Report details ‘systemic failures’ in Uvalde shooting response

Southwest

UVALDE, Texas (NewsNation) — Members of the Texas House committee investigating the massacre at Robb Elementary School released their initial findings to the public Sunday, the most exhaustive account yet on the shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

The 77-page report outlines “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by law enforcement and the school system, as well as the gunman’s family. The report also says officers “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.”

The report is the first so far to criticize the inaction of law enforcement, while previous blame had been focused squarely on Uvalde school police Chief Pete Arredondo.

According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers in total responded to the shooting in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene. The group was devoid of clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to take down the gunman.

The report also reveals for the first time that the overwhelming majority of responders were federal and state law enforcement: 149 were U.S. Border Patrol and 91 were state police, according to the Tribune.

There were 25 Uvalde police officers and 16 sheriff’s deputies on the scene.

“In this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post,” the committee wrote. “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.”

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, committee members say the main question they had when compiling the report was “Who knew what and when?”

Committee members hope the facts they have put together will allow law enforcement agencies to take a look at each responding officer’s actions and determine how they want to move forward or hold officers accountable. This will be taken a step further when police body camera footage from the incident is released, which has been ordered by Mayor Don McLaughlin’s office.

“The officers who knew or should have known that this was an active shooter situation by their training experience should have done more,” one committee member said at the press conference.

McLaughlin, taking action after the release of the report, placed the acting chief of police for the City of Uvalde on the day of the Robb Elementary massacre, Lt. Mariano Pargas, on administrative leave.

“The City has a responsibility to evaluate the response to the incident by the Uvalde Police Department, which includes Lt. Pargas’ role as the acting Chief. This administrative leave is to investigate whether Lt. Pargas was responsible for taking command on May 24th, what specific actions Lt. Pargas took to establish that command, and whether it was even feasible given all the agencies involved and other possible policy violation,” McLaughlin said.

A nearly 80-minute hallway surveillance video published by the Austin American-Statesman this week publicly showed for the first time a hesitant and haphazard tactical response, which the head of Texas’ state police has condemned as a failure and some Uvalde residents have blasted as cowardly.

“They failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” the committee said in its report.

Family of shooting victims listen to the Texas House investigative committee release its full report on the shootings at Robb Elementary School, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy,” the report said. “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.”

Although the report may be scathing when it comes to the police response, committee members say the only villain is the shooter.

Hours after the report was released, Uvalde officials separately made public for the first time hours of body camera footage from the city’s police officers who responded to the attack. It included video of several officers reacting to word from a dispatcher, roughly 30 minutes after the shooting began, that a child in the room had called 911.

The report provides a damning portrayal of a family unable to recognize warning signs, according to the Tribune, saying the 18-year-old suspect in the shooting had no experience with firearms.

Investigators believe the suspect had never fired a gun before May 24, but was able to stockpile military-style rifles, accessories and ammunition.

According to the report. family and friends were aware of his desire to acquire guns but no attempt by anyone who interacted with the gunman was made to alert authorities about his troubling behavior.

The gunman targeted an elementary school with an active shooter policy that had been deemed adequate, but also a long history of doors propped open.

Multiple witnesses told the committee that employees often left doors unlocked. Teachers would use rocks, wedges and magnets to prop open interior and exterior doors. This was partly due to a shortage of keys.

“In fact, the school actually suggested circumventing the locks as a solution for the convenience of substitute teachers and others who lacked their own keys,” the report said.

Committee members say with 80,000 school buildings attended by Texas children, they hope every school district reads the report and learns from certain security aspects of the tragedy.

Amid all the chaos, the report singled out the heroic actions of school coach Yvette Silva. It concluded that she “acted heroically and almost certainly saved lives by alerting the school to the attacker’s advance” and that “most fourth grade classes successfully locked down as a result of her quick response.”

The report was made available to the victims’ families Sunday morning before being released to the public and follows weeks of closed-door interviews with more than 40 people, including witnesses and law enforcement who were on the scene at Robb Elementary on May 24.

“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They’ve got no business wearing a badge. None of them do,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazer, said Sunday.

Lawmakers made it clear the report is not meant to be comprehensive. There are still witnesses they would like to speak with and additional reports they would like to review in their efforts to form a more complete picture of what happened.

Check back as this story is developing.

NewsNation affiliate KXAN and the Associated Press contributed to this repot.

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