A new report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) highlights many failures on May 24, 2022, when 19 children and two teachers died at the hands of a mass shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The critical incident review addresses some unanswered questions and “offers recommendations to improve future responses in other communities” while falling short of holding anyone accountable.
Despite responding within minutes, 376 officers from myriad law enforcement agencies took more than 77 minutes to intervene and stop the horrifying massacre. Since the shooting, the State of Texas has gone to great lengths to suppress evidence from the public. And while the DOJ report stresses various failures on the part of local leaders and law enforcement, it does little to provide any new information regarding the suppressed evidence.
“The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a press release. “The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary on May 24th, 2022 — and the response by officials in the hours and days after — was a failure. As a consequence of failed leadership, training, and policies, 33 students and three of their teachers — many of whom had been shot — were trapped in a room with an active shooter for over an hour as law enforcement officials remained outside.”
Attorney General Garland continued, “We hope to honor the victims and survivors by working together to try to prevent anything like this from happening again, here or anywhere.”
The 575-page report focuses on the breakdowns in leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training that contributed to the collapse in response to the mass shooting. It describes the most significant failure of the responding officers as treating the incident as a stand-off and not an active shooter situation. The report also looks at officers neglecting available “resources and equipment” to immediately push forward and stop the shooter.
In a statement, the DOJ said, “Although several of the first officers on the scene initially acted consistent with generally accepted practices to try to engage the subject, once they retreated after being met with gunfire, the law enforcement responders began treating the incident as a barricaded subject scenario rather than as an active shooter situation. In all, there was a 77-minute gap between when officers first arrived on the scene and when they finally confronted and killed the subject.”
The report dove deep at the communications issues during and after the shooting including the intentional misinformation by local and state leadership. The report highlights how waiting more than four hours to hold a press conference after stopping the shooter allowed misinformation to spread. It documents the trauma and support services that were provided, as well as those that were “not provided, to victims, survivors, family members, and responders” as a result of lies and inaction by law enforcement personnel.
The report admonished the copaganda and the impacts it’s still having today. “The extent of misinformation, misguided and misleading narratives, leaks, and lack of communication about what happened on May 24 is unprecedented and has had an extensive, negative impact on the mental health and recovery of the family members and other victims, as well as the entire community of Uvalde.”
In focusing on the extensive misinformation, the DOJ couldn’t avoid reminding the public of the now-forgotten mistreatment of parents by law enforcement. “The misinformation, lack of timely and accurate information, and the poor manner in which many families and other loved ones were treated at Robb Elementary at the time of the shooting can contribute to poorer mental health outcomes for the impacted individuals,” reads the report. “The ongoing unresolved questions about the law enforcement response to the shooting can inhibit recovery for the entire community, individual victims, and family members.”
Although damning, the DOJ stopped short of filing any charges or recommending the firings of any local, state, or federal law enforcement officers or authority figures involved in the failure to save lives for the sake of promoting themselves as heroes. Despite the obvious negligence, and ultimately, culpability, the report doesn’t mention the word “negligent” or “negligence” once.
However, the report didn’t shy away from naming names. “Chaos unfolded once children and teachers were finally rescued from rooms 111 and 112. There continued to be no leadership direction, negating any triage planning,” reads page 167 in the report. “Minutes after entry into the classrooms, an unknown Texas Ranger took control and ordered all law enforcement out of the rooms. Constable Zamora also advanced toward the classrooms yelling “Kids, kids, EMTs first.” At one point, a TXDPS trooper signaled and a UPD detective yelled for law enforcement to hold before rushing toward the rooms. UCISD PD Chief Arredondo remained in the hallway but did not provide any direction to those exiting the classrooms.”
What happens now is anyone’s guess. Texans have watched state and local leaders withhold information – tons of it – for over a year and the state is no closer to answers than it was before this report. While the DOJ report is scathing, it is largely repetitive and is more focused on making recommendations for responding to mass shooters in schools. It provides no answers for the obvious cover-up and fails to hold anyone accountable.
Meanwhile, in Uvalde, the community is divided over what comes next. The DOJ report is written in a way that paints Uvalde as equal in how the city is impacted. But nothing could be further from the truth as Uvalde is no different from other rural communities in that divisions are often related to racial and ethnic animus. Those divisions have now spilled over to seemingly protect police and those in power. A large portion of the community (the same people who support extremist groups operating in the city) wants parents to “move on” and stop pursuing the truth.
In Texas, people know all about these rural power dynamics. The victims’ families in Uvalde have been trying to tell everyone and the press conference with the parents after the release of the DOJ report is the most recent example. Brett Cross, who is often the target of far-right extremists and is the guardian of one of the victims, ten-year-old Uziyah “Uzi” Garcia, spoke at the press conference. He talked about near-constant efforts to silence parents.
Those efforts represent what we already know about rural America. The questions now become: What good is the DOJ report if people aren’t held accountable? What’s the point if it does nothing to stop the intimidation that leaders in such communities are all too aware of and allow to continue? Why bother if state-sponsored oppression is allowed to continue – even if it is in a smaller community like Uvalde?
Without decisive action, nothing ever changes.
Read the Full Report in English and Spanish
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