Justice Department Issues Damning Report on Uvalde Shooting

'The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2024 11:24 AM CST
Justice Department Issues Damning Report on Uvalde Shooting
Police walk near Robb Elementary School, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

"An active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject," a Justice Department report on the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting states. But that's exactly what happened at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, when students and teachers were trapped in a room with the gunman for more than an hour while almost 400 law enforcement officers descended on the school and waited in hallways as parents begged them to go in and children called 911. The department's 575-page incident review lists "critical" and "cascading" failures by law enforcement in the mass shooting, which killed 19 children and two teachers, NPR reports.

"The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022—and the response by officials in the hours and days after—was a failure." Among the findings:

  • A failure of leadership: Leadership in law enforcement is absolutely critical, especially in moments of a dire challenge, such as the active shooter incident at Robb Elementary School," the report states. "This leadership was absent for too long in the Robb Elementary School law enforcement response." The report found that Uvalde Consolidated School District Police Department chief Pete Arredondo was the "de facto commander," but "he did not provide appropriate leadership, command, and control.
  • The "most significant failure:" According to the report, police arrived at the scene within three minutes of shots being fired—but retreated after being hit by shrapnel. After that point, the report states, Arredondo and other officers, in the "most significant failure" during the crisis, made the mistake of treating the situation as a "barricaded subject scenario and not as an active shooter situation." Officers did not attempt to enter the room for more than an hour "despite their training and despite multiple events that indicated the subject continued to pose an active threat to students and staff in the building, including the likelihood and then confirmation of victims inside the room." After he had been in the room for 77 minutes, the gunman was taken down by a team led by Border Patrol agents.

  • A long search for keys: The report found that officers spent around 40 minutes searching for keys to the shared Classroom 111 and 112 space, but it was probably unlocked the entire time, the Washington Post reports. "The doorknob was never checked," and the search for keys "was partly the cause of the significant delay in entering to eliminate the threat and stop the killing and dying inside classrooms 111 and 112," the report states.
  • Communication failures: The report found that the response was hindered by multiple communication issues, including Arredondo's decision to discard his radios on arrival "because he thought they were unnecessary," reports the AP. Officers also failed to set up a centralized command post for a response that involved 376 officers, including school officers, Uvalde police, state police, and Border Patrol agents.
  • The aftermath: The report found that there were also serious mistakes in how police handled the aftermath of the shooting, NPR reports. "The extent of misinformation, misguided and misleading narratives, leaks, and lack of communication about what happened on May 24 is unprecedented and has had an extensive, negative impact on the mental health and recovery of the family members and other victims, as well as the entire community of Uvalde," it states.
(More Uvalde mass shooting stories.)

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