UVALDE, Texas — There were “systemic failures” as nearly 400 officers at a Texas elementary school waited to confront a gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers in May, according to a report released on Sunday.
An investigative committee with the Texas House of Representatives released the report on the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that occurred on May 24. It is the first report to criticize both state and federal law enforcement, and not just local authorities in Uvalde, for officers who massed in the hallway of the school for 77 minutes, The Associated Press reported.
The most extensive account of the shooting stated that there was chaos after the Uvalde schools police chief failed to take charge at the school, and that better-equipped departments should have stepped up to fill the leadership void, according to The Texas Tribune.
The report by the committee was released after weeks of closed-door interviews with more than 40 people, including witnesses and law enforcement who were on the scene, the AP reported.
A total of 376 law enforcement officers -- a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo -- descended upon the school in an agonizing scenario that played out for more than an hour, the Texas Tribune reported.
The newspaper, which reviewed the report before its scheduled release to the public, reported that there were 149 U.S. Border Patrol agents, 91 state police officials and 14 members of the Department of Homeland Security at the school. There were 25 Uvalde police officers and 16 sheriff’s deputies and 16 San Antonio Police Department SWAT members. There were five officers under the command of Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo.
“These local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy,” the report said. “Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies -- many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police — quickly arrived on the scene,” the Tribune reported.
The other responders “could have helped to address the unfolding chaos.”
Even a flawless police response would not have saved most of the victims, according to the report. The victims were shot by a high-powered AR-15-style rifle, The New York Times reported.
Some of the victims did survive, only to die on the way to the hospital, according to the newspaper. In a final footnote, the report stated that it “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait” for rescue.
Committee members said they did not find any “villains” beyond the 18-year-old shooter.
“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 said, according to CNN.
“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They’ve got no business wearing a badge. None of them do,” Vincent Salazar, the father of 11-year-old Layla Salazer, told the AP on Sunday.
“We’re not gonna get the truth, because there is coverup. Everyone is covering everybody under the bus,” Salazar said in an interview with CNN. “The only ones that ain’t under the bus is because they’re six feet in the ground now, at that’s our children and the two teachers.”
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin was expected to hold a news conference later Sunday, according to CNN.
Committee chairman Rep. Dustin Burrows said last month the group would do “everything in its power” to provide facts and answers about what happened “leading up to, during, and in the aftermath of this tragedy” in Uvalde, CNN reported.
The committee had scheduled a private meeting with Uvalde families to discuss their findings before releasing the report to the public, according to the AP.
Families of the victims received the 77-page report and hallway surveillance video, with no audio, of the law enforcement response on May 24 at the school, according to the news outlet. Printed copies of the report were hand-delivered to Uvalde and Texas officials Saturday night out of fear the document might leak to the media before family members of the victims were able to read it.
That was in response to Austin news outlets that released edited footage from inside the school, which showed officers in the hallway for more than an hour after the gunman entered a classroom, The Dallas Morning News reported. The surveillance footage was leaked and published by the Austin American-Statesman and aired by television station KVUE on Tuesday. Families and local officials reacted strongly, saying they were blindsided by the release, which occurred before they had a chance to view the footage.
The footage showed the gunman entered the school at 11:33 a.m. CDT, with officers massing in the hallway three minutes later, KSAT-TV reported.
“The Committee issues this interim report now, believing the victims, their families, and the entire Uvalde community have already waited too long for answers and transparency,” the report read.
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