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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Uvalde report: 376 officers but ‘very poor’ decisions

Jake Bliberg and Paul J. by weber

UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — About 400 law enforcement officers arrived at the Uvalde Elementary School mass shooting, but “seriously poor decision-making” resulted in more than an hour of chaos before a gunman killed 21 people. faced. Killed, according to a damning investigation report released on Sunday.

The nearly 80-page report was the first to criticize both state and federal law enforcement, not just local officials in a South Texas city with heavily armed officers as a gunman inside two fourth-grade classrooms at Robb Elementary School. For the bewildering inaction in. , 19 students and two teachers murdered.

Overall, the report was the largest ever reported of one of the worst school shootings in American history. But this did not satisfy all the parents and relatives of the victims, some of whom called the police cowards and asked them to resign.

“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, detailing several of the failures. from them:

Despite many officers being on the spot, no one took command.

The commander of the Border Patrol Tactical Team waited for a bullet-proof shield and working master key, which may not have been needed, before entering orbit.

– An officer from the Uvalde Police Department said he heard 911 calls from inside the classroom, and to his understanding officers on one side of the building knew the victims were trapped inside. Still, no one tried to break the class.

The report—the most complete account ever of the hesitation and disorganized response to the May 24 massacre—was written by an investigative committee of the Texas House of Representatives. Increasingly, the findings revealed at least one fallout: Lieutenant 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 commanded the scene. McLaughlin also said that the city would now release all body camera footage of Uvalde police that was taken during the shooting.

McLaughlin said that “a couple, maybe three” officers have left the force since the shooting, and that suicide is “a huge concern”.

The family members of the victims in Uvalde received copies of the report on Sunday before it was released to the public.

“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They have 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 .

Only the families of the victims were invited to meet the committee members before a press conference with the media after the report was publicly released.

Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, whose daughter survived the shooting, shouted at the committee members, saying they should have questioned the community, not just journalists. “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 among the hundreds of law enforcement respondents who arrived at the school, they 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, was the first to not go. were guilty. room early.

Investigators said it is not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, adding that the decision rests 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 never treating the scene as an active-shooter situation because he had no visual contact with the gunman.

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

“The discovery of Arredondo’s key caught his attention and wasted precious time, delaying the breach of classes,” the report said.

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.”

A nearly 80-minute hallway surveillance video published by the Austin American-Statesman last week showed the public for the first time a hesitant and disorganized tactical response, which the Texas state police chief denounced as a failure and some Uvalde residents as cowards. exploded in.

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

The report is the result of one of several investigations into the shooting, including another led by the Justice Department. A report earlier this month by Texas State University tactical experts alleged that an Uvalde police officer armed with an AR-15 had a chance to stop the gunman before he entered the school.

But in an instance of conflicting statements and conflicting accounts since the shooting, McLaughlin has said that never happened. That report was made at the request of the Texas Department of Public Security, which McLaughlin has criticized and accused of trying to downplay the role of his soldiers during the massacre.

Texas DPS chief Steve McCraw called the police response a blatant failure.

The committee “did not obtain medical evidence” to show that police would have saved lives by breaking up the classroom sooner, but concluded that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had waited 73 additional minutes for rescue.” Don’t have to.”

Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in the cafeteria at Rob Elementary on the day of the shooting and survived, brought 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.”

“That is ridiculous. Disgusting,” he said. “They are cowards.”


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

World Nation News Desk
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