By JAKE BLEIBERG and PAUL J. WEBER
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Two months after the Uvalde school massacre, Texas State Police on Monday announced an internal review into the actions of dozens of soldiers who were at Robb Elementary for 73 minutes. baffling inaction by law enforcement as a gunman massacred 19 children and two teachers.
The announcement appeared to broaden the fallout from a damning 80-page report released over the weekend by the Texas House that found failures at every level of law enforcement and identified 91 state troopers. on the scene – more than all of Uvalde’s officers combined. It also amounted to a public change from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which until now had largely criticized local authorities for not confronting the shooter sooner.
The report released on Sunday revealed for the first time how state police and the US Border Patrol had a massive presence at the scene during one of the worst school shootings in US history. .
“You have 91 soldiers on the scene. You got all the gear you need and you listen to the local school cop? said State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde and who accused the DPS of seeking to downplay its role in the response.
Findings that Border Patrol agents and state troopers accounted for more than half of the 376 law enforcement officials who rushed to the South Texas school on May 24 extended the blame of a slow and failed response far broader than previous accounts that focused on the mistakes of Uvalde’s officers. .
The report made it clear that authorities’ “extremely poor decision-making” went beyond local law enforcement in Uvalde, who were ultimately outnumbered more than 5-to-1 by state and federal agents. on site. Other local police in the Uvalde area also responded to the shooting.
The report shines new light on the roles of state and federal agencies whose leaders, unlike local authorities, did not have to attend meetings where they confronted the irate parents of the deceased children.
Of the nearly 400 officers who converged on the school, only two are currently on leave pending an investigation into their actions: Pete Arredondo, the police chief for the Uvalde Consolidated School District, and the Lt. Mariano Pargas, an officer in the Uvalde Police Department who was the town’s acting police chief during the massacre.
State police previously said no soldiers at the scene had been suspended. On Monday, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the report’s findings “are beyond disturbing” but did not identify any agency.
Texas DPS has not set a timeline for when the review will end. He said the actions of every soldier, state police officer and Texas Ranger at the scene would be reviewed “to determine if violations of policy, law or doctrine occurred.”
Col. Steve McCraw, the Texas DPS director, previously blamed much of the response to Arredondo, identifying him as the incident commander and criticizing him for treating the shooter in the classroom as a barricaded subject. and not as an active shooter.
The new report – the most comprehensive account of the tragedy to date – also states that Arredondo lost critical time during the shooting by searching for a key to the classroom and failing to treat the shooter with more emergency. But he also pointed out that all law enforcement at the scene groped for the answer.
“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 said.
Abbott said “critical changes are needed,” but in a statement he did not specify whether any agents or agencies should be held accountable.
In Uvalde, city council and school board meetings in the eight weeks following the shooting became recurring scenes of residents yelling at elected leaders for police accountability, which continued after the report was released.
“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.”
“Shame on you! Shame on you!” The families of the slain children and teachers and their supporters chanted to school board members at a special meeting Monday evening.
Brett Cross, an uncle of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was among those killed, at length chastised board members as not holding themselves responsible for the massacre. He particularly challenged the members for not knowing that the school’s exit doors were locked to the outside and for not having fired Arredondo.
“If he’s not fired by noon tomorrow, I want you and every one of these board members to resign because you don’t care about us or our kids,” Cross said, addressing the Superintendent Hal Harrell.
Harrell said the report released over the weekend will help the board decide Arredondo’s future. However, he also noted that Arredondo is employed under contract and cannot be fired at will.
Angela Villescaz, a former student at Uvalde High School and founder of the Fierce Madres group, told board members that her organization had interviewed officials of schools that had suffered similar mass shootings. She offered the council her findings as advice so that district officials do not try to “reinvent the wheel”.
However, she took note of the DPS soldiers standing in the room and said, “…I can’t help but wonder if they just didn’t find our children worthy. saved.”
Historically, the DPS has endured strained relations with the Mexican-American community in Texas since the 19th century. In the early 20th century, the Texas Rangers, from which the DPS evolved and is still a part, participated in many bloody attacks on Mexican nationals.
According to the report, the shooter fired about 142 shots inside the school – and it is ‘almost certain’ that at least 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the committee , which has had many failures.
Among them: No one took command despite dozens of officers on the scene, and no officer immediately tried to enter the classroom despite a dispatcher relaying a 911 call saying there were victims in the room.
The report also criticized a Border Patrol tactical team, saying they were waiting for a bulletproof shield and a working master key for a classroom door, which was probably never locked, before entering. . In total, the report put nearly 150 Border Patrol agents on the scene.
Cecilia Barreda, spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Monday that a review of the agency’s response was still ongoing and had reached no definitive conclusions.
Hours after the report was released, Uvalde officials separately released for the first time hours of body camera footage of the city’s police officers responding to the attack.
A video of Staff Sergeant d’Uvalde. Eduardo Canales, the city’s SWAT team leader, showed the officer approaching the classroom 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 classroom and killed the shooter.
Weber reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writer Terry Wallace in Dallas also contributed to this report.
Read more about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings
This story has been corrected to show that Brett Cross’ relationship to the slain child is uncle, not father.