US Department of Justice call Uvalde police response a failure in highly critical report

Connie Queline

US Department of Justice call Uvalde police response a failure in highly critical report

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The police response to the deadly 2022 Uvalde school shooting “was a failure”, the Department of Justice has said.

In a report on the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers, the department said police failed to understand there was an active shooter.

Hundreds of officers responded to Robb Elementary school but took over an hour to confront and kill the gunman.

The report also found “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy and training”.

It described “a great deal of confusion, miscommunication, a lack of urgency and a lack of incident command,” as the shooting unfolded.

Police officers’ slow response was a major focus of the report, which spanned more than 400 pages and was released on Thursday.

When there is an active shooter, law enforcement is supposed “to immediately neutralize the subject; everything else, including officer safety, is subordinate to that objective”, the report said.

But the Uvalde police waited, treating the deadly rampage as a barricade situation instead, according to the report.

“The most significant failure was that responding officers should have immediately recognized the incident as an active shooter situation,” the report said.

They also were delayed by miscommunications and issues as simple as locked doors.

“Inaccurate information… shared over the radio” misled officers to believe the shooter had already been killed, stalling their effort, according to the report.

Within three minutes of the gunman opening fire, the first officers arrived and headed to a classroom but retreated after being hit by shrapnel from the gunfire.

The report said 48 minutes after the gunman entered the school, and four additional shots were fired, officers moved toward sounds of gunfire “outside the classroom doors but did not make entry”.

Residents in Uvalde, a small Texas town of roughly 15,000, have been anticipating the Justice Department’s report since the department first made the announcement days after the 24 May shooting, one of the deadliest in US history.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland visited families in Uvalde and stopped by the murals of victims painted around town. Justice Department officials held a private meeting with the families of victims and briefed them ahead of the report’s release.

Berlinda Arreola, whose granddaughter was killed in the shooting, told the Associated Press after the meeting: “I have a lot of emotions right now. I don’t have a lot of words to say.”

Oscar Orona, whose then-10-year-old son was shot inside one of the classrooms, told the Washington Post: “I think the report will validate what we knew all this time, that is was an abysmal failure.

“But now the world will know, too.”

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The review had been requested by former Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin after state officials provided conflicting accounts about what happened during the roughly 77 minutes that transpired before police stopped an 18-year-old gunman from firing an AR-15 style rifle inside two fourth-grade classrooms.

Nearly 400 police were on the scene at Robb Elementary but victims and their families say police were too slow to act.

In July 2022, a stinging report by Texas lawmakers mostly faulted law enforcement, ascribing the atrocity to “egregiously poor decision-making” by police.

The gunman had fired roughly 142 rounds inside the building before he was stopped, according to that report.

Body camera footage showed police waiting in hallways outside classrooms where the gunman had opened fire.

Bereaved families labelled police cowards while calling for their resignation.

The Texas officials’ report accused police of failing to “prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety”.

At least five officers have lost their jobs, including Pete Arredondo, Uvalde’s former school police chief who was fired in August 2022.

Multiple community members have filed lawsuits against the city police and local officials that are pending.

Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell said in December that a criminal investigation into the police response will continue into 2024 before she anticipates presenting her findings to a grand jury, according to CBS News, the BBC’s media partner.

Related Topics

  • US gun violence
  • Gun crime
  • Texas
  • United States
  • Mass shootings

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