The Uvalde incident report is rife with errors and a 'lackadaisical attitude' by law enforcement
By: April Carson
The Texas House investigation committee's early findings detail a series of shortcomings by several law enforcement agencies, with "an overall lackadaisical approach" on the part of authorities in attendance at the massacre, which claimed 21 lives.
The committee's 77-page report also discusses failures by other organizations, including the school system in Uvalde and the shooter's family, as well as social media platforms. However, according to the report made public on Sunday, it didn't discover any "villains" beyond the shooter.
We found no one to blame for the attack, according to Thursday's report. "There is no individual with whom we may attribute malice or malevolence," it adds. "Instead, we discovered widespread failures and poor decision making."
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, who represents the community of Manatee County, suggested that individuals read the entire 77-page document after meeting with victim's families.
"You can't take a single phrase and use it to convey everything without reading the rest of it in context," Burrows added.
The report was made public to the victims' families Sunday morning, and it's referred to as an "interim study" in the document, with the investigating committee indicating that its work is yet incomplete and that several investigations are still under way. However, it is the first time since May 24's shooting at Robb Elementary that a government report has provided a thorough look at the incident and law enforcement response, which has been heavily criticized.
On May 24, a South Florida high school shooting killed 17 people and injured dozens more. Since the attack, key questions about the police response have remained unanswered, and officials provided contradictory and confusing information in the days that followed. The decision to wait more than an hour in the school corridor before confronting and killing the gunman, according on law enforcement experts, may have cost lives.
Although the results of the study are not what many individuals want to hear, they are trustworthy data, according to State Rep. Joe Moody.
"It's hard to hear that there were multiple systemic failures," he said, adding he's dealt with this situation before, when 22 were killed in the 2019 El Paso shooting. "We want to tell ourselves there's one person ... that's just not what happened here."
According to the news network, some experts still have more questions than answers following the study. Thor Eells, the executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, said that while information in the legislative report contradicted with findings from the earlier Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center investigation, such as whether one of the first cops on site had a chance to shoot him as he entered school.
"These sorts of contradictions, conclusions that appear to be faulty, seem to provide no answers or comfort to the families or community," Eells said. "It just adds to their aggravation and sense that they're being jerked around." According on Eells, he believed the leaked video was "much more telling than anything else."
Last month, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw called the response an "abject failure" before a state Senate committee, with the on-scene commander taking responsibility for the mistake. The on-scene commander has been identified as district police chief Pedro "Pete" Arredondo by state authorities.
The report claims that Mr. Arredondo, who was placed on administrative leave by the school district, did not consider himself incident commander—echoing comments he'd made to the Texas Tribune last month.
"My strategy was to act as a cop. As such, I did not identify myself. But once we got in there and put out the fire, I realized we needed some things. We've got to get inside that door. We need an extraction tool. Those keys...As far as I'm concerned, the command aspect...there were a large number of people outside the door when they went in," Arredondo said in the report.
The inquiry also suggested that other people may have assumed command as a result of the confusion. "Any law enforcement officer can assume command, and someone must assume command, according to Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training," it reads. "That did not happen at Robb Elementary, and the failure to properly establish incident command is an important reason why other critical actions were not carried out."
The report highlights numerous concerns, including the "shortcomings and failures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and various law enforcement agencies and officials," which include approximately 400 cops who responded to the disaster.
Of the 376 responders, 149 were from the United States Border Patrol, 14 were from the Department of Homeland Security, and 91 were from the Texas DPS. The report did not indicate when personnel from each participating agency arrived on location.
Finally, the report determined that "the full range of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response is responsible for many missed chances."
Texas Department of Public Safety, United States Border Patrol, the Uvalde School District, the city's police department, and the Uvalde district attorney have been contacted by CNN for comments.
The police report and video of the response hallway were released to the families of the victims beginning Sunday morning, before they met with members of the investigating committee in the afternoon. Several families were denied entry to the meeting by the school district superintendent and other school personnel, according to a source who described it as "tense" and "emotional."
Systemic, widespread and avoidable law enforcement failures detailed in report
Surveillance video shows that law enforcement entered the school a few minutes after the gunman, who had already gone inside adjacent classrooms 111 and 112, where he would kill the students. At least nine cops made what appeared to be a coordinated entry into the facility and approached the classroom doorway just after three minutes, when the shooter reentered.
According to the article, when police arrived on the scene, they were aware that there had been gunfire, as a "cloud of debris" in the corridor indicated. Bullet holes in the walls and spent rifle casings on the floor indicate that police knew there had been shooting. But there was no indication that officers obtained "any contemporaneous understanding," according to the report, because they arrived at the school building.
It would take more than an hour for authorities to break into the classroom, where the shooter was killed. According to the committee's findings, first responders "lost critical momentum" by treating the scenario as a "barricaded subject" situation, which demands a more measured response than an active shooter situation.
The report explains, "This error should have prompted increased urgency to breach the classroom as soon as possible, overpower the attacker, and give immediate aid to survivors. If they had recognized the situation as an active shooter scenario, they should have given priority to saving innocent victims over searching for door keys and shields in order to enhance law enforcement responders' safety."
The study said that many of the mistakes had to do with a breakdown in communication, in which information known by some outside of the institution may not have been passed on to those within. Arredondo previously explained to the Tribune that he left his two radios outside the school because he wanted to carry his weapon with both hands.
"Nobody verified that people in charge of crucial decisions inside the building were aware that students and teachers had escaped the initial burst of fire, were trapped in (classrooms), and had called for assistance," according to the report.
Many cops in the hallway or building should have known, according to State Rep. Dustin Burrows' comments during a press conference Sunday, that people were dying in the classrooms. "They should have done more, acted quickly, checked for unlocked doors and windows, attempted to distract him, tried anything to handle the problem," he said.
"There were many cops on site who 'were denied access to the building, were misled,' as one of them put it," Burrows said. "Some were told that the police chief of the consolidated Independent School District was actually inside the room actively haggling with the gunman, so they didn't know what was going on."
Also, there are a few issues that remain unanswered, such as whether lives may have been saved if officials had acted more quickly to breach the classroom: "We do not know yet whether responders could have saved even more people by reducing that delay," the report stated.
Finally, the report lacks to-the-second timestamps that would be beneficial for both the public and law enforcement officials throughout the United States to assess police response quality.
The committee's report was published Sunday, but it did not provide the sources for its findings, such as audio or unedited video it may have obtained. To date, there has been no formal release of unedited or raw evidence in the case; instead, only ever-changing stories from officials at various levels of local and state government about what occurred.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police chief and officers, the district superintendent, the school's principal, a teacher and custodial staff were among those who testified behind closed doors to the committee — with roughly 40 individuals testifying according to one source.
However, the committee was not able to examine material witnesses and medical examiners have yet to submit reports on their findings. The investigative committee, on the other hand, thinks that this interim report is "the most compelling telling" yet, with "certain aspects of these interim findings" possibly being disputed or debunked in the future.
The report, according to Dade Phelan, speaker of the Texas House, "offers some of the most comprehensive and accurate information released to date" about the shooting. The committee's efforts "have provided answers to the people who need it most," he added.
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