Mar 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Uvalde shooting: New report clears officers of blame to dismay of families

A child at a memorial for victims of the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting on its one-year anniversary on May 24, 2023. Photo: Wu Xiaoling/Xinhua via Getty Images

An independent report released Thursday did not assign blame to local law enforcement officers and defended their actions in response to the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

The big picture: The findings are somewhat contrary to other reports, including one from the Department of Justice earlier this year that heavily criticized law enforcement's response, explicitly calling it a "failure."

  • Critics have insisted not enough is being done to hold police accountable, and families of victims have called for them to face criminal charges.
  • The gunman killed 19 children and two adults, some of whom were shot while they were trapped inside classrooms with the shooter for more than an hour.
  • Local and state law enforcement agencies have faced ferocious criticism over their response to the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.

Zoom in: Findings of the investigation, which was requested by Uvalde city leaders, were presented in front of the city council and the public Thursday in a heated meeting.

  • The investigator, Jesse Prado, said families who rushed to the elementary school the day of the shooting compromised the police response.
  • Asked if he was able to determine why a command post was not set up that day, Prado said yes. He added: "One of the other issues on this incident was the crowd control. At times they were difficult to control, they were wanting to break through police barriers."
  • Family members of the victims erupted in anger, and some walked out of the presentation, AP reports.

Yes, but: Prado, a former detective, highlighted many failures of local, state and federal officers, including communication issues, poor training for live shooter incidents, lack of equipment and delays breaching the classroom.

  • "There were problems all day long with communication and lack of it. The officers had no way of knowing what was being planned, what was being said," he said. "If they would have had a ballistic shield, it would have been enough to get them to the door."

State of play: The investigator told city officials Thursday that the local prosecutor made it difficult for him to gather all the evidence he needed for a thorough examination, CNN reports.

  • "The district attorney did not allow me to receive a copy of information regarding this case from other sources, other agencies," Prado said.
  • Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Zoom out: A Department of Justice report earlier this year heavily criticized law enforcement's response, explicitly calling it a "failure."

  • That report said state and local police who initially arrived at the school mishandled the situation and wasted precious time that could have been used to save lives.
  • A Texas legislative committee also found that police on the scene lacked clear leadership and communication, as well as urgency to stop the gunman.
  • The Uvalde school board fired the school district's police chief, but nearly all other law enforcement agents involved remain employed, per a Washington Post investigation.

What they're saying: "You said they did it in good faith. You call that good faith? They stood there 77 minutes," Kimberly Mata-Rubio, who lost her daughter in the attack, said after the presentation per AP.

  • "My daughter was left for dead," Ruben Zamorra said following the presentation. "These police officers signed up to do a job. They didn't do it."
  • Uvalde City Council member Hector Luevano said he doesn't accept the report per AP. "These families deserve more. This community deserves more," Luevano said.

Background: Nineteen officers were stationed in the hallway outside when the first 911 call was made, but they did not breach the classrooms.

  • There was a 77-minute delay before police finally breached a door to a classroom and killed the lone gunman. More than 370 police responded to the shooting.

Go deeper: More training after botched Uvalde police response, but accountability still in question

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