UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed to a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, but “systemic failures” created a chaotic scene that lasted more than an hour before the shooter who claimed the lives of 21 people was finally confronted and killed, according to a report by investigators released 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 in a fourth grade classroom.
“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement failed to complete their active shooter training and failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.
The shooter fired about 142 rounds inside the building, and it’s “almost certain” that at least 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the report.
The report — the most comprehensive account to date of the wavering and haphazard response to the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School — was written by a Texas House of Representatives Committee of Inquiry and released to the public on Sunday. family members.
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.
“In this crisis, no responder took the initiative to establish an incident command post,” the report read.
A Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday.
Family members 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 a badge. None of them do,” said Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazer, 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.
The flowers that had been piled up in the town’s central square had been removed on Sunday, leaving a few cards of stuffed animals strewn around the fountains alongside pictures of some of the children killed.
No officer has received more attention since the shooting than Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School District police chief who resigned from his newly appointed seat on city council after the shooting. Arredondo told the committee he treated the shooters 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.
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 breach of classrooms,” the report said.
A nearly 80-minute hallway surveillance video released by the Austin American-Statesman this week publicly showed a halting and haphazard tactical response for the first time, which the Texas State Police Chief condemned as a failure and some residents of Uvalde castigated as a coward.
Calls for police accountability have multiplied in Uvalde since the shooting. So far, only one officer from the scene of the deadliest school shooting in Texas history is on leave.
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 the conflicting statements and disputed accounts since the shooting, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said it never happened. This report had been written at the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which McLaughlin increasingly criticized and accused of trying to minimize the role of his soldiers during the massacre.
Steve McCraw, the Texas DPS chief, called the police response an abysmal failure.
Weber reported from Austin, Texas.
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