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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Texas State Police launches internal review of Uvalde shooting response

UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — The Texas Department of Public Security on Monday announced an internal review of the actions of state police, who had dozens of soldiers and agents in their hands during the slow and chaotic response to the Uvalde Elementary School massacre.

The review comes as a new 80-page report released by the Texas House over the weekend reveals widespread failures by all levels of law enforcement. The findings placed more than 90 state soldiers at Robb Elementary School during the May 24 tragedy.

It is the first time the Texas DPS has said it will investigate the actions of its own officers in the two months since the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.

Texas DPS said in a statement that the review will “determine whether there has been any breach of policy, law or principle” during its response to the attack, which killed 19 children and two teachers in a fourth grade grade. It said the review was initiated last week.

News wrap: Texas officials detail Uvalde’s failures in new report

Texas DPS director Steve McCraw previously called the law enforcement response to the shooting a “gross failure.” He has accused the school district’s police chief of not violating the class as soon as possible.

The findings of an investigative committee released Sunday were the first to criticize both state and federal law enforcement, not just local officials in a South Texas city for bewildered inaction by heavily armed officers as a gunman in two impending fourth graders. were shot inside the classrooms.

Footage from body cameras of city police officers made public hours later only emphasized the failures – and fueled the anger and frustration of the victims’ relatives.

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

According to a report authored by an investigative committee of the Texas House of Representatives, about 400 law enforcement officers arrived at the school, but chaos lasted for more than an hour before the gunman was confronted and killed as a result of “seriously poor decision-making.” Hui.

Together, the report and more than three hours of newly released body camera footage from the May 24 tragedy were a complete account of one of the worst school shootings in American history.

“At Rob Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.

The gunman fired about 142 rounds inside the building – and it is “almost certain” that at least 100 shots came before any officers entered, according to the report, with multiple failures. from them:

  • Despite several officers being on the spot, no one took over the command.
  • The commander of the Border Patrol Tactical Team waited for a bulletproof shield and working master key for the classroom doors, which may not have even been needed, before entering.
  • An officer from the Uvalde Police Department said he heard 911 calls that came from inside the rooms, and his understanding was officers on one side of the building knew the victims were trapped inside. Still, no one tried to break the class.

The committee “did not receive medical evidence” to show that police would have saved lives by breaking into classrooms sooner, but concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not waited 73 additional minutes for rescue.” Had to do it.”

The findings had at least one immediate effect: Uvalde Police Department officer Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, 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 commanded the scene. He also revealed for the first time that some officers had left the force since the shooting, but did not provide exact numbers, saying it was three.

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

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

Another body camera video by Uvalde Staff Sgt. The head of the city’s SWAT team, Eduardo Canales, showed the officer approaching the classrooms when shots were fired at 11:37 a.m.

A minute later, Canales said: “Man, we have to go there. We have to get there, he just keeps shooting. We have to get there.” Another officer can be heard saying that “DPS is sending its men.”

watch: New video shows inaction by Uvalde officers during school shooting

72 minutes later, at 12:50 pm, when officers broke into the classrooms and killed the shooter.

Demand for police accountability has increased in Uvalde since the shooting.

“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They ain’t got no business wearing badges. None of them do,” 11-year-old Layla Salazar’s grandfather Vincent Salazar, who was among those killed, said on Sunday. Told.

Anger also erupted in Uvalde over how the report was rolled out: Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, whose daughter survived the shooting, yelled at the three-member Texas House committee as she left a news conference after the findings were released .

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

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

According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers gathered at the school. Most of those who responded were federal and state law enforcement. This involved about 150 US Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officers.

“Apart from the attacker, the committee did not find any ‘villain’ during its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or bad intentions. Instead, we found systemic failures and seriously poor decision making. ,

The report noted that hundreds of law enforcement respondents who arrived at the school were better trained and equipped than school district police—which, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the chief of the state police force, previously pleaded guilty to not attending. . room early.

Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, adding that decisions rest with each law enforcement agency. Before Sunday, only one of the hundreds of officers present at the scene – Pete Arredondo, Uvalde School District police chief – was known to be on leave.

“Everyone who came to the scene talked about how chaotic it was,” said Texas State Representative Dustin Burroughs, a Republican who led the investigation.

Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the US Border Patrol did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday.

The report followed weeks of closed-door interviews with more than 40 people, including witnesses and law enforcement, who were at the shooting scene.

No single officer has received as much scrutiny since the shooting as Arredondo, who also resigned from his newly appointed seat on the city council after the shooting. Reportedly, Arredondo told the committee that he treated the shooter as a “barricaded subject”, and defended not treating the scene as an active-shooter situation because he did not have visual contact with the gunman.

Reportedly, Arredondo even tried to find a key to the classrooms, but no one looked to see if the doors were locked.

The report criticized the approach of the hundreds of officers who surrounded the school as “weak” and said that they should consider that without reliable communication the rest of the Arredondo at the school was “incompatible” with being the scene commander. The report concluded that some officers waited because they relied 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 led by the Justice Department.

Brown, the father of the 9-year-old who was in the cafeteria on the day of the shooting, brought up signs saying “We Want Accountability” and “Prosecut Pete Arredondo” to the committee’s news conference on Sunday.

Brown said he hasn’t read the report yet, but has already sufficed to say that the police “have blood on their hands.”

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

World Nation News Desk
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