Justice Department Finds “Cascading Failures” Contributed to Botched Uvalde Police Response

Investigators concluded that officers spent 40 minutes searching for a key to a door that was probably unlocked.

Eric Gay/AP

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The police response to the May 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed two teachers and 19 elementary school students at Robb Elementary School, was significantly botched by “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training,” a damning review from the Justice Department found on Thursday.

The long-awaited report detailed systemic failures by both state and local law enforcement surrounding the massacre, one of the worst school shootings in US history, including the events that contributed to the 77-minute delay between the arrival of first responders and when the shooter was killed.

“The victims and survivors should’ve never been trapped with that shooter for more than an hour as they waited for their rescue,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a Thursday press conference discussing the contents of the report. “The families of the victims deserved more than incomplete, inaccurate, and conflicting communications from officials of their loved ones.”

According to the DOJ, several failures laid the groundwork for the much-scrutinized delay, including officers spending more than 40 minutes searching for a key to a door that investigators say had likely been unlocked. Investigators wrote: “Though the entry team puts the key in the door, turns the key, and opens it, pulling the door toward them, the CIR Team concludes that the door is likely already unlocked, as the shooter gained entry through the door and it is unlikely that he locked it thereafter.”

The report, based on a review of more than 14,000 pieces of data and more than 260 interviews, also directly called out Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department officials, including former police chief Pete Arredondo for instructing officers not to enter some classrooms until keys had been secured.

While the police response to the shooting has been heavily criticized, it’s important to note that the Texas GOP has been blocking gun safety legislation that could’ve potentially stopped this shooting from occurring. As my colleague Mark Follman reported

Republican leaders in Texas and elsewhere have long been hostile to gun-violence prevention policies such as red flag laws and raising the legal age for gun buyers from 18 to 21. In siding with the gun industry, they defy broad bipartisan support among the American public for such measures. The implications of their position couldn’t be more glaring than with the Uvalde massacre, as the Texas House committee’s own report showed. Beginning the day Ramos turned 18, according to the report, he armed himself heavily for the attack he would carry out eight days later:

“Our children deserve better than to grow up in a country where an 18-year-old has easy access to a weapon that belongs on the battlefield, not in a classroom,” Garland continued in his remarks Thursday. While, thanks to released body camera footage, many of the horrific details surrounding the police response were already available to the public, the DOJ’s account is by far the most extensive telling of the officers’ actions on the day of the shooting so far.

You can read the full DOJ report here

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