DOJ report: Officers missed 10 opportunities to stop Robb Elementary gunman

Report into mass shooting cited lack of leadership during the incident as a failure

UVALDE – In a report released by the Department of Justice into the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde on May 24, 2022, investigators noted that “there were at least 10 stimulus events” where officers should have taken steps to stop the gunman.

The report, which was done at the request of then-Mayor Don McLaughlin, said that from the moment law enforcement arrived at the school, officers should have been directed to enter the classroom and confront the shooter. However, the report said, “no one assumed a leadership role to direct the response toward the active shooter, provide situational status to responding officers, establish some form of incident command, or clearly assume and communicate the role of incident commander.”

Bodycamera footage of law enforcement presence outside Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022 (KSAT 2024)

According to the report, there were “at least 10 stimulus events, including at least six separate instances of gunfire totaling approximately 45 rounds in law enforcement officer presence.”

The report cited interviews with responding officers that confirmed there was confusion about who was in charge of the scene. Some officers also told investigators that they “were confused about why there was no attempt to confront the active shooter and rescue the children.”

Initial Response

Eleven officers from the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District were the first to arrive on scene.

The report said UPD Acting Police Chief Mariano Pargas or then-UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo should have assumed command. Since Arredondo was acting in the role of an initial responder, the report stated that Pargas should have assumed command.

Body camera video from UPD Officer Daniel Coronado and Officer Jesus Mendoza gave insight into some of what was happening outside at that time.

“Guys be careful he might be in that building,” Coronado could be heard saying while outside on the Robb Elementary campus.

““You want to go in there?” a voice on Jesus Mendoza’s body camera asks. “No, what if he comes out around?” another voice answered.

Second Opportunity

As the shooting continued in the classroom, two officers in the hallway were struck by shrapnel and debris. All of the officers pulled back.

At that point, the report stated, a UCISD police officer pointed toward the classroom and said, “That’s my wife’s classroom.”

The report said that was the first indication there were victims in the classroom. It also stated that Arredondo did not direct entry into the classrooms and instead called dispatchers, who referenced a call from a teacher who said a fellow teacher was wounded.

Over the next three minutes, officers advanced toward the classroom without any backup, only to retreat each time.

Outside, Coronado’s body camera catches officers running towards the school as he yells “Oh s***! Shots fired, get inside. Go, go, go.”

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Third opportunity

Four minutes into the incident, officers on both sides of the hallway knew students and teachers were in the classrooms, according to the report.

The report stated, “the (officers) also had sufficient training and equipment, as well as personnel, to engage the subject.” However, no officers entered the classroom.

After four more minutes, Pargas left the hallway to get a radio. Meanwhile, Arredondo called dispatch.

The report said, “The resulting delay provided an opportunity for the active shooter to have additional time to reassess and reengage his deadly actions inside of the classroom.”

On UPD Officer Canales’ body camera video, he can be heard saying “Dude, we gotta get in there. We gotta get in there, he just keeps shooting. we gotta get in there.”

Fourth opportunity

According to the report, Arredondo started to treat the situation as that of a “barricaded subject” and not an active shooter.

Officer Coronado and Officer Jesus Mendoza’s body camera video both illustrate that misinformation as it came out over the radio. “10-4 he’s male subject in the school on the west side of the building, he’s contained. We got multiple officers inside the building at this time. We believe he’s barricaded in one of the offices. Male subject is still shooting.”

The report mentioned that the resources, equipment, and officers trained in an active shooter situation were there.

“Leadership should have seized the forward momentum of the officers and penetrated the classroom without hesitation,” the report stated.

As more officers arrived on the scene, the report stated that the lack of an incident commander led to the officers’ confusion about what was to happen.

During that time on Officer Coronado’s body camera, radio traffic suggests students are on campus. “The classrooms should be in session right now. The class should be in session Mrs. Mireles.”

The report said, “Law enforcement personnel displayed a general lack of urgency and inaction toward penetrating classrooms 111 and 112″ as the incident continued and with no incident commander.

Fifth opportunity

Within eight minutes of the first officers arriving at the scene, at least three phone calls had been made to 911 from inside the school.

Sixth opportunity

Sixteen minutes into the incident, the UCISD officer whose wife was in the classroom received confirmation that she had been shot.

The report cited bodycam footage that showed that officer going down the hall to the classroom, only to have other officers call him back and Uvalde County Constable Johnny Field hold him from moving forward.

UPD Officer Justin Mendoza’s body camera video shows this moment as it unfolded. “Hey hey hey, Ruben Ruben Ruben. Ruben. Ruben,” Officer Justin Mendoza said.

“She says she’s shot Johnny,” Uvalde CISD Officer Ruben Ruiz said to Field.

At this point, Ruiz is led out of the hallway by Pargas, according to body camera video.

Seventh opportunity

About 30 minutes into the incident, the report said Arredondo tried to negotiate with the gunman, and that led other officers inside the school hallway “to express frustration with the inaction toward penetrating classrooms 111/112.” With the number of law enforcement officers at the scene at this time, the report stated this was the moment entry into the classroom should have been made.

UPD Officer Jesus Mendoza’s body camera video shows UCISD trustee JJ Suarez coming into frame saying “Hey, Pete’s inside the room with him.”

UPD Officer Coronado’s body camera shows a conversation with UCISD Chief Pete Arredondo. Arredondo says “We’re waiting for a master key.

UPD Officer Justin Mendoza’s body camera shows Pargas being questioned as well.

“Are we just waiting for BORTAC or what’s going on?,” an officer asks Pargas.

“They tell me a DPS ranger has somebody in there and they’re gonna come in,” Pargas responds.

As this is happening, multiple officers are outside breaking windows to classrooms to evacuate children in other classrooms around 111 and 112.

Eighth opportunity

When a group of officers armed with a shield tried to enter a hallway a few minutes later, the report cited body-worn camera footage where Arredondo put his hand up and told the officers, “Guys, hold on, we are going to clear the building first . . . empty these classrooms first.”

The report stated at around the same time, a child called dispatch to say the room was full of victims.

According to the report, “At this point, it was shared broadly across the radio channel that there were students and teachers injured and dying in room 112, which should have made clear to all law enforcement personnel listening that this incident was and always had been an active shooter situation and that law enforcement should act to stop the dying per the active shooter principles described above.”

UPD Officer Justin Mendoza’s body camera caught the moment Pargas heard the call out over the radio.

“He is in the room full of victims at this moment, full of victims at this moment,” a dispatch voice said.

“Full of victims, child called 911, saying the room is full of victims,” an officer says to Pargas as the acting chief grabbed his radio. “The room is full of victims. Child victims. Child 911 calls.”

“We got victims in there,” an officer says to a group of law enforcement crowded in the hallway.

“There’s victims in the room with him?” an officer asks

“We’ve got a child on the phone, multiple victims,” another officer answers. “A child just called, they have victims in there. They called 911″

Bodycamera footage of law enforcement presence outside Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022 (KSAT 2024)

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Ninth opportunity

Around 12:16 p.m., a group of officers advanced into the hallway. At that point, Arredondo told a Department of Public Safety sergeant to “tell them to f***ing wait,” the report said.

Outside a minute later, UPD Officer Justin Mendoza runs to grab supplies and is heard saying “I need to grab my med kit from my bag vehicle. They said there’s multiple victims in the room.”

At 12:21 p.m., four shots were fired inside the classrooms, and a group of officers made their way toward the classroom only to stop.

The belief, according to the report, was that many officers believed the classroom door was locked.

On UPD Officer Coronado’s body camera video, he’s heard having a conversation with Chief Arredondo.

“We’ve lost a few kids, he’s gonna start shooting. We’re gonna get more kids,” Arredondo says.

“That’s what I’m saying, you’re right,” Coronado replies.

“I hate to say it, we have to put those aside right now,” Arredondo says.

The report cited several other instances where investigators mentioned that Arredondo told officers to wait. The report also stated it took 29 minutes more before they entered the classroom.

Meanwhile, Coronado’s body camera picks up more efforts by Arredondo to communicate with the gunman. The then-chief calls the shooter by name, however, KSAT will not be publishing or broadcasting his name.

“Can you hear us, sir? Please don’t hurt anyone, these are innocent children,” Arredondo is heard saying.

Moments later, Coronado is heard saying “I’m so proud of these kids, man. They did so well.”

“They did. (inaudible) that door I bet you is unlocked,” Arredondo responds.

Aerial View of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas (KSAT 2024)

Tenth opportunity

Just after 12:20 p.m. UPD Officer Justin Mendoza is seen on his body camera video opening up a medical supply kit.

An unknown border patrol agent says “Have that gauze ready to go. They’ve been bleeding for a while. At least gauze and something to wrap it up.”

“Yeah, I got gauze, chest seals,” Mendoza answers.

“Hey, casualties we’re gonna put ‘em right here. We’re not taking ‘em out yet. Casualties stay right here,” the border patrol agent says.

Minutes before officers entered the classroom, the report stated more shots were fired from the room. Officers waiting to enter the room asked if the gunman was shooting into the hallway, but another constable on the scene said there was no dust coming into the hall.

The report went on to say that Arredondo could be heard shouting at the gunman in an effort to negotiate and not enter the classroom.

Officers entered the classrooms at 12:48 p.m.

The report said the officers scanned the classroom looking for the gunman, who eventually emerged from a closet and opened fire on officers. That is when officers returned fire and killed the gunman 77 minutes after he first entered the school.

On Jan. 18, when Attorney General Merrick Garland released DOJ report, he said “The victims and survivors should never have been trapped with that shooter for more than an hour as they waited for their rescue.”

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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 the Assistant News Director at KSAT. He formerly served as the 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 getting our news crews out the door, he’s at home with his wife Lomisa and their two daughters Grace and Sydney.

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