Texas

376 employees but “extremely bad” decisions

UVALDE, Texas – Nearly 400 law enforcement officers rushed to a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, but “extremely poor decision-making” led to more than an hour of chaos before the gunman who claimed 21 lives was finally confronted and killed. according to a damning investigative report released Sunday.

The nearly 80-page report was the first to criticize both state and federal law enforcement, not just local authorities in the South Texas city, for the baffling failure to act by heavily armed officers when a gunman opened fire on two fourth-grade classrooms in Robb Elementary School, killing 19 students and two teachers.

Overall, the report represents the most complete account to date of one of the worst school shootings in US history. But this did not satisfy all parents and relatives of the victims, some of whom branded the police officers cowards and called on them to resign.

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“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement officers failed to adhere to their active shooter training and failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.

The shooter fired an estimated 142 shots inside the building — and it is “almost certain” that at least 100 shots came before any officers entered, according to the report, which detailed numerous errors. Between them:

“No one took command, even though dozens of officers were on the scene.”

— The Border Patrol Tactical Team Commander waited for an armored shield and a working classroom master key that might not even have been needed before entering the classroom.

— An officer with the Uvalde Police Department said he heard about 911 calls that came from inside the classroom and he said officers on one side of the building knew there were victims inside. However, no one tried to break into the classroom.

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The report — the most complete account yet of the hesitant and haphazard response to the May 24 massacre — was written by a Texas House of Representatives investigative committee. The findings quickly triggered at least one outcome: Lt. Mariano Pargas, an officer with the Uvalde Police Department who was the city’s acting police chief at the time of the massacre, was placed on administrative leave.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said an investigation will be launched to determine if Pargas should have assumed command of the scene. McLaughlin also said the city will now release all Uvalde police body camera footage that was taken at the time of the shooting.

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

Family members of the Uvalde victims received copies of the report Sunday before it was released.

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“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They have no business wearing a badge. None of them do,” Vincent Salazar, the grandfather of 11-year-old Leila Salazar, who was among those killed, said Sunday.

Only the families of the victims were invited to meet members of the commission before a news conference with the media after the report was made public.

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

“These leaders are not leaders,” she said.

According to the report, 376 law enforcement officers converged on the school. The overwhelming majority of those who responded were federal and state law enforcement agencies. That includes nearly 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 91 state police officers.

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“Apart from the assailant, the commission did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” the report said. “There is no one to whom we can impute malice or bad motives. Instead, we found systemic errors and extremely poor decision-making.

The report noted that many of the hundreds of law enforcement officers who rushed to the school were better trained and equipped than the school district police — which the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, State Police, previously accused of for not entering the room sooner.

Investigators said it was not their job to determine whether officers should be held accountable, saying those decisions were up to each law enforcement agency. Before Sunday, it was known that only one of the hundreds of police officers at the scene – Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school superintendent – was on leave.

“Everybody who came to the scene was talking about it being chaotic,” said Texas state Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican who is leading the investigation.

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

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

No employee 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. Arredondo told the committee he treated the shooter as a “barricaded subject,” according to the report, and defended never treating the scene as an active shooter situation because he had no visual contact with the shooter.

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

“Arredondo’s search for a key consumed his attention and wasted valuable time, delaying the infiltration of classrooms,” the report said.

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The report criticized as “negligent” the approach of the hundreds of officers who surrounded the school and said they should have recognized that Arredondo remaining at the school without reliable communication was “inconsistent” with him 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 video from a surveillance corridor showed for the first time a hesitant and haphazard tactical response that the Texas State Police superintendent condemned as a failure and some Uvalde residents called cowardly.

Uvalde Police Officer Eduardo Canales’ body camera footage released Sunday shows the officer approaching classrooms when gunfire rang out at 11:37 a.m. The Texas Department of Public Safety said earlier, citing school surveillance footage, that the gunman fired 11 rounds as officers approached at the time, and the DPS director said two officers suffered “gripping wounds.” The officer in the video asks him if he’s bleeding and later says he’s bleeding from his ear. He retreats down the hall after the shots and then goes in and out of the building.

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At 11:38 a.m. he says, “Dude, we gotta get in there. We have to get in there, he just keeps shooting. We have to get in there. Another officer can be heard saying “DPS is sending their people.”

72 minutes later, at 12:50 p.m., when officers finally burst into the classrooms and killed the shooter.

After the shooting in Uvalde, calls for police accountability became more frequent.

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 tactical experts at Texas State University said an Uvalde police officer had a chance to stop the shooter before he entered the school armed with an AR-15.

But as an example of the conflicting statements and disputed accounts since the shooting, McLaughlin said it never happened. That report was made at the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which McLaughlin has increasingly criticized and accused of trying to minimize the role of its troopers during the massacre.

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Steve McCraw, the chief of the Texas DPS, called the police response a dismal failure.

The commission did not “receive medical evidence” to show that earlier police entry into the classroom would have saved lives, but concluded that “some victims may have survived had they not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue. “

Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in Robb Elementary’s cafeteria the day of the shooting and survived, came to the commission’s press conference Sunday carrying signs that read “We demand accountability” and “Trial Pete Arredondo.”

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

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

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

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

376 employees but “extremely bad” decisions

Source link 376 employees but “extremely bad” decisions

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