by Lindsey Whitehurst
Since the Columbine High School massacre 20 years ago, police have been trained to face shooters in the gruesome attacks that followed.
But officers in Uvalde, Texas, took more than an hour to kill a shooter who massacred 19 children, a lapse of time that will likely be a key part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the police’s response.
The rare federal review comes amid growing, agonizing questions and shifting information from police. Officials now say several officers entered the elementary school two minutes after alleged gunman Salvador Ramos and opened fire with him, but they were not stopped until a tactical team entered the classroom more than an hour later. Would do it
It’s a complicated timeline for law enforcement experts like Jarrod Barguan, who was the police chief in San Bernardino, Calif., when the city was hit by a terrorist attack that killed 14 people in 2015. Officers entered the facility, which was a training center for residents. Developmental disability, within two minutes of arriving.
“Columbine changed everything,” Barguan said on Monday. Officers are now trained to build and enter buildings to face shooters to prevent more people from being killed. “It’s been drilled into this industry for years.”
Justice Department officials investigating the Texas massacre will investigate several questions about the police response in Uvalde. A similar review that greatly praised the response to the San Bernardino mass shooting was over 100 pages long.
Announcing the review, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Cooley said it would be conducted in a fair, impartial and independent manner and that the findings would be made public. It could take months. Handling the review is the department’s community-oriented Police Service Office.
An important question for Professor Maria Haberfeld of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York is why a school district police chief has the power to ask more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway in Uvalde’s Rob Elementary. Was.
“The important question for me is who named him in charge?” he said.
Officials have said they believe the suspect was locked inside the surrounding classrooms and was no longer an active threat. But school police officers usually don’t have the most experience with active shooters, and Haberfeld questioned why those with more specialized training didn’t take the reins.
A US Border Patrol tactical team eventually used a janitor’s key to unlock the classroom door and kill the gunman, raising further questions about the choice of entry.
“It’s not some fortified castle from the Middle Ages. It’s a door,” he said. “They knew what to do. You don’t need the key.”
The Justice Review itself will not investigate the crime, or directly hold the police liable either civilly or criminally. What it will do is investigate things like how police communicate with each other, said Thor Els, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. It is not yet known why the head of the school, Pete Arredondo, thought the shooter was barricaded and did not comment.
“I think we need to have a little patience on that and wait to make sure we understand what that mindset was,” Els said. “It goes back to communication. What information did they have?”
The review will also examine how well the officers were equipped with weapons and gear such as body armor. The shooter wore a tactical vest and was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, a powerful weapon capable of penetrating a basic bulletproof vest.
In previous shootings reviewed by the Justice Department, non-specialized law enforcement units did not have the necessary body armor to fully protect themselves.
In the 2016 massacre, which killed 49 people and injured dozens of others in the LGBT community at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a detective at the scene exchanged bullets with the suspect, knowing that His handgun was “no match” to being fired from the weapon. club. Despite this, according to reports, the first officers at the scene quickly joined a team to enter the club and begin a search for the shooter.
Meanwhile, in San Bernardino, only one of the first officers on the scene had a shotgun and many did not have body armor. But he still used his training on active shooter positions to form a four-officer team quickly entering the campus.
Moving fast is important not only to prevent a shooter from killing more people, but also to help the wounded. In San Bernardino and Orlando, Justice Department reviews credited a quick response in getting the injured to treatment within the “golden hour,” where victims are likely to survive.
It’s not clear what effect the delayed admission to Texas classroom might have on any child who was injured for more than an hour in San Antonio and needed treatment.
Ells said that in a violent, rapidly changing situation, police have to quickly analyze risks to themselves and others – but they are also trained to prevent people from getting hurt.
“Entering that room is very, very, very dangerous,” he said. “But we’re going to take that risk consciously and voluntarily, because our priority is to help those who can’t help themselves.”
Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writer Gary Fields in Washington contributed to this report.