Two months after the Uvalde school massacre, Texas State Police announced Monday an internal review of the actions of dozens of police officers who were at Robb Elementary during 73 minutes of shocking inaction by law enforcement when a armed man murdered 19 children and two teachers.
The announcement appeared to amplify the fallout from a damning 80-page report released over the weekend by the Texas House of Representatives that revealed flaws at all levels of law enforcement and identified 91 state troopers on the scene, more than all the officers of Uvalde combined. It also marked a public shift by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has so far largely criticized local authorities for not confronting the shooter sooner.
The report released Sunday laid bare for the first time just how massive a state police and US Border Patrol presence was on the scene during one of the worst school shootings in US history.
“You have 91 soldiers on the scene. Do you have all the gear you could want and are you listening to the local school cop? said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes Uvalde and who accused DPS of trying to downplay his role in the response.
Findings that Border Patrol agents and state troopers made up more than half of the 376 law enforcement officers who attended the South Texas school on May 24 spread the blame for a slow and botched response much further. than previous versions that emphasized the mistakes of Uvalde’s agents. .
The report made clear that authorities’ “extremely poor decision-making” went beyond the local police in Uvalde, who were ultimately outnumbered more than 5 to 1 by state and federal officers on the scene. Other local police from around Uvalde also responded to the shooting.
The report highlights the role of state and federal agencies whose leaders, unlike local authorities, have not had to attend meetings where they were confronted by the angry parents of the dead children.
Of the nearly 400 officers who gathered at the school, only two are currently known to be on leave pending an investigation into their actions: Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde Consolidated School District Police Chief, and Lt. Mariano Pargas, an officer from the Uvalde Police Department who was the city’s interim police chief during the massacre.
State police have previously said no officers have been suspended at the scene. On Monday, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the report’s findings “are beyond disturbing,” but did not single out any particular agency.
Texas DPS did not set a timeline for when the review would be completed. He said the actions of every Texas police officer, state trooper and ranger on the scene would be examined “to determine if any violation of policy, law or doctrine occurred.”
Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas DPS, has previously placed much of the blame for the response on Arredondo, identifying him as the incident commander and criticizing him for treating the gunman in the classroom as a barricaded subject rather than a gunman. active shooter.
The new report, the most comprehensive account yet of the tragedy, also says Arredondo wasted critical time during the shooting by searching for a classroom key and not treating the gunman more urgently. But he also stressed that all law enforcement on the scene failed to respond.
“There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or bad motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and extremely poor decision-making,” the report says.
Abbott said “critical changes” are needed, but in a statement he did not address whether officials or agencies should be held accountable.
In Uvalde, city council and school board meetings in the eight weeks since the shooting have become recurring scenes of residents yelling at elected leaders to hold police to account, which continued after the shooting was made public. report.
“It’s disgusting. Disgusting,” said Michael Brown, whose 9-year-old son was in the school cafeteria the day of the shooting and survived. “They’re cowards.”
“What a shame! What a shame!” The families of the slain children and teachers and their supporters sang before school board members at a special meeting Monday night.
Brett Cross, uncle of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was among those killed, chastised board members at length for not taking responsibility for the massacre. In particular, he called out the members for not knowing that the exit doors of the school were locked to the outside and for not firing Arredondo.
“If you don’t get fired by noon tomorrow, I want your resignation and every single one of these board members because you don’t care about us or our kids,” Cross said, addressing Superintendent Hal Harrell.
Harrell said the report released over the weekend will help the board decide Arredondo’s future. However, he also pointed out that Arredondo is employed under contract and cannot be fired at will.
Uvalde High School alumnus Angela Villescaz, founder of the group Fierce Madres, told board members that her organization has been surveying officials at schools that have experienced similar mass shootings. She offered her findings to the board as advice that district officials not try to “reinvent the wheel.”
However, he took note of the DPS soldiers standing in the room, saying, “…I can’t help but wonder if they just didn’t find our children worth saving.”
Historically, the DPS has had strained relations with the Mexican-American community in Texas since the 19th century. In the early 20th century, the Texas Rangers, from which the DPS evolved and of which it remains a part, participated in numerous bloody attacks on Mexican citizens.
According to the report, the gunman fired approximately 142 rounds inside the school, and it is “almost certain” that at least 100 shots were fired before any officers entered, according to the committee, which exposed numerous flaws.
Among them: no one assumed command despite dozens of officers on the scene, and no officer immediately attempted to break into the classroom despite a dispatcher relaying a 911 call that there were victims in the room.
The report also criticized a Border Patrol tactical team, saying it waited for a bulletproof shield and a working skeleton key for a classroom door, which was likely never locked, before entering. In all, the report put nearly 150 Border Patrol agents on the scene.
Cecilia Barreda, a spokeswoman for US Customs and Border Protection, said Monday that a review of the agency’s response was still underway and no final conclusions had been reached.
Hours after the report was released, Uvalde officials for the first time separately released hours of body camera footage of city police officers responding to the attack.
A video of Uvalde’s Staff Sgt. Eduardo Canales, head of the city’s SWAT team, showed the officer approaching the classroom when shots rang out at 11:37 a.m.
A minute later, Canales said: “Dude, we have to get in there. We have to get in there, he keeps shooting. We have to get in there. Another officer could be heard saying “DPS is sending their people.”
It was 72 minutes later, at 12:50 pm, when officers finally stormed the classroom and killed the shooter.