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(UVALDE, Texas) — Members of a special committee of the Texas state legislature met with family members of the victims on Sunday to present their findings.
A scathing 77-page report by a joint committee of the Texas Legislature contained new details of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and slammed the police response to the incident and the school district’s lack of preparation for such an attack.
The report, which was made public Sunday after the committee reviewed it with many of the loved ones of the 19 students and two teachers killed in the May 24 shooting, detailed a number of major lapses in measures to fortify the school from intruders and the slow manner in which multiple law enforcement agencies mobilized to confront the heavily armed gunman.
While the committee said it found no “villains” other than the gunman to blame for the deadly attack, it found “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” that prevented a speedy response to the rampage.
Here are five key takeaways from the committee’s investigation of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
School was unprepared
In the report’s opening pages, the committee cited the lack of preparation by the school district and the Robb Elementary staff to prevent an active shooter from getting onto the campus and into the school building.
“With hindsight, we can say Robb Elementary did not adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder on campus,” the committee wrote.
The panel said the school’s 5-foot-tall exterior fence, which surveillance video showed the gunman easily climbing to get onto the campus, was “in adequate to meaningfully impede an intruder.”
More importantly, the committee found that while the school had adopted security policies to ensure exterior doors and internal classroom door were locked while school was in session, those protocols were mostly ignored.
“There was a regrettable culture of noncompliance by school personnel who frequently propped doors open and deliberately circumvented locks,” the committee said.
Such behavior, according to the committee, was “tacitly condoned” by the school administrators.
“In fact, the school actually suggested circumventing the locks as a solution for the convenience of substitute teachers and others who lacked their own key,” the committee wrote.
School staff knew doors were unlocked
The gunman entered the school through a door on the west side of the campus that didn’t latch properly after a teacher had propped it open with a rock to bring in food from her car, investigators said.
“In violation of school policy, no one had locked any of the three exterior doors to the west building of Robb Elementary. As a result, the attacker had unimpeded access to enter,” the committee reported.
The committee also faulted the school district for failing to treat the maintenance of doors with known faulty locks with “appropriate urgency.”
“In particular, staff and students widely knew the door to one of the victimized classrooms, Room 111, was ordinarily unsecured and accessible,” according to the committee’s report. “Room 111 could be locked, but an extra effort was required to make sure the latch engaged,” the report said.
No incident commander at the scene
The committee found numerous “shortcomings and failures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and of various agencies and officers of law enforcement” in the response to the shooting. Chief of among them was that there was no designated incident commander at the scene as the massacre was unfolding.
“At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” the committee reported.
UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo and the commander of the Uvalde Police Department’s SWAT team were among the first wave of law enforcement officers to arrive at the school. However, neither of them assumed the role of incident commander to coordinate the 376 law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies who quickly responded to the shooting, the committee said.
“The Uvalde CISD’s written active shooter plan directed its police chief to assume command and control the response to an active shooter,” according to the report.
But as the massacre unfolded, Arredondo allegedly failed to take on the role of incident commander or transfer the responsibility to another officer on scene, despite it being an “essential duty” he had assigned himself in the active shooter plan he helped write, the committee said.
“Yet it was not effectively performed by anyone,” the committee wrote. “The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life as injured victims waited for over an hour for help, and the attacker continued to sporadically fire his weapon.”
It took 73 minutes between the time the suspect entered the school to when officers breached the door of the classroom and killed him, according to the report.
Lack of communication
The committee found that by simply setting up a command post, which was not done, the chaos of the moment could have been transformed into order by the incident commander assigning tasks and aiding in the flow of information that could have been used to “inform critical decisions,” according to the report.
“Notably, nobody ensured that responders making key decisions inside the building received information that students and teachers had survived the initial burst of gunfire, were trapped in Rooms 111 and 112, and had called out for help,” the committee wrote. “Some responders outside and inside the building knew that information through radio communications. But nobody in command analyzed this information to recognize that the attacker was preventing critically injured victims from obtaining medical care.”
Arredondo, however, erroneously believed the shooter was barricaded and that responding officers had time on their side to deal with the situation.
“Instead of continuing to act as if they were addressing a barricaded subject scenario in which responders had time on their side, they should have reassessed the scenario as one involving an active shooter,” the committee wrote. “Correcting this error should have sparked greater urgency to immediately breach the classroom by any possible means, to subdue the attacker, and to deliver immediate aid to surviving victims.”
The report also said of the hundreds of first responders who quickly arrived on the scene, many were better trained and better equipped than the school district police, “yet in this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post.”
“Despite an obvious atmosphere of chaos, the ranking officers of other responding agencies, did not approach the Uvalde CISD chief of police or anyone else perceived to be in command to point out the lack of and need for a command post, or offer that specific assistance,” the report states.
“The entirety of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response shares systemic responsibility for many missed opportunities on that tragic day,” the report said.
The attacker’s motive
For the first time since the massacre occurred, information on a possible motive was included in the report.
“One motive that drove the man behind the massacre at Robb Elementary School was a desire for notoriety and fame,” the committee stated in its report, refusing to use his name.
The committee delved into the suspect’s background, finding he had been a good student up to the eighth grade. He then quickly took a dark path and became a serial truant that eventually got him kicked out of school in the ninth grade, according to the report.
The suspect attended school at Robb Elementary up to the fourth grade.
“The shooting took place in his former fourth grade classroom, and he discussed bad memories of fourth grade with an acquaintance just weeks beforehand,” the committee reported.
The suspect’s fourth grade teacher testified before the committee, acknowledging she knew he needed extra help in her class because “he claimed to be a victim of bullying.”
The suspect’s ex-girlfriend told the committee they broke up in mid-2021 and she described him as “lonely and depressed, constantly teased by friends who called him a ‘school shooter.'” She said he also claimed that he was sexually assaulted as a child.
“She said that he told her repeatedly that he wouldn’t live past eighteen, either because he would commit suicide or simply because he ‘wouldn’t live long,'” the report states.
On social media platforms, he expressed an interest in gore and violence, sharing videos online of beheadings and horrific accidents, and sending explicit messages to other online users, the report said.
“Finally, the attacker developed a fascination with school shootings, of which he made no secret,” according to the report.
The committee also heard testimony that the suspect told acquaintances he was hoarding money for “something big” and that they would all see him on the news one day, according to the report.
None of his statements were ever reported to authorities, the committee found.
The committee wrote that the suspect began to formulate his plan to attack the school in early 2022 after he got into a “blowout argument” with his mother that he livestreamed on Instagram.
Investigators believe the suspect began stockpiling firearm accessories, including 60- and 30-round magazines, holographic weapon sights and snap-on trigger systems in February 2020. He legally purchased ammunition and guns, including two AR-15 rifles, when he turned 18 in May, according to the report.
The committee included in the report an incident that occurred at Robb Elementary School on March 23, in which a suspicious person dressed in black and with a backpack was seen canvassing the school. The person was never identified, according to the committee.
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