New Uvalde Report: Police Protected Themselves at Expense of Children

Peter Wade / Rolling Stone
New Uvalde Report: Police Protected Themselves at Expense of Children Robb Elementary School on June 9, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (photo: Eric Gay/AP)

“Law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” investigators in the Texas House of Representatives wrote

A series of failures by multiple agencies could have contributed to the horrific outcome in the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, according to a Texas House investigative report. The investigation, conducted by two members of the Texas House of Representatives alongside a former member of the Texas Supreme Court, concluded that law enforcement officers delayed confronting the shooter — a violation of their school shooting protocols — and prioritized their own well-being over the lives of innocent victims. The damning 77-page report, the most comprehensive investigation into the shooting thus far, faults “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by those in power at every level — from school officials to district, local, state and federal law enforcement.

The report detailed issues with school security, including locked exterior doors habitually left propped open by staff; a faulty lock on the door to one of the classroom where the shooter was holed up; and “poor Wi-Fi connectivity” that delayed alerting teachers of an active shooter lockdown. As for police, the investigators concluded that “law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.”

The report states that “an unacceptably long period of time” — approximately 73 minutes — passed before officers confronted and killed the shooter. The investigators partially blame the chief of police, who they say, “failed to perform or to transfer to another person the role of incident commander” and did not establish an incident command post as was outlined in the school district’s active shooter plan.

“The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life as injured victims waited over an hour for help, and the attacker continued to sporadically fire his weapon,” the report said. Further, the investigators found that no one ensured that information was shared with those in charge that some students and teachers “survived the initial burst of gunfire, were trapped… and had called out for help.”

But the committee emphasized that the series of failures went far beyond local law enforcement. “In this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post,” the report said, faulting state and federal officials as well. “An effective incident commander located away from the drama unfolding inside the building” would have been able to ascertain that radios were not functioning inside the building and may have been able to locate a key to the classroom sooner. Earlier reports indicated that the door to the classroom where the shooter was located was left unlocked, even as officers scrambled to find a key, causing prolonged delays. During the incident, some 376 members of law enforcement flocked to the school, yet more than an hour passed between when police entered the west building of the school and when they neutralized the gunman.

“In this sense, the entirety of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response shares systemic responsibility for many missed opportunities on that tragic day,” the report said.

Most of the responders on the scene were U.S. Border Patrol (149 officers) and state police (91). Another 25 were Uvalde police officers along with 16 sheriff’s deputies and a handful of school police officers. The remaining members of law enforcement were U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Agency officers and police from nearby counties.

“Local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy,” the report stated. “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 also details how the gunman’s family members failed to realize the warning signs of impending violence. According to the committee’s findings, the attacker showed suicidal ideation and “developed sociopathic and violent tendencies, but he received no mental health assistance.” Some of the gunman’s family members were also aware that he was attempting to purchase guns through illegal straw purchases, though they “uniformly refused” his requests for help in acquiring weapons. The perpetrator also shared his intent to “do something they would hear about in the news” with friends on social media and “even referr[ed] to attacking a school.”

“Reports suggest that some social-media users may have reported the attacker’s threatening behavior to the relevant social media platforms. The social media platforms appear to have not done anything in response to restrict the attacker’s social media access or report his behavior to law enforcement authorities,” the report said.

But the investigators’ main focus was law enforcement’s response, and they concluded that while most of the deceased victims “perished immediately during the attacker’s initial barrage of gunfire,” it is still “plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue.”

According to CNN, family members of the shooting victims met with members of the investigative committee shortly after they received the report. One CNN source described the meeting as “brutal … a lot of emotion.”

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