A new report criticizes the collective law enforcement response to the May 24 school shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, as ”unfolding chaos” and a “systemic failure”.
The report is being released on Sunday by a Texas House committee that investigated the shooting and the police response.
The 77-page report, which has been reviewed by the Texas Tribune, said “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” contributed to the botched response.
The report said that collectively, 376 law enforcement officers were at the school that day when more than an hour passed between the time the incident began, and the time a team of federal officers entered the classroom where 19 children and two teachers had been killed to kill the gunman.
The report said that by the end of the ordeal, there were 149 responders from the Border Patrol, 91 state police responders, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 sheriff’s deputies and five Uvalde school district police officers. Other officers from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Marshal’s service and nearby county law enforcement agencies also responded.
“These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy,” the report said, according to the Tribune.
“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 said.
Other responders “could have helped to address the unfolding chaos.”
The report repeated earlier criticisms that responders should have moved in as quickly as possible.
“They failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” the report said, citing failures in leadership and communications.
School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo has said he did not consider himself in charge of the response. The report noted that the school district’s active shooter response plan, which Arredondo helped write, said the chief will “become the person in control of the efforts of all law enforcement and first responders that arrive at the scene.”
The report said no one made the effort to untangle what was widely seen as chaos.
“In this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post,” the report said.
“Despite an obvious atmosphere of chaos, the ranking officers of other responding agencies did not approach the Uvalde CISD chief of police or anyone else perceived to be in command to point out the lack of and need for a command post, or to offer that specific assistance.”
The report said Border Patrol agents breached the classroom without asking permission from Arredondo.
A few responders came in for notice.
After one round of fire drove back some officers, Uvalde Police Department Lt. Javier Martinez went down the hall to the classroom in “an evident desire to maintain momentum and to ‘stop the killing.’” No one followed him, and he stopped, the report said.
Texas DPS Special Agent Luke Williams entered the school without permission and found a boy hiding in a bathroom stall, with his legs up so he couldn’t be seen. The boy would not come out until Williams proved his identity by shoving his badge under the stall’s door.
The report recounts an incident that took place at 11:56 a.m., when Williams met some officers at the far end of the hallway from the classrooms and heard someone ask, “Y’all don’t know if there’s kids in there?”
“If there’s kids in there we need to go in there,” Williams said.
An officer responded that “whoever was in charge would figure that out,” the report said.
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