Texas State Police launch internal review of Uvalde school shooting response

Texas DPS said in a statement that the review would “determine whether violations of policy, law or doctrine occurred” during the response to the attack that killed 19 children and two teachers in a classroom. fourth year. He said the review was launched last week.

Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw previously called law enforcement’s response to the shooting an “abject failure.” He largely blamed the school district’s police chief for not entering the classroom sooner.

The findings of a commission of inquiry released Sunday were the first to criticize state and federal law enforcement, not just local authorities in the South Texas city, for the baffling inaction of officers heavily guns as a gunman fired inside two adjoining fourth grade classrooms.

Body camera footage of city cops released hours later only further underscored the failures – and fueled the anger and frustration of the victims’ loved ones.

“It’s disgusting. Disgusting,” said Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in the school cafeteria the day of the shooting and survived. “They’re cowards.”

Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed to the school, but ‘extremely poor decision-making’ led to more than an hour of chaos before the gunman was finally confronted and killed, the report says drafted by an investigative committee of the Texas House of Representatives.

Together, the report and more than three hours of new body camera footage of the May 24 tragedy was the most comprehensive account yet of one of the worst school shootings in US history.

“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 around 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, which states many failures. Among them:

— No one took command despite the presence of dozens of officers on the scene.

— The commander of a Border Patrol tactical team waited for a bulletproof shield and a working master key for a classroom door that might not even have been needed before entering.

– An officer with the Uvalde Police Department said he heard of 911 calls coming from inside the rooms and understood that officers on one side of the building knew there were victims trapped inside. Yet no one attempted to enter the classroom.

The committee did not “receive medical evidence” to show that police storming classrooms earlier would have saved lives, but concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they did not have to wait another 73 minutes to be rescued”. ”

The findings had at least one immediate effect: Lt. Mariano Pargas, an Uvalde Police Department officer who was the city’s acting police chief during the massacre, was placed on administrative leave.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said an investigation would be launched to determine whether Pargas should have taken over the premises. He also revealed for the first time that some officers had left the force since the shooting, but did not provide an exact number, saying it was three.

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

“The room is full of victims. Child called 911,” an officer said.

Another video from the body camera of Staff Sergeant d’Uvalde. Eduardo Canales, the city’s SWAT team leader, showed the officer approaching the classrooms when shots rang out at 11:37 a.m.

A minute later, Canales said, “Man, we gotta get in there. We have to get in there, he keeps shooting. We have to get in there. Another officer could be heard saying “DPS send his people”.

It was 72 minutes later, at 12:50 p.m., when officers finally entered the classrooms and killed the shooter.

Calls for police accountability have multiplied in Uvalde since the shooting.

“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 Salazar, on Sunday. who was among those killed.

Anger erupted in Uvalde even over the way the report was released: Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, whose daughter survived the shooting, shouted at the three-member Texas House committee as they left a press conference after the publication of the conclusions.

Committee members had invited families of the victims to discuss the report privately, but Quintanilla-Taylor said the committee should have answered questions from the community, not just the media.

“I’m pissed. They need to come back and give us their full attention,” she later said. “These leaders are not leaders,” she said.

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.

Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, saying the decisions were up to individual law enforcement agencies. Prior to Sunday, only one of the hundreds of officers at the scene — Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School District Police Chief — was known to have been on leave.

“Everyone who came to the scene said it was chaotic,” said Texas State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican who led the investigation.

Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Border Patrol did not immediately return requests for comment 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.

No officer has received more attention since the shooting than Arredondo, who also resigned from his newly appointed seat on the city council after the shooting. Arredondo told the committee he treated the shooter 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. shooter.

Arredondo also attempted to find a key for the classrooms, but no one ever checked to see if the doors were locked, according to the report.

The report called the approach of the hundreds of officers who surrounded the school “nonchalant” and said they should have acknowledged that Arredondo remaining in the school without reliable communication was “inconsistent” with the fact that be the scene commander. The report concluded that some officers waited because they were relying on bad information while others “had enough information to know better.”

The report was the result of one of several investigations into the shooting, including one conducted by the Department of Justice.

Brown, the father of the 9-year-old who was in the cafeteria the day of the shooting, came to the committee’s press conference on Sunday with signs saying “We want accountability” and “Sue Pete Arredondo.”

Brown said he hasn’t read the report yet but already knows enough to say police “have blood on their hands.”


Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed from Dallas.

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