NATIONAL NEWS

Justice Department report finds ‘cascading failures’ and ‘no urgency’ during Uvalde, Texas, shooting

Jan 18, 2024, 8:30 AM | Updated: 9:16 am

FILE: A memorial dedicated to the 19 children and two adults murdered on May 24, 2022 during the ma...

FILE: A memorial dedicated to the 19 children and two adults murdered on May 24, 2022 during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School is seen on May 24, 2023 in Uvalde, Texas. Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the school. 19 children and two teachers were killed when a gunman entered the school, opening fire on students and faculty. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Police officials who responded to the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, “demonstrated no urgency” in setting up a command post and failed to treat the killings as an active shooter situation, according to a Justice Department report released Thursday that identifies “cascading failures” in law enforcement’s handling of one of the deadliest massacres at a school in American history.

The Justice Department report, the most comprehensive federal accounting of the haphazard police response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School, identifies a vast array of problems from failed communication and leadership to inadequate technology and training. Federal officials say these issues contributed to the crisis lasting far longer than it should have, even as terrified students inside the classrooms called 911 and agonized parents begged officers to go in.

“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.”

Even for a mass shooting that has already been the subject of intense scrutiny and in-depth examinations, the nearly 600-page Justice Department report adds to the public understanding of how police in Uvalde failed to stop an attack that killed 19 children and two staff members.

Uvalde, a community of more than 15,000 about 85 miles (140 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio, continues to struggle with the trauma left by the killing of 19 elementary students and two teachers, and remains divided on questions of accountability for officers’ actions and inaction.

The shooting has already been picked over in legislative hearings, news reports and a damning report by Texas lawmakers who faulted law enforcement at every level with failing “to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety.”

Uvalde school district officers arrived within three minutes of Ramos’ arrival at the school and ran toward the classroom, but as they approached, Ramos fired from inside the classroom. Two officers were hit by shrapnel and police retreated to take cover.

“An active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject,” the report says, with the word “never” emphasized in italics.

The 376 officers at the scene included state police, Uvalde police, school officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. A tactical team led by the Border Patrol eventually went into the classroom to take down the gunman.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott initially praised the officers’ courage, and blame was later cast on local authorities in Uvalde. But a report from a panel of state lawmakers and investigations by journalists laid bare how over the course of more than 70 minutes, a mass of officers went in and out of the school with weapons drawn but did not go inside the classroom where the shooting was taking place.

The federal report also details well-documented communication issues officials say hindered the response, including then-school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, discarding his radios on arrival because he thought they were unnecessary.

Although Arredondo tried to communicate by phone with officers elsewhere in the school hallway, he told them not to enter the classrooms “because he appeared to determine that other victims should first be removed from nearby classrooms to prevent further injury.”

Police also erred by failing to urgently establish a centralized command post, creating confusion among officers and even first responders, the federal report said.

The report includes a series of comments by terrified children taken from a 911 call, including: “Help!” “Help!” “Help!” “I don’t want to die. My teacher is dead.”

By that point, the students and their teachers had been trapped in classrooms with the shooter for 37 minutes, and the call lasted for 27 minutes. Even though law enforcement officials were in the hallway and just outside the classrooms, it would be another 13 minutes after the call ended before the survivors were rescued.

In the 20 months since the Justice Department announced its review, footage showing police waiting in a hallway outside the fourth-grade classrooms where the gunman opened fire has become the target of national ridicule.

Garland was in Uvalde on Wednesday ahead of the release of the report, visiting murals of the victims that have been painted around the center of the town. Later that night, Justice Department officials privately briefed family members at a community center in Uvalde before the findings were made public.

Velma Lisa Duran, whose sister Irma Garcia was one of the teachers killed, said she spoke by phone with a Justice Department official Tuesday and is grateful for the agency’s work but has not yet read the report.

Duran, 52, said she had read the state lawmakers’ report and watched body camera video from the shooting. She’s daunted by the prospect of reliving the circumstances of her sister’s death, once again, over hundreds of pages, and what she really wants is criminal charges.

“A report doesn’t matter when there are no consequences for actions that are so vile and murderous and evil,” said Duran. “What do you want us to do with another report? … Bring it to court,” she said.

The federal review was launched just days after the shooting, and local prosecutors are still evaluating a separate criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers. Several of the officers involved have lost their jobs.

How police respond to mass shootings around the country has been scrutinized since the tragedy.

The delayed response countered active-shooter training that emphasizes confronting the gunman, a standard established more than two decades ago after the mass shooting at Columbine High School showed that waiting cost lives. As what happened during the shooting has become clear, the families of some victims have blasted police as cowards and demanded resignations.

At least five officers lost their jobs, including two Department of Public Safety officers and the on-site commander, Arredondo.

___

Bleiberg reported from Dallas, Tucker and Whitehurst reported from Washington, D.C.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Aaron Bushnell as seen from his LinkedIn profile. Bushnell set himself ablaze outside the Israeli E...

Michael Balsamo, Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., while declaring that he “will no longer be complicit in genocide.”

27 minutes ago

An artist's impression depicts a dead white dwarf star and its magnetic field, which is usually inv...

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Dead ‘cannibal’ star spotted with metal scar after consuming part of a planet

Astronomers have spotted an unusual sign that a dead star feasted on a fragment of a planet orbiting it: a metal scar on the star’s surface.

43 minutes ago

The Birmingham England Temple Rendering...

Michael Houck

Church releases location for the Vancouver Washington Temple and renderings for England, U.S. temples

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released the site location of the Vancouver Washington Temple and the artistic renderings for temples in England, Nevada, and Texas.

2 hours ago

FILE - A sign advertises Yeezy shoes made by Adidas at Kickclusive, a sneaker resale store, in Para...

Associated Press

Adidas sells another batch of Yeezy sneakers left over from breakup with Ye

Shoe and sports clothing maker Adidas says it has started a third sale of the Yeezy sneakers it was left with after severing ties with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.

3 hours ago

FILE - Asylum-seekers walk to a U.S. Border Patrol van after crossing the nearby border with Mexico...

Seung Min Kim, Colleen Long, Zeke Miller, and Jill Colvin, Associated Press

Biden and Trump are making dueling trips to the Mexico border in Texas on Thursday, AP sources say

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Thursday.

5 hours ago

Alexander Smirnov leaves court in Las Vegas on February 20, 2024. (CNN)...

Cheri Mossburg and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

Ex-FBI informant Smirnov will remain in jail while he awaits trial, judge rules

Ex-FBI informant Alexander Smirnov will remain in jail while he awaits trial, a federal judge in California ruled Monday.

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Justice Department report finds ‘cascading failures’ and ‘no urgency’ during Uvalde, Texas, shooting