A preliminary report released Sunday by a Texas House of Representatives investigative committee found “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by law enforcement and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District in the wake of the May 24 mass shooting that killed 19 kids and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The 77-page report specifies that beyond the gunman, no other individual is to blame for the shooting.
“There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregious poor decision making,” the report notes.
While 376 officers responded to the scene, a lack of clear leadership and direction contributed to officers’ “overall lackadaisical approach,” the report found.
Many responding officers “were given and relied upon inaccurate information,” and others “had enough information to know better,” the report concludes.
“The scene was chaotic, without any person obviously in charge or directing the law enforcement response,” the report notes.
When the gunman first arrived on the scene, there was no law enforcement officer on the campus, according to the report. A coach at the school, Yvette Silva, “acted heroically and almost certainly saved lives by alerting the school to the attacker’s advance,” the report notes, adding that “most fourth grade classes successfully locked down as a result of her quick response.”
When officers did arrive on the scene, the report notes, their response quickly broke down.
Officers who first arrived on the scene about three minutes after the gunman entered the school “acted appropriately by attempting to breach the classrooms and stop the attacker,” according to the report. At that point, the embattled Police Chief Pete Arredondo — a key focus of the report — “was actively engaged in the effort to ‘stop the killing’,” the report states.
But after gunman returned fire on the officers, they “lost critical momentum by treating the scenario as a “barricaded subject” instead of with the greater urgency attached to an “active shooter” scenario.”
Arredondo also failed to take on what the report characterizes as “his preassigned responsibility of incident command,” which would have required letting the other officers know he was in charge and leaving the building to set up an incident command post. Instead, he remained in the hallway, and in doing so, he was unable to communicate with other law enforcement officers and “effectively implement staging or command and control of the situation,” according to the report. He also didn’t know about the 911 calls coming from inside the classroom “because of his failure to establish a reliable method of receiving critical information from outside the building,” according to the report.
“Even if he had received information of surviving injured victims in the classrooms, it is unclear that he would have done anything differently to act ‘more urgently,'” the report adds of Arredondo.
Arredondo, who is on administrative leave from his role as police chief and resigned from his seat on the Uvalde City Council a month after being sworn in in the wake of widespread criticism over his response at the scene, previously told the Texas Tribune he never considered himself the incident commander and instead acted as a front-line responder.
The officers’ positions were also not tactically coordinated inside the school, the report found.
While Arredondo and other officers were clustered around the south end of the building, focused on entering the classrooms the gunman was in and securing protective equipment for officers, dozens of other officers were in the hallway on the north side of the building “stacking up for an assault on the classrooms, and mostly waiting for further instructions pending the arrival of protective gear and breaching equipment,” the report states.
The report also places blame on other law enforcement officers for the breakdown in the police response.
Other officers on the scene should have recognized “obvious deficiencies in command and control” and approached Arredondo or other officers around him to offer assistance with incident command, according to the report.
Officers also assumed the classroom doors were locked without seeing if that was true, according to the report, which notes that the door of Room 111, one of the two in which the shooter was active, “probably was not effectively locked shut.”
When the United States Border Patrol Tactical Unit, known as BORTAC, arrived on the scene, Arredondo didn’t direct them, nor did they seek instruction from him, according to the report. BORTAC Acting Commander Paul Guerrero waited to try to enter the classrooms until obtaining a working master key and putting a rifle-rated shield in place.
The report concludes that “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue,” but notes that most of the victims probably died instantly upon being shot and that the committee “has not received medical evidence” to make a definitive judgment about whether a quicker response from officers at the scene could’ve saved lives.
The report also blames the school’s infrastructure for communication failures, noting that nobody used the school intercom to communicate the lockdown and poor wi-fi likely delayed an alert that went out to teachers.
Family members of the victims received the report Sunday, and officials are expected to hold a press conference to discuss its findings on Sunday afternoon. Printed copies of the report were hand-delivered to Uvalde and Texas officials on Saturday night in an attempt to prevent the report from being leaked to the media before the family members had a chance to review it, CNN reported.
The report notes that the committee’s investigation into the shooting remains ongoing, but that it “believes this interim report constitutes the most complete telling to date of the events of and leading to the May 24, 2022, tragedy.”
“We do not have access to all material witnesses. Medical examiners have not yet issued any reports about their findings, and multiple other investigations remain ongoing,” the report states.
The report excludes both the name and image of the gunman “so as not to glorify him,” it notes. The committee dedicates the report to the victims.
“This report is meant to honor them,” it states.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.