Five takeaways from the damning Uvalde school shooting report
(The Hill) – A Texas House investigative committee released a scathing 77-page report on Sunday detailing law enforcement failures in the response to a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May that killed 19 children and two teachers.
“Other than the attacker, the committee did not find any ‘villains’ in the course of its investigation,” said the report — based on 35 witnesses and thousands of documents. “There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making.”
In total, 376 law enforcement officers responded to the scene, but the classroom was not breached for more than an hour, according to the document.
Here are five takeaways from the report:
The classroom door was widely known to have a faulty lock
The report found that Robb Elementary School did not “adequately prepare” for the risk of a shooter.
The school required locking of all classroom doors, and the west building — the site of the shooting — had three exterior doors, two of which were required to remain locked. All three were unlocked at the time of the shooting, the report states.
Multiple witnesses described a “culture of noncompliance” with the policy, saying staff often propped doors open, and the school suggested circumventing locks for the convenience of substitute teachers who lacked their own keys.
“At a minimum, school administrators and school district police tacitly condoned this behavior as they were aware of these unsafe practices and did not treat them as serious infractions requiring immediate correction,” the report reads.
The door “probably” used by the shooter to enter the two classrooms was known for having a faulty lock, according to the report. The problem had been reported to school administrators around spring break, but no one had placed a written work order to repair it.
“In particular, staff and students widely knew the door to one of the victimized classrooms, Room 111, was ordinarily unsecured and accessible,” the report states.
Frequent security alerts from migrant ‘bailouts’ reduced vigilance
Robb Elementary School experienced 47 secure or lockdown alerts between February and May, 90 percent of which were attributed to migrant “bailouts”, according to the report.
Uvalde, which is located close to the U.S.-Mexico border, is a frequent site of so-called “bailouts,” when smugglers try to speed away from police so migrants can scatter.
“The frequency of these ‘bailout’-related alarms — around 50 of them between February and May of 2022 — contributed to a diminished sense of vigilance about responding to security alerts,” the report states.
At least one witness reported receiving an alert during the shooting, but the report notes that the alerts did not distinguish between bailouts and active shooters.
A lack of effective incident commander inhibited information flow
The report repeatedly condemns the lack of an effective incident commander to take charge of the scene.
Much of the criticism in the wake of the shooting centered around Pete Arredondo, the then-chief of the Uvalde school district police. The report identifies Arredondo as the natural person to take the role based on the agency’s training and policies.
“This was an essential duty he had assigned to himself in the plan mentioned above, yet it was not effectively performed by anyone,” the report reads.
“The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life as injured victims waited over an hour for help, and the attacker continued to sporadically fire his weapon,” it continued.
The committee found no evidence that anyone told Arredondo about key developments, including the arrival of a rifle-rated shield, the arrival of a tool to breach the classroom door, or of 911 calls coming from inside the classrooms.
“Several witnesses indicated that they were aware of this, but not Chief Arredondo,” the report states.
“The Committee has received no evidence that any officer who did learn about phone calls coming from inside Rooms 111 and 112 acted on it to advocate shifting to an active shooter-style response or otherwise acting more urgently to breach the classrooms.”
Officers in separate parts of building responded differently
The report detailed a lack of communication between officers stationed inside the school, on the north and south sides of the classroom.
“The remainder of law enforcement actions at Robb Elementary School until the ultimate breach of the classroom and neutralization of the attacker was a tale of two separate responses on the north and south sides of the hallway,” the report states.
Arredondo and others on the south side had an “immediate perception” that that the two classrooms might be unoccupied, leading them to treat the shooter as a barricaded subject.
Arredondo testified that he only gave one direction to the north side: evacuate the children from classrooms and test the keys before trying to go into the room with the shooter.
Mariano Pargas, the Uvalde Police Department’s acting chief on the day of the massacre, who was on the north side, never spoke to Arredondo and was unaware of any communication with the south side, according to the report.
But Pargas and others on the north side were aware of the 911 calls coming from inside the classroom, according to the report. The husband of one of the now-slain teachers also told officers at the north that she was shot and inside the classroom.
“[Pargas] told the Committee that it was his understanding that officers on the north side of the building understood there were victims trapped inside the classroom with the attacker,” the report states.
Officer who was supposed to brief Abbott passed out in hallway
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) gave a press conference in the immediate wake of the shooting heaping praise on law enforcement and providing details that turned out to be inaccurate. Abbott has since said he was “misled.”
Sunday’s report says that Abbott provided information at the press conference based on a briefing that was supposed to be led by a Uvalde police lieutenant who was at the scene, but had passed out while waiting in the hallway beforehand.
A Texas Department of Public Safety regional director delivered the briefing instead, but the official was not present for a significant portion of the response.
“He did not personally witness the bulk of the day’s events, leaving him to depend on secondhand knowledge acquired from other law enforcement officers who had been part of the response,” the report states.