Uvalde report: 376 officers but “extremely poor” decisions :: WRAL.com

– Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed for a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, but “extremely poor decision-making” resulted in more than an hour of chaos before the shooter who claimed the lives of 21 people were eventually confronted and killed, according to a damning report. investigation report released on Sunday.

The nearly 80-page report was the first to criticize state and federal law enforcement, not just local authorities in the South Texas city, for the baffling inaction of heavily armed officers while a gunman was shooting into two fourth grade classrooms at Robb Elementary School. , killing 19 students and two teachers.

In total, the report and more than three hours of new body camera footage of the May 24 tragedy was the most comprehensive account yet of one of the worst school shootings in US history. Some families called the police cowards and demanded resignations.

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to complete their active shooter training and failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.

The shooter fired around 142 rounds inside the building – and it is “almost certain” that at least 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the report, which describes in detail of many failures. Among them:

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

— The commander of a Border Patrol tactical team waited for a bulletproof shield and a functioning classroom master key, which may not even have been needed, before entering the classroom .

– An officer with the Uvalde Police Department said he heard 911 calls coming from inside the classroom and understood that officers on one side of the building knew there was victims trapped inside. Yet no one attempted to enter the classroom.

The report – the most comprehensive account to date of the wavering and haphazard response to the May 24 massacre – was written by an investigative committee of the Texas House of Representatives. Quickly, the findings sparked at least one fallout: Lt. Mariano Pargas, an Uvalde Police Department officer who was the city’s acting 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 over the premises. He also revealed for the first time that some officers had left the force since the shooting, but did not provide an exact number, saying it was three.

“It’s a joke. It’s a joke. They have nothing to do with a badge. None of them do,” said Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazar, on Sunday. who was among those killed.

Anger erupted in Uvalde even over the way the report was released: Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, whose daughter survived the shooting, shouted at the three-member Texas House committee as they left a press conference after the publication of the conclusions.

Committee members had invited families of the victims to discuss the report privately, but Quintanilla-Taylor said the committee should have answered questions from the community, not just the media. “I’m pissed. They need to come back and give us their full attention,” she later said.

“These leaders are not leaders,” she said.

According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers massed at the school. The overwhelming majority of those who responded were federal and state law enforcement. This included nearly 150 U.S. Border Patrol officers and 91 State Police officers.

“Apart from the perpetrator, the Committee found no ‘bad guys’ during its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one who can be attributed with malicious or malevolent intentions. Instead, we found systemic failures and extremely poor decision-making.

The report noted that many of the hundreds of law enforcement responders who rushed to the school were better trained and equipped than school district police — than the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the force state police, had previously blamed him for not entering the room sooner.

Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, saying the decisions were up to individual law enforcement agencies. Prior to Sunday, only one of the hundreds of officers at the scene — Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School District Police Chief — was known to have been on leave.

“Everyone who came to the scene said it was chaotic,” said Texas State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican who led the investigation.

Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Border Patrol did not immediately return requests for comment on Sunday.

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

No officer has received more attention since the shooting than Arredondo, who also resigned from his newly appointed seat on the city council after the shooting. Arredondo told the committee he treated the shooter as a “barricaded subject,” according to the report, and defended never treating the scene as an active shooter situation because he had no eye contact with the shooter. shooter.

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

“Arredondo’s search for a key consumed his attention and wasted valuable time, delaying the classroom breach,” the report said.

The report called the approach of the hundreds of officers who surrounded the school “nonchalant” and said they should have acknowledged that Arredondo remaining in the school without reliable communication was “inconsistent” with the fact that be the scene commander. The report concluded that some officers waited because they were relying on bad information while others “had enough information to know better.”

Hours after the report was released, Uvalde officials separately released for the first time hours of body camera footage of city police officers responding to the attack. It includes video of several officers reacting to word from a dispatcher, about 30 minutes after the shooting began, that a child in the room had called 911.

“The room is full of victims. Call child to 911,” an officer said.

Another video from the body camera of Staff Sergeant d’Uvalde. Eduardo Canales, the head of the city’s SWAT team, shows the officer approaching the classrooms when shots ring out at 11:37 a.m. Canales asks if he is bleeding, and later says he bleeding from his ear.

A minute later, Canales said, “Man, we gotta get in there. We have to get in there, he keeps shooting. We have to get in there. Another officer can be heard saying “DPS send his people”.

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

Calls for police accountability have multiplied in Uvalde since the shooting.

The report is the result of one of several investigations into the shooting, including another conducted by the Department of Justice. A report released earlier this month by tactics experts at Texas State University alleged that a Uvalde police officer had the opportunity to arrest the shooter before he entered the school armed with a AR-15.

But in an example of conflicting statements and disputed accounts since the shooting, McLaughlin said it never happened. Officers told the committee that the person they believed to be the shooter was actually a school coach.

The previous report was written at the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which McLaughlin has increasingly criticized and accused of trying to downplay his soldiers’ role during the massacre. Steve McCraw, the Texas DPS chief, called the police response an abysmal failure.

The committee did not “receive medical evidence” to show that the police could have saved lives earlier in the classroom, but concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they did not didn’t have to wait another 73 minutes to be rescued. » ”

Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in the cafeteria at Robb Elementary the day of the shooting and survived, came to the committee’s press conference on Sunday with signs that read “We want accountability” and “Sue Pete Arredondo “.

Brown said he hasn’t read the report yet but already knows enough to say police “have blood on their hands.”

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

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

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Read more about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings

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