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Uvalde report: 376 officers but “incredibly bad” decisions

Uvalde report: 376 officers but "incredibly bad" decisions
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UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Nearly 400 police officers rushed to a mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school, but “egregiously poor decision-making” led to more than an hour of chaos before the gunman, who killed 21 people, was finally confronted and killed , according to a damning investigative report released on Sunday.

The nearly 80-page report was the first to criticize both state and federal law enforcement agencies, and not just local authorities in the south Texas city bewildering idleness by heavily armed officers when a gunman fired into two fourth grade classrooms at Robb Elementary School, killing 19 students and two teachers.

Overall, the report was the most comprehensive account yet of one of the worst school shootings in US history. But it did not satisfy all of the victims’ parents and relatives, some of whom denounced the police as cowards and called for their resignation.

“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to comply with their active marksman training and failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report reads.

The gunman fired about 142 rounds inside the building – and it’s “almost certain” that at least 100 shots were fired before an officer entered, according to the report, which detailed numerous errors. Among them:

— No one took command, although dozens of officers were on the scene.

— The commander of a Border Patrol tactical team waited for a bulletproof shield and a working classroom master key, which may not even have been needed, before entering the classroom.

– An officer from the Uvalde Police Department said he heard 911 calls coming from the classroom and understood that officers on one side of the building knew there were victims locked inside. Despite this, nobody tried to break into the classroom.

The report — the most complete account yet of the hesitant and indiscriminate response to the May 24 massacre — was authored by a committee of inquiry in the Texas House of Representatives. The findings quickly set at least one fallout in motion: Lt. Mariano Pargas, an officer with the Uvalde Police Department who was the city’s acting police chief during the massacre, has been placed on administrative leave.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said an investigation would be launched to determine whether Pargas should have taken command of the scene. McLaughlin also said the city will now release any body camera footage taken by Uvalde Police during the shooting.

McLaughlin said that “a few, maybe three” officers have left the force since the shooting and that suicides are “a big problem.”

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 nothing to do with wearing a badge. None of them,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazar, Sunday said who was among those killed.

Only the families of the victims were invited to meet with the committee members ahead of a press conference with the media following the release of the report.

Tina Quintanilla-Taylor, whose daughter survived the shooting, yelled at committee members as they exited the press conference, saying they should have been answering questions from the community, not just reporters. “I’m angry. They need to come back and give us their undivided attention,” she later said.

“These leaders are not leaders,” she said.

According to the report, 376 police officers gathered at the school. The overwhelming majority of those who responded were federal and state agencies. These included nearly 150 US Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officers.

“Apart from the attacker, the committee has not found any ‘bad guys’ in the course of its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one on whom we can ascribe malice or evil motives. Instead, we found systemic flaws and egregiously poor decision-making.”

The report found that many of the hundreds of law enforcement personnel who rushed to the school were better trained and equipped than the school district police force – whom the chief of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state police force, previously accused of not going in the room previously.

Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable and said decisions rest with each law enforcement agency. It was known before Sunday that only one of the hundreds of officers at the scene — Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde School District Police Chief — was on furlough.

“Everyone who was there said it was chaotic,” said the Texas state representative. Dustin Burrows, a Republican who led the investigation.

Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the US Border Patrol did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.

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

No single official has been as closely scrutinized since the shooting as Arredondo, who also resigned from his newly appointed City Council seat following the shooting. Arredondo told the committee he treated the gunman as a “barricaded subject,” according to the report, and defended that he never treated the scene as an active gunman situation because he had no visual contact with the gunman.

Arredondo also tried to find a key to the classrooms, but no one ever bothered to check if the doors were locked, according to the report.

“Arredondo’s search for a key occupied his attention and wasted precious time delaying the break-in into classrooms,” the report reads.

The report slammed the approach of hundreds of officers who surrounded the school as “careless” and said they should have realized that without reliable communications, Arredondo’s remaining at the school was “inconsistent” with him as head of operations. The report concluded that some officials waited because they were relying on bad information, while others “had enough information to know better.”

A nearly 80-minute video patrolling a hallway released Sunday showed for the first time a hesitant and indiscriminate tactical response that the Texas state police chief has condemned as a failure and some Uvalde residents have blasted as cowardly.

Calls for police accountability have been raised 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 from tactical experts at Texas State University claimed a Uvalde police officer had a chance to stop the shooter before he entered the school armed with an AR-15.

But in an example of the conflicting statements and disputed reports since the shooting, McLaughlin said that never happened. This report was produced at the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has come under increasing criticism from McLaughlin and has accused him of attempting to downplay his troops’ role in the massacre.

Steve McCraw, the head of the Texas DPS, has described the police response as a pathetic failure.

The committee “obtained no medical evidence” to show that an earlier police break-in into the classroom would have saved lives, but concluded that “it is plausible that some victims might have survived if they did not have an additional 73.” minutes would have had to wait for the rescue”. “

Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in Robb Elementary’s cafeteria on the day of the shooting and survived, arrived at the committee’s press conference on Sunday carrying signs that read “We Want Accountability” and “Track Pete Arredondo.”

Brown said he hasn’t read the report but already knows enough to say police “have blood on their hands.”

“It’s disgusting. Disgusting,” he said. “They’re cowards.”

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

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