AUSTIN, Texas — A police officer with a rifle watched the Uvalde Elementary School massacre shooter walk toward campus but did not fire while waiting for a supervisor’s permission to shoot, according to a hardline critic released on Wednesday on the tactical response to the May tragedy.
Some of the 21 victims at Robb Elementary School, including 19 children, ‘might have been saved’ on May 24 had they received medical treatment sooner as police waited more than an hour to break into the fourth grade class, a review by a Texas State University training center for active shooter situations found.
The report is another damning assessment of how police failed to act on opportunities that could have saved lives in what has become the deadliest school shooting in the United States since the massacre of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Read more: Schools put more cops on campus, despite ‘dismal failure’ at Uvalde
“A reasonable officer would have considered this to be an active situation and would have devised a plan to deal with the suspect,” reads the report released by the advanced training program in rapid response to the application of the law. university law.
The authors of the 26-page report said their findings were based on videos taken at the school, police body cameras, testimony from officers at the scene and statements from investigators. Among their discoveries:
“It seems that no officer waiting in the hallway during the shooting ever checked to see if the classroom door was locked. The Texas State Police Agency chief also blamed officers at the scene for not checking the doors.
— Officers had “weapons (including rifles), body armor (which may or may not have been designed to stop rifle rounds), training and reinforcements. The victims in the classrooms had none of that.
— When officers finally entered the classroom at 12:50 p.m. — more than an hour after the shooting began — they were no better equipped to deal with the shooter than they had been until then .
— “Effective incident command” never appears to have been established among the multiple law enforcement agencies that responded to the shooting.
The shooter, an 18-year-old armed with an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle, entered the building at 11:33 a.m. Before that, a police officer from Uvalde, whom the report did not identify , saw the shooter carry a rifle towards the entrance to the west hall. The officer asked a supervisor for permission to open fire, but the supervisor “didn’t hear or responded too late,” according to the report.
When the officer turned back to the shooter, he had already entered “relentlessly”, according to the report.
The officer was 148 yards from the gate, which the report said was within range of his rifle, and allegedly said he feared a stray shot may have entered the school and injure students inside.
“Ultimately, the decision to use lethal force always rests with the officer who will use the force. If the officer was not confident that he could both hit his target and his background s ‘he missed, he shouldn’t have fired,’ the report said.
The report is one of multiple investigative reviews launched following the worst school shooting in Texas history. A committee formed by Texas lawmakers also interviewed more than 20 people, including officers who were at the scene, behind closed doors for several weeks. It is unclear when they will release their findings.
Read more: Governor Greg Abbott, after yet another mass shooting in Texas, focused on praising police – as questions emerge over their response
This follows testimony last month in which Colonel Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the state Senate that the police response was a “dismal failure”. He blamed Chief Pete Arredondo in particular, saying that as on-scene commander, the Uvalde Schools Police Chief made “terrible decisions” and stopped officers from confronting the shooter sooner.
Arredondo tried to defend his actions, telling the Texas Tribune that he did not see himself as the commander in charge of operations and that he assumed someone else had taken control of the forces response. order. He said he didn’t have his police and campus radios, but used his cell phone to call tactical gear, a sniper and keys to the classroom.
According to the report released Wednesday, Arredondo and another policeman from Uvalde spent 13 minutes in the school hallway during the shooting discussing tactical options, whether to use snipers and how to get into windows. of style.
“They also discussed who has the keys, key tests, the likelihood of the door being locked, and whether the children and teachers are dying or dead,” the report said.
McCraw said police had enough officers and firepower at the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to arrest the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was locked up unlocked if they had bothered to check that.
Read more: Schools spend billions on security measures to stop mass shootings. It’s not clear that they work
An attorney for Arredondo and a spokeswoman for the Uvalde City Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Arredondo is on furlough from his job with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and resigned as city councilor last week.
Public leaders, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, initially praised the police response to Uvalde. Abbott said officers reacted quickly and ran towards the gunfire with “incredible courage” to take out the killer, saving lives. He later said he had been misled. In the days and weeks following the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts of what happened. The fallout has led to recriminations and divisions between local and state authorities. On Tuesday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and state Senator Roland Gutierrez released a letter asking Abbott to transfer administration of a victims’ relief fund from the local prosecutor’s office to the department. Texas Emergency Management. They wrote that they had received numerous complaints about District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, “including the failure to provide victim compensation resources in a timely manner to those in need.”
Busbee’s office declined to comment on Wednesday.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
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