Uvalde, TX – A scathing report released by a Texas House of Representatives investigative committee on Sunday revealed that nearly 400 law enforcement officers went to Robb Elementary School as a gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers on May 24, but police still failed to confront the shooter and eliminate the threat for more than an hour.
According to the 77-page report, 376 law enforcement officers responded to the school as the 18-year-old gunman carried out his attack inside a fourth-grade classroom, the Associated Press reported.
Most of them were from state and federal agencies, including 91 Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers, 150 U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) officials, and 14 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers, according to CNN.
The committee further noted that those agencies were better equipped and trained to handle the active shooter incident than the school district’s police force, the Associated Press reported.
According to the report, the gunman fired off more than 100 rounds inside the school before any law enforcement officers entered the building, the Associated Press reported.
The shooter fired an estimated total of 142 rounds between the time he entered the school and the time he was fatally shot by police, the committee said.
Although it is likely that the door to the classroom was not locked, the report also claimed the commander of the USBP held the team back and waited for a master key and a ballistic shield before the team was allowed to breach the room, according to the Associated Press.
At least one Uvalde Police Department (UPD) officer told the committee that he had been told about 911 calls coming from inside the classroom and that it was his understating the officers who were inside the building were also aware, the report read.
DPS Director Steven McCraw has placed blame for the delayed law enforcement response to the massacre squarely on the shoulders of Uvalde Consolidated Independent Schools District (UCISD) Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who the director alleged was the “on-scene commander.”
Chief Arredondo, who was placed on administrative leave after the school massacre, has said he believed he was in the role of a front-line responder and that someone else was commanding the larger police response to the situation.
The investigative committee said the hundreds of officers at the scene should have recognized that Chief Arredondo couldn’t command the situation when he didn’t even have a radio to communicate, the Associated Press reported.
“Notably, nobody ensured that responders making key decisions inside the building received information that students and teachers had survived the initial burst of gunfire, were trapped in (classrooms), and had called out for help,” the report read, according to CNN.
“Arredondo’s search for a key consumed his attention and wasted precious time, delaying the breach of the classrooms,” the investigators noted, according to the Associated Press.
The report described the law enforcement response to the situation as “lackadaisical” and said that none of the hundreds of officers at the scene ever assumed command of the situation.
It further concluded that some of the officers waited to breach because they were relying on inaccurate information, while others “had enough information to know better,” the Associated Press reported.
Approximately 40 people, including Chief Arredondo, members of DPS, the Robb Elementary principal, school custodial staff members, and teachers, testified before the panel during the investigation, according to CNN.
“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report read.
“Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” the committee wrote. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”
The panel ultimately concluded that “the entirety of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response shares systemic responsibility for many missed opportunities,” according to CNN.
The report also identified problems with the school’s response to the attack.
No one ever announced the lockdown over the intercom, and poor WIFI service in the building “likely delayed the lockdown alert,” according to the report.
“As a result, not all teachers received timely notice of the lockdown,” the committee concluded.
School officials were also aware of chronic problems with faulty locks and doors throughout the building, CNN reported.
The locking mechanism to Room 111 was “widely known to be faulty, yet it was not repaired,” according to the report.
“Robb Elementary had a culture of noncompliance with safety policies requiring doors to be kept locked, which turned out to be fatal,” the report said.
The committee’s findings were provided to the victims’ families prior to it being released to the public on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
The families were also shown new bodycam footage that showed police running towards the school and coming under fire inside the building, WFAA reported.
The videos also showed police staging outside the classroom and making attempts to negotiate with the gunman.
According to the report, the officers initially seen entering the building did not appear to have “any contemporaneous understanding…that teachers and students just then had been shot inside the classrooms,” CNN reported.
The USBP and DPS did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the newly-released report, according to the Associated Press.
Uvalde Police Department (UPD) Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, who was acting chief of the department when the school shooting took place, was placed on administrative leave after the report was released, the Associated Press reported.
A “national expert” has been tapped by the city of Uvalde to conduct an internal investigation into the UPD’s response to the shooting, KVUE reported.
The investigation will include looking into whether Lt. Pargas was responsible for taking command that day, what actions he took to establish command, and “whether it was even feasible given all the agencies involved,” according to KVUE.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said he and the victims’ families are angry about the whirlwind of false and misleading information that has been shared with the media since the day the massacre took place, as well as the recent release of leaked security footage from inside the school, CNN reported.
“We’re tired of the bulls–t leaks. We’re tired of the bulls–t stories,” McLaughlin told reporters on Sunday. “The only people that are being blindsided by that is these families. These families they have been blindsided since day one because they have gotten no information.”
The mayor said the DPS has been “unprofessional” in its handling of the incident since the beginning, CNN reported.
The special committee’s report came less than two weeks after the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) released its own findings pertaining to the law enforcement response to the school massacre.
That investigation, which was completed at the request of the DPS, alleged that an Uvalde police officer had the gunman in his rifle sights before the suspect walked into the school.
ALERRT claimed the officer was prepared to pull the trigger, but that he couldn’t get his supervisors to grant him permission to shoot.
“The UPD officer was armed with a rifle and sighted in to shoot the attacker; however, he asked his supervisor for permission to shoot,” the report stated.
“The UPD officer did not hear a response and turned to get confirmation from his supervisor. When he turned back to address the suspect, the suspect had already entered the west hall exterior door at 11:33:00,” according to ALERRT.
But according to McLaughlin, those claims are completely inaccurate, KHOU reported.
“No Uvalde police department officer saw the shooter on May 24 prior to him entering the school,” the mayor said in a statement. “No Uvalde police officers had any opportunity to take a shot at the gunman.”
He noted that a UPD officer did see a person outside the school at one point, along with multiple children, but that the person he saw was not the gunman, KHOU reported.
“Ultimately, it was a coach with children on the playground, not the shooter,” McLaughlin said.
The mayor further alleged that DPS troopers arrived at the school much sooner than indicated in the ALERRT report and the testimony Director McCraw presented to the legislative committee, KHOU reported.
He said that “dozens of DPS troopers” were on-site, including some who were at the door approximately three minutes after the shooter entered the school.
“I’ve said it once and will say it again,” McLaughlin said in a statement. “The premature release of piecemeal information or anything related to the May 24 Department of Public Safety (DPS)/Texas Rangers investigation is a disservice to families who lost children or parents because the true facts need to come out once all investigations/reviews, which the City expects will be thorough and fair, are complete.”