of the victims, some of whom called the police cowards and called on them to resign.

“At Robb Elementary, emergency responders 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 at least 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the report, which details numerous failures. Amongst them:

— No one took command, despite dozens of officers on the scene.

— 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.

– An officer of the Uvalde Police Department said he heard about 911 calls coming from the classroom and understood that the officers on one side of the building knew that victims were trapped inside. Still, no one tried to break into the classroom.

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. Soon, the findings triggered at least one fallout: 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 is now releasing all Uvalde Police body camera images captured during the shooting.

McLaughlin said “a few, maybe three” officers have left the police force since the shooting, and suicides are “a major concern.”

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

“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They have no business with a badge. None of them do that,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazar, who was among the dead, said Sunday.

Only the families of the victims were invited to meet committee members for a media press conference following the public release of the report.

Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, whose daughter survived the shooting, yelled at committee members as they left the press conference, saying they should have been answering questions from the community, not just reporters. “I’m furious. They need to come back and give us their undivided attention,” she said later.

“These leaders are not leaders,” she said.

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 ascribe malice or evil motives. Instead, we 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.

Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, and said decisions rest with each law enforcement agency. Prior to Sunday, it was revealed that only one of the hundreds of officers at the scene – Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief – was on leave.

“Everyone who came to the scene talked about it being chaotic,” said Texas State Representative Dustin Burrows, a Republican who led the investigation.

Texas Department of Public Safety and US Border Patrol officials did not immediately return requests for comment on Sunday.

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.

No officer has received as much criticism since the shooting as Arredondo, who also 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.

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”.

A nearly 80-minute hallway surveillance video first showed a hesitant and haphazard tactical response that has condemned the Texas state police chief as a failure and labeled some Uvalde residents as cowards.

Body camera images of Uvalde police officer Eduardo Canales released on Sunday show the officer approaching the classrooms when shots are fired at 11:37 am. at the time, and the director of DPS has said that two officers suffered “shame wounds”. The cop in the video asks if he’s bleeding and later says he’s bleeding from his ear. He retreats down the hall after the gunshots and then goes in and out of the building.

At 11:38 a.m. he says, “Dude, we have to go in. We have to go in, he just keeps firing. We need to get in there.” You can hear another officer say, “DPS is sending their people.”

It’s 72 minutes later, at 12:50 PM, when officers finally break into the classrooms and kill the gunman.

Since the shooting, the call for police responsibility has increased in Uvalde.

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, McLaughlin has said that never happened.. 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.

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

Michael Brown, whose 9-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 reading “We Want Accountability” and “Prosecute Pete Arredondo.”

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.”

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Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed from Dallas.

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