READ FULL REPORT: DOJ issues report on Uvalde school shooting

‘Most significant failure’ in Uvalde massacre was ‘lack of urgency’ by law enforcement, DOJ report says

. (KSAT)

UVALDE – A major report released Thursday by the Department of Justice cited “cascading failures” by law enforcement in the handling of the shooting at Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers.

In the 500+ page report, investigators identify several critical failures and other breakdowns prior to, during, and after the shooting.

The report did not necessarily provide any massive revelations but confirms with significant authority and evidence that the failures by police and leadership led to the large number of casualties.

At least five officers have lost their jobs since the shooting, including two Department of Public Safety officers and the on-site commander, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, whose failure is highlighted in the report.

Keep reading for takeaways from the new report, which detailed the timeline of events as they unfolded.

KSAT will have continuing coverage on all platforms about the report and the families responses. The DOJ and families of victims have separate, back-to-back press conferences Thursday, which will be streamed and broadcast by KSAT 12.

‘Most significant failure’ in Uvalde massacre was ‘lack of urgency’ by law enforcement

The report said, “The most significant failure was that responding officers should have immediately recognized the incident as an active shooter situation, using the resources and equipment that were sufficient to push forward immediately and continuously toward the threat until entry was made into classrooms 111/112 and the threat was eliminated.”

Police officials who responded “demonstrated no urgency” in setting up a command post and failed to treat the killings as an active shooter situation.

Leadership on the scene failed on many levels

According to the report, Arredondo directed officers to focus on getting students out of other classrooms and did not confront the shooter after the first officers on the scene were fired upon by the gunman.

Arriving officers showed a “lack of urgency toward entering classrooms 111 and 112″ because they believed the gunman had either been killed or Arredondo was in the classroom with him.

The report noted that “leadership on scene, however, had not established command and control, to include an incident command post, staging area, or clear perimeter around the hallway of the school.” The report also said that the clear lack of communication between officers on the scene and the command structure made coordination efforts difficult.

Officers should have confronted the gunman much sooner

According to the Texas Tribune, the report “noted that since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, American law enforcement officers have been trained to prioritize stopping the shooter while everything else, including officer safety, is secondary.”

“An active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject,” the report said, with the word “never” emphasized in italics.

The 376 officers at the scene included state police, Uvalde police, school officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. A tactical team led by the Border Patrol eventually went into the classroom to take down the gunman.

Some officers lacked active shooter training, had insufficient training, had no critical incident training, most had not trained together at all.

Classroom door that law enforcement struggled with was likely unlocked

The classroom door that Arredondo spent a large chunk of time attempting to unlock was likely open the whole time, the DOJ report found.

At 12:21 p.m., 48 minutes after the gunman entered the school, he fired four additional shots inside classrooms 111/112.

Officers moved forward into formation outside the classroom doors but did not make entry.

Instead, presuming the classroom doors were locked, the officers tested a set of keys on the door of a janitor’s closet next to room 112. When the keys did not work, the responders began searching for additional keys and breaching tools.

Arredondo continued to attempt to communicate with the subject, while UPD Acting Chief Mariano Pargas continued to provide no direction, command, or control to personnel.

Proper medical protocols were not followed

“EMS staff were not the first to assess the situation in the classrooms and ensure the most appropriate use of critical resources. Deceased victims were moved out of the classrooms, left in or outside of the hallway, or transported to the hospital; at the same time, injured child victims were being tended to or put on school buses with injuries unknown to law enforcement,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

“At the hospital and the center, some families were reunited with their children. But other families received incorrect information suggesting their family members had survived when they had not. And others were notified of the deaths of their family members by personnel untrained in delivering such painful news,” the report reads.

33 students, 3 teachers were trapped with shooter for an hour due to ‘failed leadership, training, policies’

“The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary deserved better,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release Thursday. “The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary on May 24th, 2022 - and the response by officials in the hours and days after - was a failure. As a consequence of failed leadership, training, and policies, 33 students and three of their teachers - many of whom had been shot - were trapped in a room with an active shooter for over an hour as law enforcement officials remained outside. We hope to honor the victims and survivors by working together to try and prevent anything like this from happening again, here or anywhere.”

The report includes a series of comments by terrified children taken from a 911 call, including: “Help!” “Help!” “Help!” “I don’t want to die. My teacher is dead.”

School district’s response planning before shooting was insufficient

The campus safety plan was a template that featured security measures that were not even available, DOJ officials said.

The school also had a culture of complacency regarding locking doors, location of keys and more, they said.

Inaccurate and inconsistent public communication fueled confusion

Multiple posts on social media from official sources like the school district and law enforcement that were incorrect and never corrected contributed to the poor response, the report said.

Some posts indicated that all students and staff were safe and others that the suspect was in custody.

Recommendations from report

The report includes a slew of recommendations designed to prevent similar failures in the future. Chief among them is that officers responding to such a crisis must prioritize neutralizing the shooter and aiding victims in harm’s way.

The report says “an active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject.” Evacuations should be limited to those who are immediately in danger and “not at the expense of the priority to eliminate the threat,” the Justice Department said. And officers must be prepared to engage the shooter “using just the tools they have with them,” even if they are armed only with a standard issue firearm, it said.

Other recommendations address coordination between agencies responding to shootings, the release of information to the public, and providing proper support and trauma services to survivors.

What are the families saying?

The Justice Department also outlined failures in communication to families during and after the shooting, including instances of incomplete, inaccurate or disjointed releases of information that led to lingering distrust in the community.

The report cites the county district attorney telling family members that authorities had to wait for autopsy reports before death notifications could be made. Family members who had not been told that children had died, yelled back: “What, our kids are dead? No, no!”

Family members, many of whom had been briefed on the federal report before its release, had mixed reactions to the findings and the report itself. Some told news outlets they were grateful that the federal investigation supported their criticisms of the response. Many families had hoped the report would come with a recommendation for federal charges against some of those criticized most heavily in the failures.

Velma Lisa Duran, whose sister Irma Garcia was one of the teachers killed, told The Associated Press Thursday that she was grateful for the federal agency’s work but disappointed that local prosecutors have yet to bring any charges.

“A report doesn’t matter when there are no consequences for actions that are so vile and murderous and evil,” said Duran. “What do you want us to do with another report? ... Bring it to court,” she said.

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Sean Talbot is Manager of Content and Coverage at KSAT. He formerly served as the Assistant News Director and Assignments Manager. He joined KSAT in 2001. He graduated from Texas State with a degree in Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science. When he’s not working, he’s at home with his wife Lomisa and their daughters Grace and Sydney.

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