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DOJ Condemns Inadequate Response to Uvalde School Shooting
UVALDE — According to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the response of Texas law enforcement officers to the 2022 Uvalde school shooting was a failure that led to unnecessary casualties. The U.S. Justice Department recently released a scathing report that highlighted numerous failures in leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training among the law enforcement agencies involved.
In the 575-page report, it was emphasized that the most significant mistake was the failure to recognize the situation as an active shooter scenario and to confront the gunman immediately. Had this been done, some of the victims could have been saved. Garland personally apologized to the families of the 21 killed and 17 injured in what was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
The report pointed out that since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, law enforcement officers in the United States have been trained to prioritize stopping the shooter above all else, including their own safety. It was noted that this approach was not followed in the response to the Robb Elementary School shooting.
Instead, the officers mistakenly treated the situation as a barricaded suspect, despite multiple indications of an active threat. It took them 77 minutes to confront the shooter, during which time numerous pleas for help were made by children and teachers.
The report also identified failures in leadership, command, and coordination, as no incident command structure was established and no one took charge of the scene. The medical response was criticized for putting dead victims in ambulances and children with bullet wounds on school buses.
The lack of urgency and communication problems were exacerbated by conflicting accounts and misinformation disseminated to Uvalde residents and reporters after the shooting. The report highlighted policy and training deficiencies within the involved agencies, as well as the lack of active shooter training for key officers.
To address the shortcomings identified in the report, it was recommended that officers always treat an active shooter with access to victims as a threat that needs to be stopped immediately. Training academies should ensure that active shooter training clearly distinguishes between active threats and barricaded or hostage situations. Officers should be prepared to approach the threat with the tools they have, which often includes a standard firearm.
The federal review conducted by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services involved an extensive examination of data, documentation, and interviews. It was led by Orange County Sheriff John Mina, who was also the incident commander during the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando. The review of that incident was less critical, but it did recommend updates to training and policies.
The release of the Uvalde report comes after an investigation by ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, and PBS’ Frontline. This investigation highlighted the discrepancies in the response and revealed that the children at Robb Elementary followed active shooter protocols while many of the officers did not. It also raised concerns about the officers’ lack of adequate training and their hesitation to confront the gunman.
Overall, the Uvalde school shooting and the subsequent response have exposed numerous failures and deficiencies within Texas law enforcement. The report’s recommendations aim to address these issues and prevent similar tragedies in the future.